I will do anything for Aditya Chopra or Shah Rukh: Karan Johar
He started by being SRK’s sidekick in DDLJ, then became the director of a brand of glamorous drama that has now become synonymous with Bollywood. He’s non-judgmental, doesn’t believe in taking a holiday and says ego problems are just not his style. For Karan Johar, Bollywood’s poster child, it’s all in a day’s work.brunch Updated: Dec 21, 2014 17:11 IST
In his room, there is a large desk upon which lie a few scripts and a copy of Chetan Bhagat’s Half Girlfriend. Behind his chair are piles of more scripts, and the Swiss cow bell that Raj bought for Simran in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995).
On the wall are pictures of SRK and Gauri, a framed poster of Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001), and a picture of Johar’s parents. In one corner is a cabinet full of awards.
He comes in, in a black Givenchy sweatshirt – he wears only brands, he sheepishly tells me later – and when I say I saw the same one in Zara, he says, "I wouldn’t know, I’ve never been there."
Also read: Amitabh Bachchan has stood the test of time: Karan Johar
It’s this brand of honesty and directness that dictates this interview. After all, Karan Johar is Bollywood’s golden boy – what can he say wrong? Or do wrong? And he is doing a lot.
He started by being SRK’s sidekick in DDLJ, even styled a couple of his movies, then became the director of a brand of glamorous drama that has become synonymous with the last two decades of Bollywood, with movies like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998) and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001).
As producer, he took us to places other than Switzerland in Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003), spoke about infidelity (which we tend to avoid) in Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (2006), got people talking about homosexuality in Dostana (2008) and still retained his dramatic Bollywood aesthetic in his short film in Bombay Talkies (2013).
Besides directing, Johar has produced a host of successful movies and hosted what’s been India’s most popular talk show, Koffee with Karan, where he chats with his friends (basically all of Bollywood’s who’s who).
He has also recently curated a fashion collection for an Indian high street brand and designed styles for a jewellery brand, and now is playing an antagonist for his once nemesis, director Anurag Kashyap, in Bombay Velvet (to be released in early 2015).
This man is doing it all. And successfully too.
And then he spills his secret.
"Maybe it’s my temperament," he says. "I like to pack my day. I don’t have a wife or a child. It’s just my mom and me. My professional life is my personal life. The four to eight hours you would dedicate to extensions of yourself – maybe responsibilities, a parent, a spouse – I don’t do that, as I don’t have those. I love my job and I pack all my hours with it."
You would think that taking on too much would stifle his creativity. But he just laughs at the question when I ask him how he manages all this. "I am intrigued by the word ‘how’," he says. "I don’t know. I love to do it and I do it. I don’t regimentalise my creativity or compartmentalise my time by saying, ‘In one hour, I am going to just spend my time on cinema or fashion’.
Maybe I am fortunate to have a larger bandwidth where I can alternate between things. One hour ago, I was reading a screenplay, now I am giving an interview. For me, holidays don’t mean a thing. I hate Sundays, I create work for myself. What is a brunch? I have never taken an afternoon nap, not even when I was a child."
Directing his philosophies
Actress Alia Bhatt, who started her career in Johar’s
Student Of The Year
(2012), says the most important thing Johar taught her is how to behave with people.
“He is respectful of everyone – people who have been working for very long, and people who have just started out. I don’t just want to be a talented actress, I want to be someone who is a pleasure to work with. He has taught me how to be that.” She remembers his recent Blackberry Messenger status: Creativity is not a talent. It’s a way of operating. “That’s how you can describe him! He screams creativity and he screams genuineness.”
He is quite a quotable person, as his Twitter account also reflects. But then it would not be surprising for a director who deals with emotions so well in movies to be highly emotional as well. One tweet reads, “Black and white are aspirations... grey is the reality.”
“I don’t want to be black, and to be white, I would have to sit in the Himalayas. So grey is what we live. We lie to get out of situations, we manipulate – that’s grey. It makes you someone trying to live in the times of today,” Johar says.
He comes across as someone who has done his time. Johar quotes affirmations to himself every day. Like, “My only religion is humanity”. Perhaps this mantra has made him successful. And also made him one of the most liked people in the industry.
Is there anybody who doesn’t adore KJo, or confide in him? He is in the SRK gang, the Salman Khan gang, the Bachchan gang, the Kapoor gang and even Anurag Kashyap, who once criticised his films and brand of direction, insisted he be a part of
. “Anurag says I have a dark side. My alter ego maybe – after all, I am a Gemini.”
Johar says that could be because though he has pride, he doesn’t have a big ego. “I am not on a film set thinking I am a bigger star than SRK. I am not deluded about my relationships. I offer them my time, because that’s what matters. I get shocked when people ask, ‘Should we meet at your office or mine?’ I will meet you on the road ya! Mujhe batao, I will come anywhere… problem kya hai?”
He also wants to clear any misconception people may have that he leads a privileged life. “It’s a tough life – living up to expectations, holding on to your position, managing your work and relationships. I work at it. I get appalled when people don’t show gratitude. I will do anything for Aditya Chopra or Shah Rukh. I judge people by how large their hearts are and their level of gratitude.”
When he isn’t working, Karan spends time with his mom or has dinner with one of his famous friends. And he also watches one episode a day of his favourite international TV shows before he sleeps. “
Fargo, Game of Thrones, How To Get Away With Murder, Homeland, Girls, Downton Abbey, Orange Is The New Black
– I watch everything and anything.”
Right now though, he is excited about
, for which he says the biggest challenge was to reinvent himself. “I didn’t want to be an extension of myself.”
His next appointment is here and he is back to doing what he does best – multitasking without a sweat. His last line pretty much sums him up. “I don’t drink, don’t smoke, and don’t do drugs. I am very clean. I am not addicted to anything except my work.”
"When I had coffee with Karan"
From the author's diary
I loved meeting Karan Johar, particularly because he gave me an insight into what makes a person successful. It’s not only about being creative but also working hard every day. I went thinking, this is Karan Johar, he has it all – his life must be awesome. And it is! But as Karan said, “It’s never been about resting on my success. You have to keep being consistent.”
I also understood why he is so loved by his peers. It’s because he always takes out time to be there for his friends and family. “The most precious thing that you can give someone is your time. They don’t want anything material.”
He is super fun to talk to: easy going, relaxed, candid and never one to mince his words – he charmed me off my feet. And damn, he is funny! As we talked about fashion and I confessed judging people who wear harem pants, he remarked, “What about Indian men who wear skinny pants! Those legs were not made for skinnies, please!”
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From HT Brunch, December 21
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First Published: Dec 18, 2014 14:54 IST