I would love to direct Farhan, says Karan Johar

Karan Johar likes to do things in style. Which is why he can turn even a drab press conference into an entertaining yet insightful interaction. Announcing the much anticipated tie-up between Johar’s Dharma Productions and Ronnie Screwvala’s UTV Motion Pictures, both Karan and Ronnie were amused at how everyone except them seemed to know the modalities of the deal.

Speaking on the deal, UTV CEO Ronnie Screwvala said, “Apart from being a one-man PR vehicle, Karan Johar represents the changing face of Bollywood. His films have a universal emotional connect, packaged with new age promotional strategies”.

Screwvala added that the two-film deal included theatrical, satellite and home video rights. “We need to come to terms with the fact that today, theatrical business constitutes only a small part of a film’s total revenue. Which is why you can’t label any film as a hit or flop in its opening weekend.

Movies such as Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! have received an exceptional response on satellite and DVD. It’s the audience which decides where they want to view a movie”. He said Karan Johar had tremendous understanding of the audience’s pulse and would play an important role in UTV’s brand building over a long-term period.

But what did the man in the middle of all this action have to say about this? Seen as a Yash Raj loyalist and a part of the industry’s elite camp, Johar’s decision has caused a lot of speculation in the media. In a one-on-one chat this is how he defended himself…

Why this sudden need to look for corporate tie-ups?

My father was a producer who believed in the ‘one film at a time’ policy. I did the same for a couple of years. But in today’s times it is not feasible for a banner to produce only one film in 2-3 years. Ronnie and I have been a part of several common forums and have been in touch for nearly a decade. Unlike other corporate giants, Ronnie has an inherent passion for cinema and a certain sense of creativity. So it was just a matter of time before we would work together. It’s not only a monetary tie-up; it’s a creative alliance.

But the obvious question would be, why have you moved out of Yash Raj? Are you being smart by separating business and friendship?

Smart and me? It’s very kind of you, but I am anything but smart. If I were smart I would have kept my production costs under check. Yash Raj Films has given the industry a huge hit with Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and now they want to go back to their first love i.e. production and direction. Which is why they have put a break on their distribution business. So it was a mutual decision to look for another partner, as I have quite a few films in the pipeline. To set the record straight, Adi has himself read both the scripts that UTV is distributing and was aware of this deal from day one. Yash Raj is my family and I can never break ties with them. It would be like breaking away from a parent.

Is it because you can’t leverage the true value of your films with them? With Ronnie you can quote the astronomical sums for your movies?

Oh my god! I only talk creative. This is a new phase in Dharma Productions. To tell you the truth it’s an added responsibility on me. I am more stressed about delivering value to Ronnie, than the money I will make. It wasn’t as if the rights were auctioned off to the highest bidder. This is a long-term partnership. Dharma Production is all about loyalties – from it’s leading hero to the alphabet ‘K’. But you know this tie-up doesn’t include My Name Is Khan. My own films are extremely risky propositions, which is why I want to take full responsibility for them.

The buzz is that you had issues with Yash Raj over the profit sharing in Dostana.

Dostana is a big hit for all parties involved. No body knows the terms of the deal between Yash Raj and me. So how can the media quote percentages? But let me assure you, it’s a film Yash Raj is very proud of. It’s certainly didn’t make as much money as Ghajini and Rab Ne, but a film like Dostana becomes a brand. Its shelf life is far longer than its theatrical run. Dostana is a memorable property with strong recall value.

What are the two films that UTV is distributing?

There is Wake Up Sid starring Ranbir and Konkona directed by Rani’s cousin Ayaan Mukherjee. And there is an untitled film with Saif, Kareena and Vivek, directed by Rensil D’Silva. Both are unlike anything you have seen before. I am so proud my production house is launching so many new directors. A lot of people give breaks to actors but placing your bets on a filmmaker is far tougher.

How will the Dharma way of working synergise with UTV’s approach?

I love their approach. Look at how they marketed their smaller films. Movies like A Wednesday and Dev D were far more talked about than some of the other big budget bonanzas. Ronnie’s approach is about creative vision – not just numbers.

But why have you shifted loyalties from K?

I have grown up. I realised it was unfair to credit so many people’s hard work to just one alphabet. Too many people were basking in the glory of ‘K’ so I decided to retire. As an industry if we want to go international we need to come out of such superstitions and start believing in ourselves. But the credit for this realisation goes to Raj Kumar Hirani who spoofed this superstition in Lage Raho Munnabhai.

What’s going wrong at Yash Raj?

Just because a few films have failed you can’t start questioning their commitment. The execution goes haywire sometimes. But how can you ignore five decades of consistent success? They were the first to adopt the studio model in India. In the 80s when they were going through a slump they reinvented themselves and bounced back with Chandni. Most people can’t bounce back even once and they have done it again and again.

How is My Name Is Khan shaping up?

It’s a joint production with Red Chilies. We are about 20 per cent through. I will be shooting Kajol’s portion in the coming weeks. It’s a very complex film and my most personal work ever. These are busy times…tough times. We all went crazy in 2007 and fell flat on our faces in 2008. Now this year we should go back to 2006. I think recession is good. A lot of new talent will come to the forefront and some really good work will happen. Forget the artificial boom. Time to get real and move forward.

Finally any plans to move to acting?

Except me everyone else seems to think I am a good enough actor. But Aditya Chopra and Shah Rukh Khan have drilled it in my head that I am fit to be behind the lens. I get all sorts of acting offers. I am comfortable playing myself on screen but can’t perform a character. I know the parallels being drawn…I am very happy for Farhan’s success. And if the opportunity comes I would love to direct him someday.

Leave a Comment