Karan Johar is wading patiently through a pile of fax reports. They’re the box- office collections of Kaal and he seems to be satisfied enough with them. “The figures prove that the film has made money. I’m happy and relieved,” he says. Alongside, he’s also tying up preparations for his next directorial venture, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, which has been on the verge of take-off for some time now. We begin with KANK, as it’s inevitably been abbreviated.

Why has your directorial venture Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna been delayed?

Because we have changed locations and continents. I was supposed to shoot in London but changed my plans and have to get a fix on a new location. I’ll start the film in September and hopefully release some time next year. KANK has Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Rani Mukherji, Preity Zinta, and Kiron Kher. I’m not going to commit too much about the film at this point except to say that it is about human relationships. It will be a bolder film than my earlier films because all the characters have shades of grey; there is no black or white.

(sarcastically) And yes, it is very different. It starts with the alphabet K, it has four words in it, it has Shah Rukh Khan, and lots of songs and dances. Yet you will laugh and, hopefully, cry through it too.

Why the sarcasm?

I am not being sarcastic actually. I’m just so fed up of answering the question, “Why don’t you make something different?” I made Kaal, which was a drastic departure. Then I get up in the morning and read reviews asking, why has he made something different? I read that Karan Johar should make the same kind of films with songs, dances, and candy-floss romance. So I don’t know what to do and have decided to call my new film very different.

Is Rani doing the role that Kajol was to do earlier?

Yes. It is truly a fantastic role and Rani will do full justice to it. When you walk out of the theater you won’t think of anyone else in the role. Rani will fit very well into it, just the way Preity fit beautifully in Kal Ho Naa Ho. And I have to say, Preity’s role beautifully complements Rani’s role. On a personal note, I am extremely happy that Rani is working with me on a full-length role. She has been a great friend and a great support system to me.

Let’s talk about Kaal—it has probably been one of your most-criticized films. How did you react to that?

I handle praise in the same way I handle criticism—I take them both in my stride. Many critics didn’t like the film, had problems with it, and even found loopholes in the screenplay. I completely understand their point of view. It was Soham’s first film as an independent director and I gave him complete creative freedom. He must have made writing errors. I am sure we will look into them in our next film together. Soham and I have discussed them and have agreed to learn from all that we’ve read.
But I must say that some critics went into such an in-depth analysis of what was wrong with the film that a few of them would make amazing screenplay writers. They have some really interesting views. In fact, I think that more than watching the film, they were really looking for loopholes to pinpoint.

I completely respect that. I respect the fact that people have their views. I am all for critics. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t feel the need to be on my toes. Now that the film has done well, all I can say is I’m happy and no one is complaining.

Most people believe that it was Shah Rukh Khan’s name and yours that got the film its fab initial.

I am very grateful to all those who believe this. But at the end of the day I don’t think a film ever works in isolation. It is not me or Shah Rukh, it is the package. It is Ajay Devgan, Vivek Oberoi, John Abraham, Lara Dutta, Esha Deol, and the director’s effort to make something different. It’s everyone’s effort to make people come to the theater. It is the vibe a film gives and everyone contributes to that vibe. I don’t think Shah Rukh or I would like to take credit for the opening Kaal got; it is a group effort and everyone is part of the group.

The outfits Lara and Esha wore got a lot of flak. Do you also feel they could have been more suitably dressed?

I really don’t understand where that came from, because neither of them was running around in her swimsuit. I always own up to my mistakes but this is not a mistake. It is just being slightly unfair. Because, if you’re going to look for things like this, you’re going to find it in every film.

If the so-called critics had understood Kaal from the beginning, they would know that Vivek, Lara, and their friends were going to a farmhouse. There are any number of girls who’d go to a farmhouse wearing a short skirt. It’s the way young people dress.

Were you expecting such a tide of negative feedback? What about trade reactions?

I think the trade reacts much more than it’s required to. The same trade that keeps hoping and praying that films should run, starts pulling a film down the minute it shows signs of doing well.

Also, the trade had better understand its own way of functioning. They must know that when you flood the market with x number of prints, then you have y number of shows. The revenue that films normally collected in three weeks is now possible in a week. So, if tickets are available in some sections it is because we are following the international format of release, of flooding the theaters with prints. I wish the trade would understand the new method. But I think the backlash was much more from the trade than anyone else. The box-office figures speak for themselves.

Besides, I always expect a backlash to any work I do. Sometimes I have deserved it and sometimes I haven’t. But at the end of the day that is the price I pay for achieving a certain amount of success in the film industry. I’m aware that everyone can’t be my friend, nor would I like everyone to be my friend.
Backlash to any of his work is the price he pays for success, says filmmaker Karan Johar. By Nilufer Qureshi


The K Factor
Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998)
Budget: Rs 14.4 crore
Earnings: Rs 32.5 crore

Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001)
Budget: Rs 53.6 crore
Earnings: Rs 68 crore

Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003)
Budget: Rs 36.3 crore
Earnings: Rs 45.6 crore

Kaal (2005)
Budget: Rs 11.5 crore
Earnings: Rs 13.5 crore
(till May 20, 2005)