Joined: 30 June 2005
May 10, 2015 Archita Kashyap 448 reads 0 comments
He is our Numero Uno Celebrity on Pinkvilla. And he is also the most entertaining, amusing yet profound & level headed celebrity filmmaker you meet in Bollywood. A natural born showman and a dedicated mentor to emerging talent, Karan Johar tells Archita Kashyap about playing Kaizaad Khambatta. He also shares his connect to the dark, scheming side to his onscreen persona in real & reel life.
Ever since the casting of Bombay Velvet' was announced, your casting has gotten a lot of interest
You know it was very strange. Anurag & I had collaborated on Bombay Talkies' and we had spent a lot of time together. Probably because we spent all that time, I don't know what he saw for he must have visualized me in the part. He came to see just to seek feedback as a filmmaker. He wanted an opposite school of thought to hear Bombay Velvet'; because we are from diametrically opposite schools of cinema. We are poles apart in the way we think, and we visualize and the films we make.
At the end of it, I was blown away by the world he had created. I loved the Sixties Jazz era, the characters, the angst & the world of deceit. It was all very exciting; it was quintessential film noir! Not that I am a fan of the genre, my school of filmmaking is quite different. But I have watched & appreciated a lot of film noir. So I loved the zone of Bombay Velvet'.
And the end of the narration, he just said, "I have a quick question. Will you play Kaizad Khambatta?" And I looked at him in shock. I was like, "Huh! Would you say that again?" Anurag asked me again if I would play the part. I said, "Are you mad? What are you smoking?" (Smiles).
But Anurag was convinced that I could do it. So I took a while to think in my head; so what's the worst thing that could happen? The worst thing could be I am a terrible actor & I never get to act again. But what have I got to lose? That's not what pays my bills. Best thing that could happen is that I could be part of a film experience, I am on an Anurag Kashyap set & I learn from it. Then I just went with his gut feeling. I knew that with this would be a new image. Over the years, there is a certain image that I have built, and that would need to be deconstructed, which Anurag was convinced he could.
So he designed my look. He sat with Niharika, and they worked with referencing. When I completed the photo shoot & figured out what my character looked like, I realized that no one could say that you've seen this person before. I don't recognize myself! In the sense that what I am wearing, the body language, the moustache & the voice too, were all constructed slightly differently. He made me dub for eight days. After having shot the film, he brought me back to the dubbing studio again and again. He insisted that my eyes should look a certain way and has worked on a certain kind of baritone. He knew what to do with me! I have done nothing.
The homework that I did was about the character; why does he operate the way he does? You know, his headspace. But the physicality was all given to my by Anurag Kashyap.
How did you build on the manipulator aspect of Kaizad Khambatta? Are there any references from real life moves & shakers of Mumbai?
You know, I think all our respective alter egos ARE Khambatta. There's a second part of our personality that wants to manipulate; wanting to be evil and scheming. We get these dark, deep thoughts all the time. But this coating of humanity on all of us actually makes us not act on that part. And because we are mentally stable people, we don't. Or perhaps if we were schizophrenic or bipolar, we would act on the dark side. I am already Gemini so I already am two people! There's one part of me that does sometimes wants to just kill, strangle some people; or just see some people tragically suffer. But we Don't like to feel like that because we think that Oh My God! I am supposed to be a good person! Why am I feeling like this? So there is a Kaizad Khambatta in all of us. Its when you tap into that part beyond the normal, you find yourself quite easily adapting to that person (laughs)! So that look in your eyes, that slightly saying things with a half sneer, somehow it came quite naturally to me! But there is an alter ego that does kick in. All you've to do is marinate on that, meditate on that part & bring that out there to present to the world in a celluloid performance.
In Bombay Velvet', Khambatta first mentors & then manipulates his protg of sorts, Johnny Balraj. Its about control. Do you see parallels to showbiz there?
It's a very clever question and it does. There's mentoring in the film industry. I have mentored...
(Interrupts) You've mentored thirteen new directors so far!
I HAVE mentored thirteen new directors. I wonder if I could I manipulate their minds sometimes (smiles). I haven't.
But you see in our profession, there is a certain manipulation that has to happen. Ninety percent of my job involves handling people- sensitivities, ego, insecurities etc. I have already done all of that. Without realizing it sometimes, or perhaps with realization, you do manipulate a situation sometimes. Half lies are what most of us say. Or rather half-truths is what we live on! So there is an element of manipulating, strategy building, some scheming, that we've all done. As producer and director, I have done it for sure. All Khambatta was, was the evil side of that; he takes it to an evil side. So there are parallels to the movie industry. As producer-director, believe me, I am quite a Khambatta! But I am a good Khambatta. There are many Johnnys in my life. And if these Johnnys find a Rosie, that doesn't bother me. I have been there. So while it was a new world, it wasn't an unfamiliar circumstance.
Anurag Kashyap & You do have quite a few things in common. Both of you have mentored new directors, techinicians & talent. Both have helped carve out a signature style of Hindi films. Yet, Anurag is often considered the intellectual auteur, rightfully, but you are mostly spoken about for the other stuff- the AIB Roast, or parties, or your talk show. Do you think you have been treated a bit unfairly when so often, the filmmaker/mentor aspect is left out from your public image?
But I have never ever got the credit I deserve; because I am not the underdog. That is the simple problem. I have never been the underdog. I have never been the silent sufferer who rose from the ashes like the phoenix and created a world. I have always come across as the privileged one, because of my father. Firstly, I was seen as a product of nepotism; then as a flamboyant filmmaker who makes big budget films with every leading member of the film fraternity. Then I was seen as the filmmaker who shot in New York & London with glamorous stars. Then I came across as the person who parties with the stars all the time. Everybody thinks that my life is Great Gatsby. Its not. At the end of the day, don't they understand that there are fears, there are insecurities, there are concerns. There is a lot of work that goes into creating a platform of cinema. Nobody talks about the fact that I have given a start to the careers of so many young filmmakers; launched talents. Not only that, I have wanted so many technical team members to grow.
I only get seen as you know, Oh he was on the Roast!' Oh he was dancing on a reality show." I am like, you know, say what you want. I enjoy my life. I am not apologetic and I am unabashed about my choices. If I am on a reality show and I dance, then I enjoy doing it. No one's putting a gun to my head. I enjoy attention. I enjoy the glamour world. I love the movie business, I love the paparazzi and I enjoy the red carpets. I love the big show business elements. But there is a beating heart; there is sensitivity. There is fear on a daily basis of managing your position in this world; of maintaining your professional status. A lot of hard work, passion and energy goes into doing that.
But somehow I will direct a My Name is Khan' and nobody will care. They will still say that you make family films! I will launch three newcomers; they will say you only work with movie stars. They will say I make love stories only and they will say that you make NRI films! What is an NRI film, please someone tell me? Do you think there's a formula to make films for the diaspora? No! I make feature films in the Hindi language, but I have always been this victim of unfortunate circumstances!
Initially it used to upset me. Then it moved from anger, to indifference and now it's amusement. Now I laugh. I made a short film as part of Bombay Talkies' that was a complete departure from anything that I have done. No one noted that; and they have erased it. They are still saying that I make happy, fluffy, rich, good looking films and I am like, Dude, have you not seen My Name is Khan' or Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna'?
So some people will continue to talk about what they want. So I don't really care much. I can't stand and protest! So might as well join them. So now I laugh at myself. Now I have done this also- played a serious role in a serious film. In a year's time, this too might be forgotten and they might be back to talking about my fluffy, NRI films!
"Ae Dil Hain Mushkil' - your forthcoming film with Ranbir, Anushka & Aishwarya- sounds promising. Can you tell us a bit about its story & context?
I was working on another film. I had to take my mother to New York to address some health issues. I boarded that flight and then suddenly, I got an idea for the film. By the time I spent twenty days away from India, I had written the film in my head. And it was the story of Ae Dil Hain Mushkil'. I have always wanted to make a film about unrequited love and take it to a larger level. This story may have the syntax of some of my earlier films, but the story telling, the characters & the context are I believe, very new. I could not see anyone but Ranbir, Anushka & Aishwarya in the leading parts.
It has been suggested that it is like Doosra Aadmi' (Rishi Kapoor- Rakhee starrer). Again, it's nothing like Doosra Aadmi'. I have been through these comparisons before (laughs).
Ae Dil Hain Mushkil' is an original piece of work. It's a story close to my heart. I am just happy to be back on set. After the last few years, I feel that I have acquired abandon. Also my experience with Bombay Velvet' has definitely drawn some kind of silence in my cinema; because Anurag is all about silence & all about noise. I think that with this synergy and various other aspects that I have gone through in my life, I feel there will be a new me in this film. I am looking forward to explore that side of me while making it.
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