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KJo: I cannot work with people I think of as lesser human beings

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Posted: 13 May 2015 at 1:15pm | IP Logged

Karan Johar: I love the way Ranbir Kapoor is so casual about his stardom

Priya Gupta,TNN | May 14, 2015, 12.00AM IST





Just like me, I am sure many of you may also have had difficulty in understanding how and why Anurag Kashyap could have chosen Karan Johar to play the main villain in his period romance Bombay Velvet. At that time, it seemed as Anurag's height of imagination. However, people who have seen Karan in the role of Kaizad Khambatta, the man who is responsible for the rise and fall of Johnny Balraj (played by Ranbir Kapoor) are applauding Karan for his outstanding debut. Over a conversation with Bombay Times, he spoke about the influence of Shah Rukh Khan in his acting, his guilt towards Anushka Sharma and why he loves Ranbir Kapoor. Excerpts. 


You are playing a villain, that too in an Anurag Kashyap film. Did you aspire to be an actor?

I did stage and drama when I was in school and was inclined to the artistic side, but never thought that I had the personality or the looks to be a mainstream hero. Of course, my father at 15 told me, 'You are so good looking, you should be a hero.' My mother, on the other hand, is much smarter and gave me the look, don't listen to your father, it's just his love. He thought I was the best looking person on earth. In reality, I was really fat at that time and he would say thoda puppy fat toh hai. It will go away and you will be absolutely fine. But I knew that I should not take his advice as he was blinded by his love for me. I was more ambitious for myself and always felt that I should lead in what I do and since the director is the leader of the team, in a sense, that seemed more exciting to me.

Over the years of film direction, you pick up from the most prolific actors in the country, from Mr Bachchan to Shah Rukh Khan to Hrithik Roshan to the entire new generation as I have seen them perform and have seen their method, so some of that just rubs off on you too. I did want to do a film as an actor, but in a role different from what I am perceived to be. So when Anurag Kashyap offered me the role of Kaizad Khambatta, the main villain in Bombay Velvet, I didn't even take three seconds to say a yes. I knew what's the worst that could happen. I would be terrible and won't get another role. On the upside, I could enjoy the experience and not be bad. I took it up as it was another tick in the box as playing a villain in an Anurag Kashyap film was the furthest from what anyone could have offered me. Being a villain itself is not in my persona and then that too in an Anurag Kashyap film. The only anxiety I had was that I didn't want to mess this up. I didn't want to be the one bad thing in an Anurag Kashyap film where you know that each one in his ensemble will at least act very well. Whatever the opinion on his cinema, you cannot doubt the level of his acting. And I don't want to read a headline that read, 'Bombay Velvet is a great film, but Karan Johar, stick to what you do. Leave the acting to the actors.' But being a part of his film was like going to film school for me. I felt like a novice who had never made a film. I learnt so much of how to take a shot and compose a frame. He has such an esoteric mind. Shah Rukh Khan would always tell me when I acted and showed him in his film, 'Karan, tu heroines ko dikha, don't teach me any acting please.' But I picked up so much from Shah Rukh as an actor that one day I have actually given a shot in Bombay Velvet and Anurag has come hopping to me and said, 'Karan why are you acting like Shah Rukh Khan suddenly?' I said, 'You know that is the only reference in my head.' I am dying for Shah Rukh to see the film and I don't know if he will, as he always thought that I will make the worst actor in the world. He would always say, 'Please don't tell me Karan, you please teach Rani, Kareena and Kajol.' When I showed him the trailer, I hid my face as I knew what must be going on in his mind but he gave me an input actually and it is because of him that I dubbed that way. He said, 'You should change your voice. Say your dialogues differently.' And I did and his input really helped. Also on Bombay Velvet, while on one hand I felt I was at film school, on the other I was so happy behaving like a movie actor waiting for my shot. With the vanity van opening for me and someone saying, 'Sir, shot is ready.' And the one minute you are putting the glycerine in your eyes and saying, 'Just give me one minute.' I was dying to do that. So, I was having an out-of-body experience.

READ: Bombay Velvet: All you need to know about the film

Talk about Ranbir Kapoor?

Ranbir Kapoor is the most charismatic man on and off screen. He is charming as hell and he and I have developed the most amazing bond where he has dropped the barrier of my seniority and me being a filmmaker. He is more a friend now and if you see Ranbir and me in a casual interaction, you will feel that he is the the senior and I am the junior. He is bullying me and back-slapping me all the time. He thinks I am his toy that he wants to play with as he is all the time amused with me, be it what I say or what I do. I told him once, 'Will you take me seriously Ranbir when I direct you? You think that I am this walking-talking comedy show on display.' But I have this deep amount of love for that boy. It's his personality, it's the way he is. I love the way he is so casual about his stardom. I like the fact that he does not walk around with the baggage of the Kapoor legacy. I love the fact that he is unabashed, unapologetic and easy about himself. He does not take himself and his work seriously and yet he is very serious about his work. It's the balance that he strikes that I appreciate the most about him. The fact that he is one of the most talented actors, from such a great lineage and legacy of actors, none of that will come in your way when you converse with him. He just becomes the common kid on the block who is here to have a great time and give you a good time. He has an ease and will make you easy. He hugs you with warmth. Maybe he won't take you back home, but at that moment he will make you feel so special that you will build that kind of love and affection for him.

How about Anushka Sharma?

When I saw her for the first time, I told Adi Chopra, 'Are you sure you going to cast this girl?' Somehow I tried very hard to come in the way of her casting even though Adi was completely convinced. He said, 'Karan, you have to see her test, she is an outstanding actor.' And I made a hundred faces saying, 'No yaar.' He was debating between her and someone else and I tried my best for that someone else to be cast. But when I saw Band Baaja Baaraat, I let that baggage of guilt go by, gushing to her, and much later apologised to her for coming in the way of her casting in her debut. She is a solid artiste and a girl who is very different from everyone else in the business. Her sense of honesty is very rare. I don't think she can lie or fake a single moment. Given that we are surrounded all the time by this fakeness, artificialness and hypocrisy, Anushka's honesty is her biggest virtue. She is honest as an actor and as a person. I like that about her. I find her quirky and charmingly innocent. She has a vulnerability that is so endearing. She is somebody I have grown to love and I have to love somebody I cast. If I think of you a little lesser as a human being, I can't work with you.Adi Chopra, 'Are you sure you going to cast this girl?' Somehow I tried very hard to come in the way of her casting even though Adi was completely convinced. He said, 'Karan, you have to see her test, she is an outstanding actor.' And I made a hundred faces saying, 'No yaar.' He was debating between her and someone else and I tried my best for that someone else to be cast. But when I saw Band Baaja Baaraat, I let that baggage of guilt go by, gushing to her, and much later apologised to her for coming in the way of her casting in her debut. She is a solid artiste and a girl who is very different from everyone else in the business. Her sense of honesty is very rare. I don't think she can lie or fake a single moment. Given that we are surrounded all the time by this fakeness, artificialness and hypocrisy, Anushka's honesty is her biggest virtue. She is honest as an actor and as a person. I like that about her. I find her quirky and charmingly innocent. She has a vulnerability that is so endearing. She is somebody I have grown to love and I have to love somebody I cast. If I think of you a little lesser as a human being, I can't work with you.

Why was there so much negativity surrounding Bombay Velvet?

Why put the product on the firing line before seeing it? I feel that people for no rhyme or reason are trying to put down a solid product. Instead of saluting its cinematic vision, instead of saluting the fact that here are a group of people who want to do something different, a lead mainstream actor who has put his commercial aspirations aside, a film that can change the way in which we look at cinema in general. Just because Anurag Kashyap has never made a big commercial film, why chase him? At the end of the day he has done prolific work, he is internationally sound and he somewhere is the torch-bearer of different cinema and has taken cinema forward in a certain sense and has always supported new and young talent. Everything is not about being in the 100-200-300 crore club. Have we forgotten the quality that makes movies? Did the makers of Birdmanand Boyhood talk about opening weekends? Those studios also supported these films. And have you asked studios whether they care about the money or not? They want to make a proud film also. They are affiliated to Hollywood, they also want to push the envelope of cinema and build their profiles. Sometimes profile builds a studio as much as money does. And that's what we have to understand. Trade pundits are all important for the business of cinema, but what about just cinema? Go watch Bombay Velvet, it is the most cinematic experience in a cinema hall in a while.

Listen to Karan Johar songs on Gaana.com

You told me a few years back how you always wanted to be recognised as a star. In the last few years, you have become as big a celebrity as some of our big stars. Do you also need security along with you when you move around?

Sometimes I have seen actors who definitely don't need security walking around with them. Sometimes when I have security I hope there is crowd, otherwise, the security guards might think lesser of me. I am so apologetic about asking for security. I used to never take security till about two weeks ago when my assistant Garima walked in and said, 'Karan, can we give you security as you are being harassed at events and airports?' And I said, 'Oh! Okay, if you are saying so.' I was so afraid that security guard will judge me ki crowd toh hain nahi, bada aaya, security lene wala. I was so happy that the first time I had a security guard, that he had work to do. There were crowds coming to me and I was secretly feeling very happy more than my own security as I felt answerable to the guard.

Edited by chocolover89 - 13 May 2015 at 1:19pm

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dhartiamber IF-Dazzler
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Posted: 13 May 2015 at 1:35pm | IP Logged
I like his words for Anushka it perfectly describe how Anushka always been. Aisa lagta hai Kjo does not like Katrina much. he is taking a dig at kattu bhabhi even Pc has worked in dharma films but not her. He offered a lot of big films and casted many diferent stars but not Kattu. He is close to Ranbir i hope its not his possesive love for Ranbir for snubbing Kat as dharma heroine.
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Posted: 13 May 2015 at 1:37pm | IP Logged
I am for once relaxed he kept silent on Shuddhi i want Salman to wrap his films for this year before Kjo puts pressure on him for his film. I think for Salman its best to finish BB and prem ratan dhan payo completely before giving dates to Kjo and Ali abbas.
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Posted: 13 May 2015 at 1:43pm | IP Logged
Originally posted by dhartiamber

I like his words for Anushka it perfectly describe how Anushka always been. Aisa lagta hai Kjo does not like Katrina much. he is taking a dig at kattu bhabhi even Pc has worked in dharma films but not her. He offered a lot of big films and casted many diferent stars but not Kattu. He is close to Ranbir i hope its not his possesive love for Ranbir for snubbing Kat as dharma heroine.

I think he's specifically talking about people he directs.  He has never directed those he doesn't like. The rest he will work with in his PH. 
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Posted: 13 May 2015 at 1:45pm | IP Logged
Amazing interview. I love KJO's interviews. When he wants, he can be so wise and articulate that it's amazing. 
This bit intrigued me about Ranbir-"Maybe he won't take you back home, but at that moment he will make you feel so special that you will build that kind of love and affection for him."- Ranbir is such a Libran. He is friendly with everyone but doesn't let his guard down easily. Interesting perspective.
I like what he said about SRK. There is always this hint of insecurity and nervousness when he talks about SRK. It's endearing and says a lot about how overwhelming SRK is as a person. I like the bit about him worrying about the requirement of security guards too. He does annoy me with his nepotism but there are moment like these when I love reading his interviews. Anyway, sorry this was an essay lol. 

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dhartiamber IF-Dazzler
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Posted: 13 May 2015 at 1:54pm | IP Logged
Originally posted by chocolover89

Originally posted by dhartiamber

I like his words for Anushka it perfectly describe how Anushka always been. Aisa lagta hai Kjo does not like Katrina much. he is taking a dig at kattu bhabhi even Pc has worked in dharma films but not her. He offered a lot of big films and casted many diferent stars but not Kattu. He is close to Ranbir i hope its not his possesive love for Ranbir for snubbing Kat as dharma heroine.

I think he's specifically talking about people he directs.  He has never directed those he doesn't like. The rest he will work with in his PH. 

I think you are right his relationship with Salman and Aamir always seem to me friendship for benefit. He wants to be in the other 2 khans good books to use their stardom for big films.
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Posted: 13 May 2015 at 2:12pm | IP Logged
Interesting interview. Left me with even less favorable impressions of SRK and Ranbir though I'm sure this was the last thing on KJo's mind when he gave this interview. To me SRK and Ranbir came across as people who don't take Karan very seriously, and this is more evident in SRK and his don't show me, show the heroine routine, which is very arrogant and sexist by the way.


In case of Ranbir, KJo's description or explanation that he will love you and overwhelm you with his friendship and hug but might not take you home was just odd. Is KJo hinting at Ranbir's romantic liaisons? Or that no matter what even with his platonic and same gender friends will never be allowed to get to know the real Ranbir, to get to see and feel the real person that is Ranbir Kapoor. Doesn't that make everything else he said about his personality before that irrelevant then?
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Posted: 13 May 2015 at 2:21pm | IP Logged
Time to come up with essays on who he thinks of as a lesser human being LOL

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