Karan Johar: best at the business of entertainment

Karan Johar delighted a packed auditorium at ISB, with his tongue-in-cheek responses
If films are discussed for their impact and leaving behind a signature of a creator, it’s fitting to say actor, director and producer Karan Johar has cemented his place in Hindi cinema.
His emphasis to stay relevant that won him popularity across various age groups was once again witnessed at the Indian School of Business (ISB) Leadership Summit 2017 at Gachibowli recently.
In conversation with film exhibitor and columnist Akshaye Rathi on ‘The Business of Entertainment’, the filmmaker shared that the industry received his academic proficiency with much surprise and that he had nurtured his craft only on the job. At ISB, for a change, he was the one to sign the coffee mug and brace the rapid-fire round.
Excerpts from a discussion that ranged from films to entrepreneurial ambitions and of course, nepotism.
Learning on the job
“My mornings would always begin with the calls my father made to distributors about his films not doing well in a certain area. I lived, breathed and grew up amid such conversations. My film career took off with a call that Yash Johar made to Yash Chopra about his son who wanted to join as an assistant to Aditya Chopra for DDLJ. I had to learn from what I saw and kept asking Adi so many questions on the sets. I should’ve learnt the grammar before that. There are so many film schools today but my ultimate dream would be to start an institution that teaches students the grass roots of filmmaking over the emphasis on the textual matter.”'
“I have a close business friend and a distributor who watches my films and says ‘it’ll be a hit’ and I ask him what do you mean, do you like it or not? He replies ‘isme dhandha hai’. It’s important to show your films to a test audience whose only concern is about having their ticket money worth it. For instance, I showed Badrinath Ki Dulhania to my staff and external viewers too. They gave us feedback that enriched the second half of the film. It’s important to have a test audience not look at a film from a business perspective. I would instead show it to the crowd at the ISB here. I don’t want to be a delusional filmmaker talking about the so-called great films I have made in the past.”
Decline of the star system
“There are these Hollywood greats who only look like stars from October to March leading up to the Academy Awards. This is not to downgrade their popularity or credentials, but it’s to understand that our industry is heading towards that territory soon. Prabhas, Rana, Anushka, Tamannah are the biggest stars of the country because of content like Baahubali and a director like Rajamouli. Hindi cinema fraternity does a lot of intellectualisation of films, but our Southern films are unafraid of giving something that the audiences strongly desire.”
On item songs and studios
“I don’t like the word ‘item’ and would like to call it a special song that adds to the film value. I fully realise what the innuendos and references of such songs can lead us to and I promise to not come up with such songs in the future.”
“What the studio system has brought and even taken back is the money. One needs to understand that our industry works on trust over contracts and agreements. A corporate studio had an 80 page document to Amitabh Bachchan, where I would have instead taken one page to write that I would love to have you on board for my film, with love Karan. I still sign most of my actors that way.”
Love for Indian cinema
“Not many know that my father had also run an import-export firm, besides making films. He used to joke about the losses in the films being made up by that company. He told me about stretching his films to three hours so that the audience doesn’t complain it’s short. I love Indian cinema the way it is, with the songs, the lip syncs, the lack of real element and all. When I made Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (which heralded the realist filmmaker in him), a woman at a screening started weeping while her mother yelled at me ‘My daughter just went through a divorce and I promised to take her to a Karan Johar film. What have you made.’ But yes, the digital content will soon be a threat to films and a nuclear war between online content and films too might arise, but I want to see something productive coming out of it.”
On fatherhood
“It has been the most beautiful phase in my life and I thank everyone who encouraged me to take that decision. I don’t think I feel lonely anymore, but as a selfish filmmaker, I don’t want that trait to affect my films (laughs).”
Source-The Hindu

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