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Criticism slap in the face - Karan Johar

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By: Subhash K. Jha, IndiaFM

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Are you endorsing infidelity in Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna(KANK)
I must tell you a mother came up to me after seeing the film. She was very angry. 'My daughter recently got divorced. I took her out to make her happy with a Karan Johar film. But look at what you made her suffer! We wanted to go into another world. We didn't want to see our lives'. She was upset. But I think I had hit home. I don't claim to be an expert on marriage or anything else. I'm not endorsing anything. KANK is my take on what happens when people marry for the wrong reason. The true foundation of an enduring marriage is tremendous love. If that love isn't there, things can go wrong any time in a marriage . That's what happens in Alvida. My characters behave in a particular way because they are my characters. You don't have to agree with what the characters do or say.

People are reacting vehemently to the Shah Rukh-Rani extra-marital affair.
Every married person sees a bit of him or herself in the characters. They're reacting to the characters. Alvida is like watching an experience rather than watching a film. Everyone wants to know why Rani doesn't love Abhishek's character. But she doesn't! That's it! I can show you dozens of marriages all over the world where the perfect spouse leaves the other marital partner cold. There're million of women who go on being miserable in passion-less marriages. I'm not telling those women to go out there and have an affair. But you don't need to be in a love-less marriage. That's what Alvida says. I don't think marriage gives any man or woman an identity. I've tremendous respect for women who haven't married because they haven't found the right partner rather that than being stuck in an unhappy marriage. There's nothing worse than flogging a dead horse.

Surely there're obligations in a marriage that go beyond self-gratification?
I agree. But children shouldn't be made an excuse to keep a dead marriage going. Preity says , 'I'm not one of those who accept defeat in life by making children their weakness. I'm not that weak'. You cannot question why. That's the way these characters are.

But a Karan Johar film influences a large section of people.
And I haven't been irresponsible towards my audience. The message, if any, is marry for the right reason. And if you're in a miserable marriage you're wronging two people. Amitji says in the film, 'By carrying on an incomplete marriage you're denying love to yourself and your spouse.' Incomplete relationships are of no value to anyone. Are you trying to say one should continue in a miserable marriage? Doesn't every individual have the right to happiness. I'd love our women to become much more independent-minded and career-minded so that they could've a life of their own after a broken marriage. Yes, sometimes marriage takes place under parental pressure or because a person feels he or she's getting old. Please treat marriage as a venerable institution which you visit only when you're sure of yourself.

But Karan, you aren't married, so how do you know the dos and don'ts of marriages?
I'm not married. But I'm an observer of human relationships. And it's my right to use those observations as and how I wish. I know there will be various debates and discussions on KANK. And I welcome them. How many films make you think and talk about it long after? People are talking about my protagonists Dev, Maya, Rishi and Rhea as though they're neighbours. I'm overjoyed at the level of participation that the film has provoked. I'm so happy I've a job that can touch people. You can look at my take on marriage positively or negatively. The characters have their own point of view. Rani's father-in-law wants her to leave. Shah Rukh's mother wants to stay with his wife even though the wife throws Shah Rukh out. There's poise dignity and class in all the characters.

Rani's character has no motivation for leaving her husband.
Hers is the toughest role. She rebuffs a loving husband. But her character Maya feels maternal towards Rishi . She marries for the wrong reason. Alvida is a film about very unhappy characters. The ones who do wrong feeling more unhappy than the ones who are wronged.

I see a lot of Yash Chopra's Silsila in KANK.
Where? Not consciously. I love Silsila. It's a super take on the cult of infidelity. But I think Alvida tells its own story. My admiration for Silsila may have subsconscious crept into the film.

What was the need for Kajol, Arjun Rampal, John Abraham and Riteish Deshmukh(who was finally cut out)?
Kajol is my lucky mascot. Arjun is an important character . He was someone Preity's character could've settled down with after her failed marriage. But she chose not to. John was a fun thing. Why not have a good-looking deejay? You can't get anyone cooler for the job. As for Riteish there was a whole chunk with Rani in play school which had to be cut off. Riteish had one scene with her. Stars are important to a film. But you must understand I took a big risk by casting these stars against their images. Earlier I made good-looking film with white characters. Now it's good-looking with grey characters. Both Shah Rukh and Rani are flawed protagonists.

Why cast Shah Rukh as a cynical and bitter man?
He's unhappy because of his failures. When I projected him as the ebullient Rahul and Aman in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Kal Ho Na Ho everyone said he needs a change of image. I'm going to get very upset if now they people complain about his change of image. What do you want me to do? I think Shah Rukh gives one of his best performances in Alvida. He plays a grey complexed character and he has pulled it off with absolute conviction.

What's the deal with Mr Bachchan?
Abhishek's father in the film is a flamboyant character. And who better equipped than Mr Bachchan to play him? He'll be called 'Sexy Sam' for a long time. He trusted that I'd handle his raunchy role with a certain class and dignity. Of course Amitji is full of class and dignity. Mr Bachchan at 64 rocks. Why do we have to show him as humble patriarch or a retired don? In real life he wears the coolest clothes and plays the coolest music. Alvida taps his cool side. If at 64 if I show even a jot of his zest I'd be blessed.

Were you prepared to open up a pandora's box?
I did anticipate it. People say I've shown a mirror. And no one likes a mirror image. I know many Devs, Mayas, Rishis and Rheas and Sexy Sams. Each is a work of fiction but they're based on real life. Thirty percent of the audience is shocked. But seventy percent identifies with the characters. It's too early to predict where it'll go . The trade thinks it's an urban film. But human emotions are universal. I hope it cuts across. This time I've given no candy-floss. It's more like a slap on the face.

Can you ever go back to candyfloss?
I can't! I've matured. I've changed. At 25 I made Kuch Kuch Hota Hai because I felt mushy. At 29 I did Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham because I felt reverent towards my parents. At 31 when I wrote Kal Ho Na Ho it was a manifestation of my fear of death. I felt I was going to lose someone dear, and I did(father Yash Johar). At 34 I'm a quiet silent observer. . That's why I've made KANK.

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