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October 15, 1998


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'I'm a little scared'

V S Srinivasan

Karan Johar. Click for bigger pic!
Karan Johar has learnt from observation that there could be a lot in a name too -- at least in Bollywood. And that it's importance could rank right after that of the quality of the story.

So Karan picked the name Kuch Kuch Hota Hai for his next venture that is releasing tomorrow. A fairly unusual title, flying in the face of the established Pyars, Mohabbats, Dils etc littered across hoardings and marquees. And yet it has the Ks in the title considered auspicious by the industry. This is where the safe and the experimental meet, he decided. And it took many sittings before the name was settled upon.

Karan learnt the ropes of the trade from Aditya Chopra, whom he assisted during the making of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. And if we met him finally, it was only because his father, Yash Johar, recommended us to him. For he'd told us categorically, "I don't want to give interviews," he'd said a little petulantly when we had first asked.

But when we finally met him, he looks pretty satisfied. "The film has shaped up well," he says, beaming.

A still from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Click for bigger pic!
Kuch Kuch Hota Hai lies quite outside the rut, claims Karan. Inspiration came to him, he says, from Raj Kapoor, Sooraj Barjatya and Yash Chopra. "So whatever I do will have shades of what these people have done," Johar admits candidly.

"It's a romantic film and I've tried to be original too." As the name suggests without stating, KKHH is a romantic, musical drama. But the debutante director is not ready to reveal much more than this. "It's a love story revolving around Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol, both of whom have given terrific performances. I don't want to say more at this stage," he trails off.

But trade circles say it amounts to a rehash of Dil To Pagal Hai, with a few changes here and there. Others hint at a resemblance to DDLJ; even the lead stars are the same, they point out.

"The similarity ends there. My film is different from DDLJ," says Karan. "Just because the lead stars were there and I happened to assist Aditya does not mean this is a copy. I hate stale stories and believe in doing something new." Karan even has an explanation why the movie is being released during Diwali. Cashing in on the season, we ask, and he goes back on the defensive.

A still from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Click for bigger pic!
"It's a family film and people prefer to see such movies during the festival season." Timing does play a role in a film's success, but only a fool can entirely rely on that... A good movie will always fare well. If you have everything on your side except a good story, the film will hardly be noticed," he says.

The story, as we heard it is that Rani Mukherjee, Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol are in the same class in college. Kajol loves Shah Rukh. But Shah Rukh loves Rani and marries her. They have a child but Rani dies soon after. Meanwhile, Kajol goes to another city and gets engaged to Salman... Then Shah Rukh's daughter, directed by her mother in a dream, decides to play cupid... The rest would be telling, wouldn't it?

Like any other first-timer, Karan is little jittery.

"I'm a little scared -- KKHH is my first film. But then, I'm fortunate to have my father on my side. He is not only producing the film, but is really the film's backbone. His wide experience, contacts and constant guidance has helped me immensely. He's been a pillar of strength throughout the making of this film," he says.

Karan Johar on the sets of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Click for bigger pic! Pic courtesy: Yashraj Films
And excitement and tension alternate on the newbie director's face as he speaks on: "Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge was the thing which got me into films. I'm like a part of the family with Yash Chopra. My friend Adi (Aditya Chopra) asked me to assist him in DDLJ. I know Adi and Kajol since my childhood. I got to know Shah Rukh only during DDLJ.

"And when I saw him act, I realised that if I wanted to make a film, I could never do it without him. Shah Rukh is a terrific actor. He has the best pair of eyes in the industry. Nobody can match the emotions he brings on the screen. Whatever people say, he is incomparable -- in more ways than one."

Karan has been brought up on a diet of films since childhood.

"I see Hindi films with a passion. From those of the legendary Raj Kapoor to Yash Chopra, there are many who impressed me. But there can never be another Raj Kapoor. He was an institution. As an adolescent I watched all his films with a sense of amazement," he says. He believes Yash Chopra and Sooraj Barjatya are two directors who know the popular taste like they do the back of their palms.

A still from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Click for bigger pic!
"They are dedicated to their work. They read the pulse of the people. Their stories deal with simple, social issues that everybody relates to. I respect them for this ability."

But already he has shown some good sense, concentrating on the aspects required for a family movie. He has roped in Farah Khan to do the choreography and Jatin-Lalit to provide the music. He knows how far a few good songs can take a good movie.

"The music is lilting. The numbers will go down well with the masses." And there he is right. Already the peppy and youthful number, Yeh ladka hai deewana from the film is gaining in popularity.

Though he liked films, Karan wasn't particularly in awe of the industry earlier. He used to even avoid mentioning his father was connected to films.

"I remember my classmates at school asking me once whether I was related to Yash Johar, the film-maker. It was when one of his films was doing well. I lied to them, saying he was a businessman and not into films. But now my attitude has changed. I'm very proud to be in films."

Well, he ought to be now. And if he isn't, the audience will soon know it.

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