‘True love is aspirational’

Says Karan Johar as he tells us why he chooses to make films on relationships

Karan Johar's repertoire as a director of 'family' films, endorsing Packed To The Rafters was the right choice. The film maker is seen promoting the soon-to-be launched show and says that he 'Connected with each character in some level.' The director is unfazed that his teeny blooper Student of The Year failed to make a mark at the box-office. Ask him why he chooses to stick to romance in his films, he is quick to reply, "We like to watch what is aspirational and perfect love is aspirational and that's why we enjoy it so much." In a candid chat, Karan Johar talks about his favourite tv shows, why he loves making films on relationships and his definition of a successful film.

Excerpts from the interview:

When you watch a film, Can you step back from being a director to enjoy it?

Sometimes it is a bit difficult you are a part of the medium and profession which makes you a bit judgmental towards other pieces of work. But I tend to oscillate between director and cine-goer quite effectively. When I go watch a film in a theater, I become an audience almost immediately and look forward to the ups and downs of the film, the songs etc.

Apart from box office numbers, what is your definition of a successful film?

Box office is your final report card but I do believe that a film that does stay in the memory of the audience and has a certain sense of longevity in terms of its memory and connect is more important to me that the final numbers. Film like Vicky Donor or Kahani may not have touched the overhyped 100 crore club but they will be in the memory of the audience.

Is there a film that happened the fastest-an idea where you just thought of it and then sat down and wrote it through and shot it?

No film is easy to write but I enjoyed writing Kal Ho Na Ho the most. I remember being away from my family and going away to write this film from start to finish.

From kuch Kuch hota hai to SOTY, romance has been the essence of your films. do you think a love story is essential for a hit in Bollywood?

I think romance and love is what drives us and whenever you get that right on celluloid, you know for sure that you would connect. Love is a universal emotion and we like to watch a reflection of us at times. We like to watch what is aspirational and perfect love is aspirational and that's why we enjoy it so much.

Have you ever been unsure when you're on the set? What's your level of confidence versus insecurity and doubt?

I am always unsure. I think insecurity and not knowing whether your film will achieve its potential is the only thing that drives me. If you are sure about everything, you are bound to fail. Over confidence or knowing it all will not lead you anywhere. Constantly asking yourself is the mark of a successful creative person.

Kuch Kuch Hota hai broke all records when there wasn't too much empahesis on marketing and promotions. But now filmmakers allocate a significant part of the budget for it. What's your stand?

I believe when in Rome, do as Roman. Right now we are in a totally different situation than when I released Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Today is the age of excess and the age of multiple print release, maximizing the weekend and therefore creating the biggest noise. So you have to do what you are meant to do. Sometimes we are overdoing the promotion bit but I think scientific correct promotion and understanding the market effectively for you to design a promotion strategy is the order of the day. Going everywhere and doing everything is not the right answer. Anyways, the audience makes up its mind after the theatrical trailer and music launch. So if they have decided not to see the film, no matter what you do they are not going to see the film. So I always tell my team work on your promo and you're your trailer effective. Sometimes cheatingly effective, even if the film doesn't have those elements. You need all the bums on the seat eventually.

Still from 'Student Of The Year'How important do you think is the first promo?

Promotion is the icing on the cake. The cake is the film and the crust is your trailer so if you don't have an effective cake, the icing won't help.

But do you take any pleasure at the end when you look at the finished product? Or are you already on to thinking about what's next?

No . I always like to move forward. I never meet success with elation or excitement. I meet it with relief and my first question after that is what next. I believe in enjoying my work. Resting on my laurals and enjoying my success is not something I would like to do. Of course, it has to be celebrated from within but moving ahead is important. I love watching films and reading about cinema and travel is my biggest de-stresser

In the last few years, Saas-Bahu dramas have taken the centre stage. Do you think that the Indian audiences have evolved so much as to appreciate western soaps? What prompted you to take up Packed To The Rafters?

"There is a tremendous connect the show has with the Indian audience because of the ethos it has because I found it very familiar to the family structure in India. I love the show myself and I found a deep connect with the every character of the show. Star World also has a synergy because of the recent cinema we had and the kind of youth connect we projected and the way we have presented the family in our repertoire of work. So I believe this show is immensely connective show to the Indian demographic audience." Star World has its own set of audience as it is an English channel with a different audience. There may be some spillover between the GEC audience and the Star World audience. Even with its affluent audience, they are still a part of Indian audience ethos and everyone will find some level of connect. No matter how educated, evolved and affluent you are, you still will be Indian at heart.

What kinds of shows do you like watching?

I love watching a lot American television shows. I think the shows have some of the best writers and they are even better than their films. They have tremendous acting and writing. So I do watch a lot of American television. I rarely get a chance to watch Indian television. My mother is hugely obsessed with Indian television and every time I am with her, which is a lot, I catch up on my television viewing.

In an earlier interview, you had mentioned that 'Cinema is far more progressive than TV'. Most shows on TV are family shows with predictable plot. Do you think the Indian audiences have evolved enough to watch a show like Rafters?

I think television is taking very slow steps in terms of content and that is because audience demand is such but like I have said before people looking for cheesy over-sentimental viewing, this is not it but you are looking for connective identifiable television, then this is the right place.