The year 2019 promises to be a special year for Karan Johar — in more ways than one. For starters, the film-maker’s home banner, Dharma Productions completes 40 years later this year. Plus, he is all set to start work on his much talked-about ambitious directorial venture, Takht. But for the time being, Karan has taken a breather. To ring in his 47th birthday today, he is in New York for a quick getaway. “Yes, I’ve decided to give myself a five-day break but I will jump right back into prep work for Takht and all the other great things we are doing at Dharma,” he says. Excerpts from an interview:
To start with, where’s the party?
It’s with a few close friends and family in New York. I’ve headed out for a few days, and I’m very excited to be here, just to walk the streets of the city that I really love. You can say that I’m kind of replenishing myself (smiles).
And New York happens to be your favourite city. Right?
Yes, actually, I already had a few meetings lined up for Takht – including with my film’s crew – in New York. So, I decided to combine it (the trip with work and birthday). But I will be back in five days as I can’t go for very long because of my babies (Yash and Roohi).
Would you call yourself a birthday person?
I used to get excited and be much more of a birthday person earlier. I’d be all about celebrating it and having parties etc. But for the last couple of years, I’ve started to feel that it’s very silly of me to get so excited (laughs). Now, I should be more kicked about my children’s birthdays and not mine. Yes, it’s a great day to feel the sense of love from your loved ones but I can’t be millennial about my birthdays anymore. Now, I have to start directing those energies towards my kids.
Later this year, Dharma Productions completes 40 years. How do you see its journey, especially with you?
It’s been a great inning. I stepped into Dharma Productions 20 years ago when I made Kuch Kuch Hota Hai in 1998. From then on, I have done my best to keep the flag of Dharma flying and to stick to the quality that my father (late Yash Johar) had set. I’ve taken to it as not just a professional baby but a personal one. I hope dad is proud of everything that all of us at Dharma have done. We work as a big family and I think it’s a very inclusive organisation. There is complete democracy in terms of everyone’s thoughts, and opinions.
And now, there are newer facets to your production house…
Yes, we now have Dharma 2.0, which deals with ad films and there’s also our digital arm, Dharmatic. I am very grateful to the CEO of our company and my childhood friend, Apoorva Mehta, who brings in a strong structure and energy into the organisation. And I am grateful to all the film-makers (we have worked with) as we have launched over 15-17 of them. We run it like a boutique family and make sure that everyone’s happy. It doesn’t matter how a film fares as long as everyone has a great ride while making those films. We believe very strongly in a phrase, ‘amass good karma at Dharma.’
In terms of new films, you have an exciting, packed line-up ahead. What’s the feeling like?
We began the year with Kesari, and now we have a horror film starring Vicky Kaushal, followed by Janhvi Kapoor’s film (the Gunjan Saxena biopic). Then, there’s Good News and a host of other films. So, we are very excited about everything that Dharma has to offer in terms of content. At Dharma, we strongly believe that we will make the kind of movies that really energises the theatrical
You are returning to feature film direction after three years, with Takht. Are you excited or nervous?
I am hugely excited and very nervous because it’s a totally new turf and terrain (period drama) for me. It’s not my comfort zone and that’s why it’s challenging. Also, I will shoot Takht in the 40th year of Dharma Productions, a company that my father built. And I couldn’t have asked for a bigger cinematic experience to put myself through. It’s a story I firmly believe in. It’s a period saga and has all the trappings of a spectacle, but it’s a family film at heart, which strongly revolves around the familial emotions. So, in a way, it’s my return to a strong, emotional and dynamic family film space. run for films. And it’s very important that we offer strong films to people in order to pull them into theatres because we are combating so much competition thanks to the digital revolution, television and sports etc. So, if we want cinema to take precedence, we need to come up with high-content films.