Social media has killed the star: Karan Johar
Your chat show is slated to take off soon. What has changed in the film fraternity between the last season and now?
(Smiles) A lot. The people are pretty much the same, but everyone has a new lover, new enemy and a new controversy. And yes, there is a whole new generation which has come in. These people are candid, brave, have no baggage or a sense of caution that comes with success. They are irreverent and don’t mind giving you an opinion. Their reflexes are unusual and they are great fun to watch.
You have worked with the stars and now you have surrounded yourself with young talent. Do you think the socalled star system is changing?
The stardom of Shah Rukh, Akshay, Ajay, Aamir, Salman, Hrithik and Saif is unattainable. But this kind of manic hero worship is going to diminish. There are too many younger stars. And by virtue of the numbers, stardom will be divided among the younger lot. You will not have that kind of euphoria or reach that ecstatic level…
Is diluted stardom just a function of numbers?
The younger generation of fans does not have the kind of reverence the older lot had for their idols. The young lot love and adore and move on quickly. They cheat on their idols quite a lot. Their loyalty does not have longevity. Much like in the West where there is a new teen icon every year. So you have a Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Will Smith at the end of their humongous stardom, now doing something else. Our country still loves the Khans and the Kumars and the Kapoors, but things are changing fast.
Do you think technology has played a part in killing the star?
Absolutely. With social media and smart phones, stars are literally in your bedroom, drawing room and bathroom on a daily basis and you cannot escape an overdose. The euphoria around a star has watered down. And to keep the young lot entertained and interested, I have to introduce new talent every year, which we are doing at Dharma.
When you swap an established and experienced cast with a completely new team, do you not miss out on the depth that the former would add to your film?
Intensity and depth mean different things to different generations. Some of the young ones are prolific and extremely evolved. But they grow up much faster. We were a lot more innocent in our 20s than them. I can have a complete conversation about life and philosophy with a 25-year-old, because they have seen the world. But yes, the whole poetry of life is a lot different for me than it is for them. Some of us grew up knowing and understanding what pain, love and heartbreak is. I fester, the younger generation just moves on. Their love and emotions run dry, their tears are very seasonal, my tears run every day. Even then, I would say they are a lot stronger.
As a filmmaker working with and for both generations, how do you find a balance?
One finds it eventually. I could never write a scene today like I did in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, where a mother meets a son in a mall after 10 years. Today, if I were to tackle the same situation, I would treat it differently – the slow motion, the music, the chorus and the drama would not be there, it would be very subtle, real. I would not do away with the situation, because I believe in that sense of drama.
With Bombay Talkies, you chose to focus on a complex husband-wife relationship, which has always been your strength. You could have moved in a completely different direction, why didn’t you?
I actually liked the story which is about the grey area that the couple has to walk in life. Most relationships go through that grey patch. But I have always been intrigued with the fact that it is only in a marital relationship that you come out with deceit, betrayals and lies. You are far more honest with your parents, siblings or even friends. My attempt with Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna was to talk that zone, this is one step higher than that.
But KANK faced fierce criticism.
True. We were far more progressive in the 40s and 50s. We are celebrating hundred years of cinema but emotionally we have regressed.
How do you arrive at that?
There was a film called Sharda (1957) starring Raj Kapoor and Meena Kumari in which they are in love but eventually she marries his father and he has to touch his lover’s feet. That gets accepted but Lamhe goes on to become an unsuccessful film. That is the unfortunately the travesty and the dichotomy of this country. Arth, made in the 80s, is niche but successful. Now you have the moral police breathing down your neck. But that should not stop any one of us. Cinema can change our moral fabric. But yes, I saw a completely new level of double standards in the vicious reaction to KANK. I admit, it was flawed, but the way the film’s moral fibre was questioned, surprised me.
Was it because you were associated the cinema of wholesome family values?
(Nods in agreement) From loving your parents to leaving your wife, it was obviously a leap of faith. But if I don’t take those leaps with cinema I will stagnate into oblivion.