When Karan Johar made Sajid Nadiadwala cry
Sajid Nadiadwala and Karan Johar may seem very different people on the face of it, but when you dig deeper you realise how similar they are, be it their generosity, the importance they give to their relationships in the industry and them both being mama’s boys. Sajid has never ever shared his producer credit with anyone in 25 years, but he made the exception for Karan in 2 States due to his love and friendship with his late father, Yash Johar. In a first-ever conversation together, we speak to them about their reasons for coming together and their experience. Excerpts:
Sajid Nadiadwala on Karan Johar:
Karan’s father Yash Johar is someone I looked up to and discussed everything with. If I had any problems as a producer, I would always just drive to Mahalaxmi and talk to him. He was my anchor who would also fire me a lot. I liked everything about Yash uncle and everything about him was diamond. I remember when Karan had come to narrate the script of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai to Tabu. I couldn’t believe that someone could write so well, where actually you could visualise the film while he was narrating it. At that time, directors would normally be paid ` 25-30 lakhs, but I offered to pay him a crore, if he directed it for me. His narration was so good that he was narrating it to Tabu and I was crying on the side. I usually am a non-reader, but I read 2 States in one night and liked the book so much that I bought the rights to make it into a film. I moved around greenlighting it with several actors including Saif Ali Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and even Ranbir Kapoor and while no one refused the film, the film had its own destiny.
I had also got saturated in one year, where actors were greenlighting it but not saying yes either and I thought by that time that the film would not get made.
I have learnt a lot from Karan and his Dharma team. There is no issue on any issue. The Dharma team is so perfect. They make everybody comfortable and are very chilled out. Normally, Dharma would be our competitors, so we would earlier not interact with them. But there is so much that we learnt. There was no issue on agreement or money. Since I have been producing films over 25 years, I thought I had a good team and that we were good at administration and money, but they were even better than us. While they are professional, they have human values. What do you normally fight on in a marriage? You fight on agreements or some clauses. But they are so flexible and take decisions so fast that it does not even reach Karan and me and the problem is solved. When Karan came to me, I had offered him to take the rights of the book and didn’t want someone to do something with me only, because I was holding the rights. I had offered that to Shah Rukh also. I told Karan that it will hurt me to give the rights, but I don’t mind giving it. But he was also magnanimous and immediately said, ‘No let’s do it together.’ I have never shared my name with anybody. This is my first co-production. Your strength is what is seen and weakness, what you avoid showing. When you join hands with someone, you always have this fear of exposing your weaknesses and that is not good. But fortunately, this was one of the best marriages, as creatively his team is fantastic and administratively, our team is also very good. I have worked with many other studios before. And know how even to change one or two lines in a contract, it can take months to decide. My USP in this industry is that I never have an agreement till date, from the time I have worked, right from Dharamji to now with Ranbir. Agreements to me were always meant for only income tax purpose. But Dharma team was brilliant and everything was reciprocated so fast that till date there is no ambiguity. We are both committed to co-producing another film together, with Abhishek Varman as the director.Karan Johar on Sajid Nadiadwala:
I have known Sajid socially and through my father. My father had a core set of people who were close to his heart about whom he spoke very well. Sajid was one of them. They were almost friends even though there was a huge age difference between them. My father had a way of breaking through age barriers. He talked about how Sajid was self made and how he has created his own empire. And how you need to always be your own person and have your own set of values like my father had, like Sajid has and I am trying to be. Sajid has always been very kind socially, I have always met him in Salman’s house. We had common friends like Farah. There was never any closeness between us, but there was always a positive vibe for each other. In fact, I remember his messages to me after my films. There was a kind of encouragement and positivity, which is kind of rare in our industry.
Abhishek loved Chetan Bhagat’s 2 States and wrote the script and came and presented it to me. I found it very earnest, honest and precise. But I knew that Sajid had the rights. I had the writer, director and the script but I didn’t have the rights.
For me, collaborating with Sajid was great as firstly, we are both strong production houses. We have similar beliefs, where we believe that films are about families and family values. We are not corporate and yet we are stream lined. Dharma Productions and Nadiadwala Grandson Productions have a common ethos and I knew we had similarities in working, so coming together would not be a problem. We do our own thing, have our own brand values, never step on other people’s shoes, never been in the eye of any storm and yet managed to create a place for ourselves within the movies. We needed to put our monies behind new talent, as that is the only way in which the project would have taken off within the timelines we wanted to. I think waiting for a movie star is a very old way of moviemaking. Creating new talent, putting your faith behind new energies is the way forward especially for an organically young love story like 2 States. Today, the movie star is the movie and not the star and it’s very critical to remember that. Arjun is someone who both of us knew, as we both know his family and he had assisted me on Kal Ho Naa Ho and Alia was our in-house talent. We have had just half-an- hour meetings and everything would get solved. Throughout the process, we have had not one disagreement and not one bad day. The film is beyond the finishing line, the process is the finishing line and we have managed to reach the finishing line without a single day of discord. And that speaks volumes about our companies, us and the fact that we are here to make movies. Egos are imperative, self-respect is paramount, but delusion is unnecessary and that is the one thing, that we are not delusional. We are equal collaborators; in fact, Sajid had a foot forward and was very gracious to let us into his world as he could have very easily said, ‘I will make it on my own.’ It could have broken my and my director’s heart but he made sure that did not happen. He protected our personal interests and emotions and knew that we potentially had a software that could make a good celluloid mark. I will always be very grateful to him for welcoming us into his world. I knocked at his door and he very graciously welcomed us into it.
We had nothing to do with the creative of the film. We had everything to do with the financing and parenting of it. Yes, family is a huge part of our lives where our love for our mothers is paramount and we are both mama’s boys. Between my mother, his grandmother and mother we have three mothers taking care of us. I don’t need anything else, as I will leverage those blessings.
To us, being generous comes from our parenting, I don’t think any of us know any better. If you tell us that if you will make the best scene in the world, but there is `1 crore less for us to make in the film, there is no doubt what both of us will go for. If money is your incentive, you are in the wrong profession. We are not soulful people working for charity but money cannot be the only incentive to be in the industry. There is something called relationship, there is something called creating cinema and the pat that you get on your back for making the film that you make is much more important than the money depository in your bank. I think we are the last of the producers who have an old-world charm and a new age efficient infrastructure. I don’t know how to detach my emotions from my profession. Sajid has such a solid relationship with Salman. If Salman calls Sajid and Shah Rukh calls me, you can be rest assured that everything will be dropped and we will be there for whatever they need and whenever they need it. It has nothing to do with the films that we have made together. But it has everything to do with the emotions we have built during that journey.