Man behind some of Bollywood’s greatest hits ‘impressed’ by locations to shoot in SA

2013-09-09 00:00

KARAN Johar, the man behind some of Bollywood’s biggest hits in recent years — including the hugely popular Student of the Year — could soon be a familiar face around Durban and KwaZulu-Natal.

“I would love to come back and see some locations,” he told The Witness during a flying visit to host the recent South Africa India Film and Television Awards (Saifta).

“I have seen some of the locations in other films, both Indian and international, and I’ve been impressed …”

Asked what he believed a critical ingredient was for a film to have commercial success, Johar said no one really knew what would work. It was important for film makers to use the right kind of music, to have the right element of drama, brevity and a good screenplay.

“The screenplay is often overlooked, but it’s actually the most critical thing,” he added. “[But] I think that music is the reason that our films have worked in the Indian diaspora. I’m really glad that we have this kind of love outside of India and it’s also great to see the love we are getting from non-Indians. When I arrived at the airport there was a Greek lady and she told me that she had seen all my films and all of Shah Rukh Khan’s films. That’s wonderful.”

Johar said Bollywood was also proving to be increasingly popular with filmgoers in countries like Russia, Poland and France. “They are going completely ballistic about our films,” he added.

As for what inspired him as a film-maker, Johar said he loved watching human dramas and amazing narratives on screen, especially in films by Spanish film director, screenwriter and producer, Pedro Almodóvar, and America’s Woody Allen.

“Pedro has an emotional quirkiness which is difficult to emulate … you can’t copy him, what he has only he can do. And Woody Allen has had good films and bad films, but when he hits it out the park, he really does hit it,” he added.

Johar, who also cites Indian cinema greats Raj Kapoor, Yash Chopra and Sooraj R. Barjatya as inspirations, also admitted that he felt blessed to be a filmmaker.

“It’s so much fun being a film-maker … it’s the only time you get to play God and get to create a world. It’s the most glorious profession to be part of,” he said.

Johar, who was born in Mumbai to Hiroo and Yash Johar and is the head of Dharma Productions, has produced and directed some of Bollywood’s highest grossing films in India and abroad. He works regularly with Shah Rukh Khan (SRK), a man he considers “family”.

Johar entered the film industry as an actor in Aditya Chopra’s Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge in 1995 and made his directorial debut with the highly successful romantic comedy Kuch Kuch Hota Hai in 1998. The film won him a Filmfare Award for best director and a Filmfare best screenplay award.

More success followed thanks to the family drama Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001) and the romantic drama Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006), a movie that dealt with the theme of adultery.

Both films starred SRK and were financial successes in India and abroad.

His fourth film, My Name Is Khan (2010) met with positive reviews and grossed $32 million (R326 million) worldwide and earned him his second best director award at Filmfare. He was also named best director at the IIFA Awards, the Apsara Awards and the Zee CineAwards in 2011.

His most recent films include the 2012 romantic comedy Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu, starring Imran Khan and Kareena Kapoor, Student of the Year , Dostana 2 (producer) and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (producer).

Speaking about Student of the Year, which received multiple Saifta nominations and has helped launch the career of Sidharth Malhotre, he said it was his “holiday film”.

“I did not make it expecting to win awards,” Johar said. “I made it to have fun and we really had a ball on set. I’m really happy that kids loved it and it’s great to be able to touch base with teenagers through the film.”

Johar was named best director for the film at the Stardust Awards this year.

Looking ahead, the director-producer, who also writes and acts, will be producing the film Badtameez Dil, which is set for an August 15, 2014 release. The movie stars Kareena Kapoor and will be directed by Akshay Roy.

• arts@witness.co.za

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