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When he started out, his brand of cine ma was called `bubblegum’ romance. But it’s been long since that bubble popped. Karan Johar has moved on. Now, his stories are deeper and braver. He’s shaken himself out of his comfort zone and his audience, too. Like he aptly says, “A film that ignites a conversation is a film that’s worked.“ Yes, KJo fuels conversations -with his movies, writing, or just the way he lives his life. In a chat with BT, he shares his views on relation ships, duniyadaari and his love for his godchild, Aryan Khan.
Do you see yourself evolving with your movies, as a director and as a person?

The older you grow, your thoughts, feel ings, moralities… all of it adapts. I have become non-judgmental which reflects in my movies.

Starting from KANK (Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna) to ADHM (Ae Dil Hai Mushkil), I have seen a change. I don’t judge anyone. When I meet peo ple who are probably succumbing to infidelity , I tell myself that I won’t judge them as I don’t know their true story . The way I view relationships has changed.Many people have come into my life and left -for the right or wrong reasons. I can stand tall and very proudly say that I’ve done the right thing even in the wrong circumstances.

You always manage to pull off an ensemble cast. Most of the actors in your films are your friends, too. I’m assuming they come with their set of expectations, demands and egos?

Most creative people are exceptionally sensitive and being sensitive to their emotions is something I do as a filmmaker. I think directors rarely regard the extreme anxieties of an actor. Just facing the camera in front of hundred people can be overwhelming. If I have to give an instruction, I never scream it out loud; I talk in the confines of a closed room. I’m always calm in the face of a crisis. So, I’ve never faced a problem with any lead actor of my film. I have a great amount of respect for actors, as they represent the tonality and syntax of a director’s vision.

You’d said that ADHM was a very personal film, so I’m certain that the anxiety over its fate must have been that much more. With its success, I guess it all seems worth it now…

Well, so much happened, before, during and after the release of the film that it felt like we have weathered a storm. It has been received well by the audience in India and internationally , too. I always deal with my success with relief and failure with contemplation. So, right now, if you were to ask me if I am happy , no, I am relieved. Also, I’ve told myself that I have to get a film on the floor next year, come hail or storm. These long gaps between my films are just not happening.

The film raked in good numbers, but there were mixed reactions too. How do you deal with criticism?

I read every review of my film, I read everything. I like to understand what people have to say about my work -be it good, bad or ugly . I listen to them and I absorb it. ADHM is the one film that I wouldn’t change anything about. In the past, I have agreed to the fact that I have made mistakes and that I could change something about my movies, but not with ADHM. With this film, there was no inherent compromise or lies. It’s bare, it’s dark and it’s out there to be judged.

Ranbir Kapoor’s last few films before ADHM didn’t do wonders at the box office; he must be overjoyed with the reactions to this?

I am so glad that Ranbir Kapoor the superstar is back, as an actor he didn’t go anywhere. He was outstanding in Tamasha, in Bombay Velvet, too. I don’t think anyone has ever doubted his acting ability , but now he is back as a superstar. I believe that a film that ignites a conversation is a film that’s worked. You can hate a film or love it, but if you are indifferent to it…that’s scary. And I feel you can’t be indifferent towards ADHM.

In an industry where relationships are known to be fragile, how do you keep up with so many ties?

I don’t do anything extraordinary. I do whatever my core personality allows me to do. I strongly believe in the word duniyadaari. Kuch cheezein…you have to do. You have to honour relationships that come into your life. I believe we are nothing without the people around us. There is not a single message that I don’t reply to. I feel grateful that the industry has given me so much. Hence, expressing gratitude is important and it takes very little of your time. People who don’t do these things are being disrespectful.

Do you see yourself making gritty, hard-hitting cinema, ever?

If I feel like it, I will make it. I am happy to watch it, though I might not necessarily be happy to make it. I have never claimed to be the country’s most versatile director. I am not. I know one world, I know one zone and I hope I can achieve success within that space.

You have spo ken a lot about launching Shah Rukh Khan’s son, Aryan. Any news on those plans?

Aryan is my godchild.Currently, he is in Los Angeles and he has four years of university ahead of him. When he comes back he is going to decide if he wants to be in the movies. And if he does, of course, I will be a big part of it as a director or just as a guiding support. For me, Aryan being launched is like my son being launched. I will be this hyper relative breathing down his neck. I have held Aryan in my arms when he was six months old, and walked around the streets of London. Now he is a grownup, goodlooking boy with sixpacks and all set to face the world. I feel so proud. Of course, I track him all the time. When I see any images of him online, he gets messages from me in the middle of the night. I ask him, `What are you doing, who is this person with you in the frame?’ I feel like a possessive parent who wants to know exactly what he is up to.

Ever imagined SRK and Aryan in the same frame?

I think SRK and Aryan will be totally dynamic in the same frame, as they are great with each other. I have spent so much time with them and seen the relationship they share.

– By Madhureeta Mukherjee