When you attend a film festival as a media person, the one question that you are always asked is, ‘Do you get to meet the stars?’ Well, yes but not really up, close and personal. However Karan Johar, a man who dons the hat of a producer, director and talk show host, is someone who has never shied away from the media or the paparazzi and attending his masterclass at IFFM was akin to reading his book. Incidentally his memoir The Unsuitable Boy was released this January.

Johar is actually the likeable genius who has created his own cinematic style, though his ingenuity gets often smothered by all the controversies he creates. And he is still killing the infamous nepotism word although in Melbourne, all he said was he now suffers from nepo-plasm, fear for the word nepotism. But much as he “unabashedly” and “unapologetically” loves gossip, so does the public who turned up in full strength to hear the great talker talk.

The one-hour session with Johar was delightful as he went on to lay bare the story of his life. From a young, obese under-confident boy to the successful filmmaker to a now father of twins, he has made a life that is fulfilling in many respects. But it was from a young age that he was determined to be famous, sign autographs and pose with people. Ironically he never thought he should be a filmmaker, a profession he now professes to be blessed with. The turning point in his life was winning the elocution contest for his school and coming back home with the trophy. “When I walked out I got applause and wanted that feeling to stay,” he says. It would be his driving force in life. “Everything I do is to maintain what I have achieved. I don’t want to be the filmmaker where the flowers have stopped coming, or the calls have ended. To be relevant is my adrenalin force.”

However he says six films in 19 years is a terrible track record. Last year he told himself he will speed up the gaps in his films but while he is still grappling with the idea of what to make, the fear of failure keeps propping up to him - something he cannot afford given his own dictum.

“People judge me and I am OK with that. As long as I make that one film that I believe I have yet to make, it will supersede any perception or any observation of what anyone has about who I am or what I represent. I have to make my Lagaan or my Rang De Basanti which I believe are defining iconic films, I may have contributed to pop culture but I don’t think I have contributed to the brilliance of cinema as yet,” he modestly states.

He hopes the long flight back from Melbourne will strike an idea as was the case with Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, a film he wrote in nine days after the idea came to him on a flight to New York. “I was heavy hearted and going through a phase of life. When boarding the flight I felt I just need to make a film on unrequited love, which is something that we have all been through where we fall in love and are not reciprocated and we carry the burden of that. Sometimes there is nothing worse than heartbreak and everyone says there is nothing worse than a toothache but let me tell you if your heart breaks, it really hurts.” It seemed only fair that he killed Anushkar Sharma’s character at the end because she did not love back. “Filmmakers come closest to God, they create or destroy a character they want,” he laughs.

Having turned 45 two months ago, Johar who has made films such as Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, My Name Is Khan etc. and is the founder of one of the biggest production houses Dharma Productions, says he is the mode for re-invention but with commercial success. As a slick, professional entertainer, Johar says he needs to make a film that has the balance of commerce and art. “I have to be honest I haven’t reached that stage yet where I have been allowed the indulgence of failure.”

But now as a new father to six-month-old twins, will that take away his energy from filmmaking? On the contrary, Johar thinks they will impact his cinema as his films have always been an extension oh him.

Attending IFFM has been a loving experience for Johar who says, “It is always good to connect with a festival that has a lot of heart that comes through not only the people but film choices. This is a festival that is very internal and run by passionate people who feel for strong cinema. I am announcing that next year I will host the award night.  The nominations were a seamless line of the mainstream and alternate, true in keeping with cinema which is much more diverse. That is IFFM’s biggest strength.”

In finding his career, Johar has given us a lot of entertainment!

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