Being on Koffee with Karan was a bit different than what I thought it would be. Instead of Karan Johar grilling me with his famous rapid fire, it was I interviewing the ace director during his visit to London. He is promoting his latest film My Name is Khan (MNIK) all over the world. It’s the last day of promotions in London and the director looks quite tired on a cold Friday morning. The infamous coffee cup is replaced by a Styrofoam one, which Karan sips on and gets to chatting about MNIK, love and how he and Shah Rukh can take each other for granted.
Were you comfortable handing over the writing to someone else?
The story needed a writing style that was not me. Shibani is a great cinematic writer. She is very methodical and has a great sense of structure. All this together made me very convinced.
How was it shooting MNIK?
It was difficult. Two long schedules, different weather conditions, combating the cold and different infrastructure issues. It was tough because it was spread over a wide spectrum of locations and spaces. Nothing that is path-breakingly different in terms on making films, it is always tough. This movie was unique in terms of a lot was unusual in any case.
Were there any surprises?
Shah Rukh’s performance came as a pleasant surprise. The way he understood his character as a man with a non-neurotypical condition with Asperger’s, who has high functioning autism. I think the way he grasped his character was really fantastic.
With many foreign studios coming in and garnering a more international audience, does this put pressure on you subconsciously to cater to their interests?
I think they have come for what we are good for and we are not going to adapt to what they are good for. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. They just have to blend into our world, we don’t have to adapt to them. We are very proud of our cinema. We have done some path breaking movies in the last two decades and we continue to do so. We have a great sense of balancing what is new age cinema to what our beliefs are and what our quintessential ingredients are – the way we look at the scene, the way we shoot music, the way we incorporate our drama and the way we pitch our melodrama. We are good for what we do.
What do you think about Bollywood’s trend of making mainstream cinema on disorders?
Black, Paa Taare Zameen Par, MNIK- all made very sensitively, well researched and all making the point but never juicing or drenching emotions to a point that it’s actually weakening a film. I think all of them have been powerful experiences in the past and I hope MNIK can be added to that list eventually.
What do you think of love in today’s cinema?
Love is very cynical. If you think, love today has got pragmatism, logic, cynicism attached to it. The whole abandonment of love has been replaced by technology, communication and too much other things I think. Love is no longer what it used to be. The old world charm of love is replaced by everything that is practical. There are prenups. There is lack of trust. The innocence and rawness of love has been replaced. Cinema doesn’t address love like that anymore and if you think about it the only really iconic mainstream love story happened in India last, was in 1998 with Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Titanic in the West. After that there has been no love story. We have run short of love in our cinema and in our lives.
Will you try capturing that?
Maybe yes. Maybe the return of love will be my next theme.
We always see Shah Rukh in all your movies.
Shah Rukh and I have reached a point where we can take each other for granted. I think his presence in my cinema and my presence in his life is not over or beyond the parameters of professionalism now. I think its just personal love and affection now that is really not dependent on any film.
You said MNIK is your bravest film yet.
It’s brave because I have challenged myself and I don’t know if doing that was a safe decision. It is great because it enters a new terrain and speaks about new issue. It’s nothing I’ve done before and yet somewhere lies me in the film, so it’s brave for me. I can’t say others will find it brave but for me, I felt brave.
What do you think makes a good director?
I think a people’s person makes a good director because direction is 5% creativity and 95% people handling. You need to be able to handle your actors, your crew – balance that and then emerge victorious.
How do you think the international audiences would react to MNIK?
It will finally be on word of mouth. It will be the Diaspora, which will speak and attract the international audience. When they come in, I know they will discover a different aspect of Indian cinema.
A long holiday post-MNIK?
It is much awaited, much required and much needed long holiday in a far far away zone.
Are you going to stick to you earlier statement of making a lighter film next?
I may have to. I need a holiday and a holiday film. Something that just doesn’t need me to think too much.
My Name is Khan opens in theaters everywhere this Friday so be sure to get your tickets now!