Life is a whirligig of activities for Karan Johar. Besides readying Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, given the rather curious acronym of KANK, for a August 11 release, Karan has to blow kisses at an avalanche of social activities. As we talk there's a truck-load of tourists waving and squealing when they spot Karan at a traffic signal.
To Karan goes the credit for flagging off the cult of star-directors in Bollywood. "I don't know whether I should take credit for that, though I'd love to. I do love people. I love interacting with everyone from friends to fans. Somewhere that innate warmth reaches out to people." There's the downside of flamboyant fame….colleagues taking potshots, for instance. Recently Ram Gopal Varma created a farcical flutter by announcing he was looking forward to KANK because he loved horror films. Karan takes a deep breath . "I'll speak on this for the last time and then move on. In my opinion Ram Gopal Varma is one of the finest filmmakers of our country. His Satya, Company and Sarkar make a trilogy of terrific gangster films. When he has so much work on hand I wonder why he keeps obsessing with what I do! I know he doesn't respect my work. But could he please keep quiet about what I do."
In spite of a grueling post-production schedule Karan took time off to be in Cannes with pal Preity Zinta for the international marketing of KANK. "I hoped to facilitate the film's international distribution. I also wanted to experience the little side- pleasures of Cannes, like strolling down the avenues and watching new films. I'm a major film buff…Bollywood, Hollywood…just gimme my daily flick. Adding to my pleasure in Cannes was Preity. We both talk non-stop. Together we constitute Talkathon 2006. Between the two of us we leave no room for a third person to talk…Unless it happens to be Abhishek Bachchan who beats us both hollow. Even Preity has to shut up when Abhishek starts talking. Yup, he takes the cake when it comes to gabbing."
In KANK Karan has directed Abhishek for the first time. "I wouldn't like to say much about the film right now. For once I'll let the audience and critics see the film, and then I'll say whatever I 've to. I don't know what people expect from me this time. But it's a very simple film . The entire cast is first-rate. But Shah Rukh Khan will obviously be the film's mainstay the world over. His popularity in European countries like Germany and Poland is unreal. Recently Veer-Zara was premiered in Paris. I was unfortunately not there with Yash Uncle ,Preity and Rani. But Shah Rukh was there. And the way he was greeted proves Shah Rukh is not only God in India but in Europe as well. My Paris distributor said it felt like Elvis Presley had been reborn when he saw the ovation Shah Rukh got. So yes, I'd say he's the biggest USP of KANK."
Karan hopes KANK will further consolidate Bollywood's global impact "We saw what a film can do abroad when Lagaan, Devdas and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham were released. If KANK goes several steps further than K3G it would be because of the process that my father(producer Yash Johar) started of taking our company's films to places outside the traditional Indian market." Karan disagrees with Naseeruddin Shah who feels Indians are hallucinating about Bollywood's world-wide impact. " I don't know when and why Naseer Saab said that. The globalization of Hindi cinema is certainly no illusion for me. I think we're rocking the world–over. And to me 2006 is the biggest year for Bollywood since 2001 when we had Lagaan , Gadar and K3G all coming together . This year we've Fanaah, Krissh, Dhoom 2, Don, Munnabhai 2 … all huge huge films. And I'm looking forward to all of them. I hope to see my own KANK make a place among these biggies."
He thinks the year has already started favourably with Rang De Basanti. "What a film! I congratulated everyone including Rakeysh Mehra and producer Ronnie Screwvala after seeing it. And look at Aamir. He stepped back from the forefront--merged with the rest of the cast–to move so any steps forward as an actor." Karan feels our cinema is ready to rock globally. "The rate at which things are going we'll be the king of the world in 2007. We're shaping into one of the most self-reliant entertainment industries in the world . The eyeball exposure for our cinema is growing constantly. I hope the Indian film industry meets with unparalleled success in the coming year." KANK releases on 11 August. "To say I've butterflies in my stomach would be an understatement. I feel I'm going through labour pains."