Arthur J Pais in New York
Under normal circumstances, filmmaker Karan Johar will talk mostly of how his newest project Kurbaan has shaped and how excited he is launching yet another director, writer Renzil D'Silva.
Just recently, another Johar protege Ayan Mukerji directed the sleeper hit Wake Up Sid for Dharma Productions, Johar's company.
Speaking to rediff.com in New York at 2.30 am from his home in Mumbai, Johar touches many topics from giving breaks to directors to Shah Rukh Khan shooting another film in America after My Name Is Khan.
But he also wants to talk about the Kurbaan poster controversy, and how Shiv Sena volunteers protested against Kareena Kapoor's bare back image.
"In a creative democracy, you cannot make challenging films for the global market place and our own audiences if our hands are tied at every step," he says with a sigh.
"In a democracy, people have the right to question everything, but how are we exercising that right matters a lot. If people are disturbed over something in a poster or in anything else in our film, we will engage them in discussion but arbitrary protests harm the film industry and film art."
Since his father Yash Johar launched Dharma Productions more than three decades ago and through the production of many hit films ranging from the Amitabh Bachchan-starring Dostana to the recent Wake Up Sid, Karan says his production company has followed a principle.
"We will never do anything to offend anyone," he asserts. "I believe the poster is aesthetically right, and so is the film. My parents instilled the value in me which demands I make films with credibility that honour their themes -- be it homosexuality (the new Dostana) or infidelity (Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna)."
'Kurbaan is Renzil's vision all the way'
How did D'Silva get to direct the film which features Saif Ali Khan and Kareena?
"I have known Renzil for quite some time as a writer (Rang De Basanti)," Johar says. "I had an idea for a film and when I narrated it to him, he became very excited. In a nutshell, it is about two intriguing people, a protagonist and an antagonist. I knew right then that I could get him to do something more than expanding the idea."
"Kurbaan is Renzil's vision all the way," Johar adds. "He has created a unique world within the screenplay. Technically, it is a strong film and it is a stronger film as a narrative."
What draws him to a potential director?
"It has been the same with every director Dharma Productions has launched including Nikhil Advani (Kal Ho Naa Ho), Tarun Mansukhani (Dostana) and Ayan Mukerji (Wake Up Sid)," Johar says.
"I trust my instincts. I have to relate to the person, and this is very, very important to me. And that person should have humanity. I also think destiny is a very important part of all this.
'Shah Rukh will do whatever is necessary to promote My Name is Khan'
"Surely, I feel insecure and a bit scared," he says with a chuckle. "I think it is natural and important to feel that way. I have always believed that insecurity is a big part of creativity."
He feels more insecure when a director is making a debut through his company. "I am less nervous when it is a film directed by me," he continues. "But I am more nervous for the new directors because they are taking the first big step."
With My Name Is Khan being slotted for an early 2010 release, the big question is how much of time Shah Rukh Khan will give for promoting the film in America, following the controversy over his detention at Newark airport by immigration authorities on August 14.
"Shah Rukh will do whatever is necessary to promote the film," Johar affirms. "This film is very close to his heart. Besides, he is not only a terrific actor and human being but also a very professional artist."
'I will be directing a project next year'
Photographs: Pradeep Bandekar
There have been rumours in the Indian media that Johar nudged Shah Rukh into accepting Ra-1 which will be also shot in Miami.
"Shah Rukh is a very emotional human being," Johar says. "He is also very smart. Surely he was hurt by the questioning at the airport but he is also fully aware that if a film demands that he be in any part of America, he will go there. For he surely believes in the old saying, the show must go on."
How will the show go on for 37-year-old Karan Johar?
"I am working on giving a final shape to My Name Is Khan," he says. "It is a film for our times, and like other Dharma Production films, it is also an emotionally stirring film. I feel that as a filmmaker and human being I have matured while working on this film. I hope the audiences will get to see that while watching it."
He adds: "There are several projects I am considering; I will be directing one in the next year and a couple of them could have new directors. For me it is all about the moment. Right now I am fully absorbed in releasing Kurbaan."