The filmmaker gets candid about his upcoming attempt at horror, receiving a Padma Shri, and more.
On his relationship with horror
Karan Johar has not dabbled in the horror genre too much, his first outing being Soham Shah’s 2005 directorial titled Kaal. However, the filmmaker seems dead set on conquering the genre with his recent attempts: One of the short films in Netflix’s Ghost Stories as well as Bhoot Part One: The Haunted Ship.
Starring Vicky Kaushal and Bhumi Pednekar, Johar himself will produce the Bhanu Pratap Singh directorial. The creative forces behind the film also include Dulhaniya series by director Shashank Khaitaan.
Johar assures that Bhoot surely is a much better film than his debut with horror. “I am proud of every film I do; some have worked and some haven’t. But then when I was watching Kaal, I was not scared at all, which made me all the more scared (about how the film will do). That did not happen with this film. When I saw Bhoot in my editing room with Bhanu and Shashank, I went in there with my pillow and I had virtually covered all but my eyes while watching the film. I am overdramatic when I watch such films. I start screaming and all that,” he reveals.
On acquiring rights from RGV
The filmmaker says that the trigger for the story came from a real-life incident, in which a ship was docked off a Mumbai beach, and it seemed that it had come out of nowhere. However, the title Bhoot was with his once-bete noire Ram Gopal Varma, who graciously handed over the title when asked.
“Literally, we were all sitting and discussing what Ramu would say if we asked him for the title, and I just decided to pick up the phone and call him as he would at most refuse to give it to me. But then when I called him, he was most generous. He said he was not making a film with that title and I could have it. He just asked me what kind of paperwork was needed for it and that he would do it for me,” Johar shares.
On receiving a Padma shri
The 47-year-old says that he was in shock after hearing that he would be receiving the award. “I was in a recce for my film Takht in the forest near Florence in Italy, when I got a call from Delhi saying that I got the Padma Shri. I was wondering if I had heard it right or not. The first thing I did was call my mum; she and I are complete emotional wrecks. Whether we are happy or sad, we cry a lot. She started crying and I had tears talking to her… it was an emotional phone call,” he admits.
On being accused of islamophobia
After receiving the award while rubbing shoulders with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, critics have accused the Lust Stories director of participating in the prevalent islamophobia in this country, especially by doing a film like Takht when other films like Padmaavat, Panipat and Tanhaji are all about Islamic invaders in India.
When asked about the issue, Johar says he prefers to let his work do the talking. “My dear, you are talking to a filmmaker who has directed a film called My Name is Khan. My sensitivity to religions across the world will always be on point. That is something that I believe in as a human being, a citizen of this country, and a world citizen. We take deep care of sensitivity to everyone. Takht is also a story that I wrote. History wrote it, I am only telling the story,” he says.
Takht, starring Anil Kapoor, Ranveer Singh, Vicky Kaushal, Kareena Kapoor, Alia Bhatt and Janhvi Kapoor, will release in Christmas 2021. In the meantime, Bhoot Part One: The Haunted Ship will release on February 21 this year.