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Bollywood Interview

Karan Johar Q&A: 'Lighting of Olympic torch was icing on the cake'

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Director, producer, writer, chatshow host and newly appointed Goodwill Tourism Ambassador for Visit Britain, Karan Johar was the only representative from the Indian film industry to receive an official invitation to attend the Olympics opening ceremony.

He tells Digital Spy about the highlights from the event, what he loves about London and why he secretly hopes his Bollywood friends are jealous of him.

Karan Johar, Visit Britain promo day - July 2012

© Digital Spy



Why do you think you were selected as the Goodwill Tourism Ambassador for Visit Britain, and how would you describe your connection to the UK and its British Asian community?
"I think that it stems from the fact that my films have worked tremendously here and the fact that I have showcased the country and its ethos in the pieces of work that I have directed and produced. People seem to think I have shot many more films here than I have, which is good. I don't mind that. I've been here every year of my life ever since I can remember.

"I think it's a perception that London is a very large part of my existence, because I have always talked about my association with London and what an inspiration it has been to me. I write my scripts here and it's a city that inspires me in so many ways, so the country and the city of London have been associated with me very largely as a filmmaker. I love the city so much."

What were the highlights of the Olympic opening ceremony for you?
"The Queen moment was definitely a highlight. And I loved the fact that the teams were so spirited when they walked with their country's flags. Just being there to experience it all in person was of course fantastic. In the end, I loved the drama with the lighting of the Olympic torch. Just the way it all came together with the big flame right at the end. It really was the big icing on the dramatic cake."

You were the only Indian from the film fraternity to be officially invited to attend the opening ceremony. Were your Bollywood friends jealous?
"I hope they were jealous. It's always good to make people jealous, as it shows you matter! But I think they were also very supportive and happy for me."

The Olympic ceremony captured the British sense of humour and our ability to send ourselves up. Do you think Indians in the film industry would be as game as the Queen?
"I don t think anyone in the film industry or in India as such politically, socially and all the celebrities put together would have the sense of humour to allow themselves to be portrayed as the Queen did. Everyone could laugh at someone else's expense. We do not have a sense of humour. The industry is full of people who are over-sensitive.

"I don't think it would be taken too kindly if we threw a minister off a helicopter. It would not go down very well. I think it's really unfortunate. The film fraternity doesn't have a sense of humour. None of them. Everyone is very sensitive about themselves, which amounts to selfishness I guess. God knows there are so many people who should be thrown off a helicopter!"



So many Bollywood films are shot on location in the UK. What is the appeal for Indian film makers to shoot here?
"It's all very streamlined and very structured. I've shot all around the world, and I would say shooting here is easily the most organised place to shoot.

"Gone are the days when London is just going to be used as an attractive spot as a backdrop. The story has to be based in the city content-wise for us to capture the essence of it. If a story was based in London one would have to draw on the essence of it and therefore employ local talent - which I am sure we would do if given the chance.

"Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham were both shot in part here. I know a lot of people who have had very good experiences of shooting in the UK. Cocktail most recently, and Yash Ji's untitled film which is releasing [at] Diwali."

There's much talk of Indian filmmakers casting a Hollywood star in a film with an Indian superstar. Is that something you hope to do?
"For the last two decades we've heard talk of a Bond girl coming from India. I don't think it's ever going to happen. Every new girl in India is touted as the next Bond girl but nobody seems to actually make it, so I think it's never going to happen.

"The roles offered to Indians in Hollywood are tiny and minimal, and the big movie stars wouldn't want to short change their position back home by having a bit part in a big Hollywood production. Some would and some wouldn't - that comes down to personal choice - but basically I don't see it happening.

"It's better to work with what you have than achieve something somewhere else. Work with your strengths, and my strength is Indian language cinema."

Richard Gere arrives for the 6th International Rome Film Festival

© Maria La Torre/WENN.com

Karan Johar

© PA Images / AP



You featured Richard Gere on Koffee with Karan. Any plans to interview more western celebrities on your show?
"Koffee with Karan is really for the Asian diaspora and the Indian market. It's quintessentially focused on the Indian film fraternity. I have never gone political or international, it's very urban and when you have the choice of Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan or international celebrities, the domestic audience is just not going to go there.

"There is reverence for international celebrities but we're very proud of our own superstars - which is also why none of us filmmakers are looking for the chance to make films internationally."

What do you do when you're not making films?
"I'd love to give you five solid intellectual activities that I do, but I can't. I hate sightseeing. I hate reading. I don't really listen to lots of music and I don't watch very many pieces of great world cinema. I sound clever once in a while when I refer to Pedro Almodovar, but besides him I'm not even that much of a cinema buff. Really, everything I do centres around my moviemaking.

"When I'm free, I host a talk show. I shop. I walk the ramp. I design [fashion] collections. I catch up with friends. I'm a people's person. I'm also a Gemini, so you could get two people at the same time. I love people. I have great friendships. Love is a strong equation, and because I'm an only child, my friends become my family and they become my support system and pretty much dictate my life, but besides that its work and I love it.

"I am very work-driven, and that's what moves me and motivates me. I think there is a very fine line between my personal and professional life because I love what I do. It's my work that gives me personal happiness."

What are your favourite things to do when you are in the UK?
"One of the most exciting things I do is observe [people]. People watching, observations when I travel, staring at people at airports or out of a Starbucks window. And I love to shop. I live to shop.

"I come to London for shopping. Shopping is great in Notting Hill, where people don't go often besides the big department stores like Harvey Nichols, Harrods and Selfridges. Retail therapy is a very big part of my existence. So shopping is the main thing I love to do in London, but I also like the fact that it's so international and the cuisine is so varied.

"So there's the food and there's the fashion, and the third reason is that I love walking on the streets of London. I think it's just the vibe of the city. It's something that I feel very strongly and I love it when it's cold. I landed here [the] day before yesterday when it was hot, and I thought, 'This is not the London I love'."

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