With all the discussions on, and repercussions of, the rising intolerance in our country, Karan Johar, the most high-profile filmmaker in the country, and the only star among his director colleagues, feels he is “bound on every level”.
No, this isn’t Johar’s sado-masochistic fantasies bubbling over. It’s how he feels about the way certain, shall we say, extremely touchy elements react to any hint of an iconoclastic stimuli.
“We are in a tough country and to speak about one's personal life in today's time can land you in jail. I feel bound on every level, be it what I put out on the celluloid or what I say in print. I feel like there is always some kind of a legal notice awaiting me everywhere I go"
"I've become some kind of an FIR king."
These are Karan Johar's statements at the Jaiur Lit Fest.
A lot of people think Johar has brought this on himself. At a time when directors were strictly known by their work, he emerged from the shadows, wearing designer clothes, singing and dancing at live shows, anchoring reality shows and awards, signing autographs and blowing kisses at both men and women.
Celebrity directors came into the forefront after Karan Johar. Before him, even the greatest of filmmakers were unrecognizable. Way back in 1959, Guru Dutt had played out the fantasy of a star director in Kaagaz Ke Phool, where he showed his character being mobbed.
Sorry, Mr Dutt. That trend actually started 40 years later with Karan Johar. And now the cult of star directors started by Karan (KJo to friends), has turned around to bite the star-director in his posterior.
Think of it this way. Would a Sanjay Leela Bhansali or an Imtiaz Ali get into the same tight legal spots that Johar does? The answer my friend, is blowing in the wine, red wine. You started it. Now you bear with it.
Having said that, it must also be admitted that stars (and apna KJo is one for sure) are an easy target for moral, legal and political targeting. When walking or talking politics, stars tend to jump straight into a trap. It’s like this: because you are a star, you are chosen to be the face of a political, social, cultural or plainly commercial campaign. But for the same reason you also get targeted for condemnation.
When Shatrughan Sinha said stars should keep their mouths shut on political matters he wasn’t off the mark. In India, stars are seen as the no.1 source of entertainment. They are loved, worshiped and hated in equal measures. Contrary to popular belief, they are heard very carefully, too carefully infact. And their words are discussed, dissected and demolished, if the need be.
So be careful of what you say, Karan. Some of your films have gotten you into a serious legal soup. In person, you are witty and wise enough to know how and where to exercise your wit. While having coffee with Mr Modi, it’s definitely not wise to talk about the rise of an intolerant society in India. If we were a totally intolerant set of people, we wouldn’t flock to see your films like Kaal, Student Of The Year, We Are Family and Agneepath.
The rise of the cult of star directors in India works both ways. If you are Karan Johar your films sell in your name. But while you sell films, coffee ,clothes and punchlines you also get the other kind of attention. The kind that turns a toast into a roast.