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All in the family
celebrity circus

At one time Karan Johar used to call his Dharma Productions a mini-IMPPA because his production house was overrun by producers’ children. David Dhawan’s son Rohit (who is now directing Desi Boyz), Boney Kapoor’s son Arjun (who has been launched as an actor by Yashraj), Siddharth Malhotra (Prem Kishen’s son who directed We Are Family), Aarti Shetty (financier-producer Manmohan Shetty’s daughter) and several others have assisted Karan on various films. Practically all his assistants have a filmland connection. Also, Randhir and Rishi Kapoor’s sister Rima Jain’s son is currently doing his stint as an assistant on the film Short Term Shaadi which has Kareena and Imran Khan in the lead. It made Rishi Kapoor’s grouchy stand that no Kapoor would work for Dharma Productions even more laughable because, even as he was uttering it, niece Kareena was on her way to Los Angeles to shoot Short Term Shaadi while nephew Aadar (Rima Jain’s son) was already with the unit there as an assistant. No wonder Rishi’s threat didn’t last very long and he himself is back to doing a film for Dharma. That actually is the power Yashraj and Karan wield today. And to be launched by either production house is every actor and director’s dream.

So it is a big break even for someone like Mahesh Bhatt’s daughter Aaliya Bhatt or David Dhawan’s son Varun (who studied business management abroad) when Karan Johar signs them up as actors. “I thought Varun would become an investment banker,” chuckled his father. “But he finished his studies and came back to become an actor.”

“Nobody wants to be a banker today,” announced Karan. “If you’re born in a film family you either want to be an actor or a director. It’s a bug, it’s the curse of the film industry!”

Varun has been particularly lucky because Karan Johar is launching him and Aaliya along with another of his erstwhile assistants called Siddharth Malhotra (not the director of We Are Family) in a youthful film titled Student Of The Year. Yes, another of Karan’s titles in English since he finds most Hindi equivalents “very archaic”.

Student Of The Year, which will get a big boost since it is to be directed by Karan himself, will be path-breaking in many ways. For the first time, Karan will be directing three rank newcomers (he has always worked with established actors), thus introducing fresh blood into the industry. In this he has probably been influenced by his close buddy Aditya Chopra who too has done away with making films with only saleable stars by now backing raw new faces like Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor.

Also, in all probability Karan will be attempting something that resembles a musical. “By its very concept a full-fledged musical is when the scenes are sung but people here won’t get it,” ruminated Karan. “At the most you could have songs picturised like a musical where everybody comes alive and sings. But a real musical where scenes are sung won’t be possible in Hindi cinema. You could blend the two, have your normal scenes and have the song picturisations like a musical. Which is possibly what I might do in Student Of The Year. Whatever it is, one thing I’m sure about is that the film will have happy music.” In other words, there won’t be any of the Sufi influence that has been heard in his recent films.

It is easy to also see where Karan picked up the idea of going back to school for his next film. He loved Udaan and has been openly saying, “I think it was the best film of 2010,” even though his own My Name Is Khan was also released the same year.

With Student Of The Year, Karan will return to a breezy campus story and the setting will be even more youthful than Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. “It can’t get more youthful than a high school,” said Karan tartly. This change in ambience will have no part for Shah Rukh Khan without whom Karan has never directed a film. But SRK is in it with Karan (they are quite inseparable) because, “Shah Rukh is producing it with me, so he’s very much a part of the film.”

Speaking of their closeness, something hilarious happened recently. When Shah Rukh kissed his director friend and host on the cheek on an episode of Koffee With Karan, the freeze frame became the visual on Karan Johar’s BBM (BlackBerry Messenger). But the image got stuck there and long after Karan changed the message on his BBM the picture remained frozen. A few days later, while exchanging a private joke with Nandita Mahtani on their matrimonial status, Karan put out a message calling Nandi, “My wife”. But the visual that went with it was that of Shah Rukh kissing him on the cheek which had not been changed! It sent friends into a titter as his BlackBerry beeped with ‘Please explain’ reactions while an amused Shah Rukh himself posted a quizzical, ‘What does this mean pl?’

Ah, now you know what’s fanning the rumours of their sexuality!

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