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Kal Ho in Oscar hall of scripts

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SUDESHNA BANERJEE   |   Published 26.12.03, 12:00 AM

Citizen Kane/Orson Welles 1941, Bicycle Thief/Vittorio De Sica 1949, The Ten Commandments/Cecil B. DeMille 1956, The Sound of Music/Robert Wise 1965, Titanic/James Cameron 1997… Kal Ho Naa Ho/ Karan Johar 2003.

The current Bollywood rage joins the best and the biggest of Hollywood as the “first Indian script” at the Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in La Cienega Boulevard, Beverly Hills — better known as “the Oscar library”.

“I am still in shock. The letter came absolutely out of the blue,” Johar said from Mumbai, five days after his script was solicited by script librarian Gregory Walsh.

There is reason for the writer of “a story in a lifetime… in a heartbeat” to be “thrilled”. The Margaret Herrick Library, supported by the Academy Foundation, the educational and cultural arm of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, has one of the world’s most comprehensive research collections on films. Culled from the best in Hollywood and beyond are more than 27,000 books, 1,800 periodical titles, 60,000 screenplays, 25,000 posters and other advertising ephemera, over seven million photographs, over 300 manuscripts, sheet music, music scores and sound recordings, production and costume sketches, artefacts; and oral histories.

An on-line search of its holdings revealed almost nothing Indian, unless you count some books on cinema and posters of Shakespearewallah and Mississippi Masala.

“I have been told this will be the first Indian script in their collection. There are more deserving films; I have no idea why they chose this script,” said Johar, who is all khushi no gham these days after the mega success — at home and abroad — of the latest Shah Rukh Khan-starrer. “Indian films are doing good business overseas. May be that’s why they are opening a new section,” offered the movie-man of the moment.

Kal Ho Naa Ho, set in April 2003 New York, has smashed all records on foreign soil. Directed by Johar’s assistant Nikhil Advani, it grossed $1 million in 52 theatres across the US in the first week itself and booked a place in the Top 20 charts. “The film has done exceptionally well in the overseas market — the US, the UK, the Middle East… In fact, it’s in the UK Top 10 for the fourth week running,” said the filmmaker whose Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham was the first Indian film to enter the US Top 10 charts.

The missive from the Margaret Herrick Library means serious business. As the letter to Johar points out, the library makes the scripts in its collection “accessible for research purposes only; actors, students filmmakers and writers are our regular patrons”.

So, at Dharma Productions, preparations are on to send the script from Mumbai to Beverly Hills. “They have asked for the shooting script. That is taking some time,” said the writer scripting a little bit of celluloid history.

But at the Johar home, It’s the time to disco

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