Karan Johar mentioned even though the market tells him that romantic stories will find few takers in cinema halls, he believes Bollywood romances are too big to be contained on small screens.
Filmmaker Karan Johar says a country that believed when Shah Rukh Khan opened his arms and fell in love with a woman on the big screen, is no more interested in stepping into theatres to watch love stories. Karan Johar has directed and produced some of the biggest romances in modern Hindi cinema like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, Kal Ho Naa Ho and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna.
Johar on Wednesday said his research shows that over the last few years, the audience has shifted to genres other than romance for theatre-going experiences. This has forced the industry to eschew love stories and focus on “high concept” storytelling instead. Johar’s own last relationship drama, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016), hardly made any impact.
“Today if you notice in Hindi cinema, the love story is dead. We don’t make love stories anymore, they’re few. The 90s thrived on romances, starting from Hum Aapke Hai Koun..! going right up to Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. It was dictated by love stories.”
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Johar was speaking at the launch of streaming giant’s Netflix’s slate of movie and series titles for 2021. Johar is making five projects for the streamer, including the romantic film, Meenakshi Sundareshwar. The love story stars Sanya Malhotra and Abhimanyu Dassani.
Johar revealed that he had initially envisioned the film for theatres but a discussion with Srishti Behl Arya, Director- International Original Film, Netflix India, made him think an OTT release would be a more viable option.
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“Now I’m told to make love stories for Netflix. The film that we are making, Meenakshi Sundareshwar is a love story. That story came to me as a theatrical film. When Srishti (Behl) heard it and said let’s do this for the platform, I did some data and an academic thought on it and realised this can be done.”
That brought Srishti to the question that whether Karan Johar would make a Kuch Kuch Hota Hai for Netflix in the future. Johar didn’t have a straight answer and instead replied, “It’s a vast and complicated question.”
Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, which marked Johar’s debut in 1998, starred Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol and Rani Mukerji. A typical love triangle at the onset, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai rewrote the grammar of Hindi film romance as its story, dialogues, Shah Rukh’s incomparable charm and his chemistry with Kajol spoke to the youth. More than two decades later, it continues to captivate the audience’s imagination.
Johar mentioned even though the market tells him that romantic stories will find few takers in cinema halls, he believes Bollywood romances are too big to be contained on small screens. “There’s a certain syntax that’s meant for the cinema halls. It’s a result of the history of that genre, form of cinema, which leads to a reference for the theatres. If you make a Dabangg, a Dhoom series or a Shah Rukh Khan romance, which is larger than life. When he spreads his arms and falls in love, you associate that with nostalgia and the memory of watching that film in a cinema hall. So the cinegoer in you would feel that film is meant for cinema halls.”
“There’s a data that supports certain genres, which aren’t working on cinema halls anymore but have a wide audience on platforms.” Towards the end of the reply, Johar finally answered Srishti’s question, while making clear it has evoked a conflict between the filmmaker and the “practical voice” in him.
“So would I make a Kuch Kuch Hota Hai? As a filmmaker, a scream inside says no. But a practical voice also says, ‘Wait and watch.’” Johar ascertained that being in the movie business, he can’t afford to be sad about a change in audience’s viewing habits and will have to eventually make peace with the fact that the future of romantic films lies in the digital space.
“There’s not sadness, as that would not be a feeling I should have as a filmmaker because I should be open to all platforms, but there’s a lot of nostalgia associated with certain genres. But the generation today is consuming Netflix and watching it in such varied and wide numbers, that perhaps it’s going to be a large part of our viewing future.”
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