Film­maker Karan Jo­har re­veals his love for The Foun­tain­head, and con­fesses his in­abil­ity to com­plete the book that has cin­ema em­bed­ded in it: Jeffrey Archer’s Kane and Abel

Hindustan Times - Brunch - - Books - By Zuni Cho­pra

Taste­ful. That’s how I’d de­scribe Karan Jo­har’s liv­ing room. I’m sit­ting there prepped with my list of ques­tions as we chat aim­lessly about what a crazy week he’s had. Sport­ing a bright red sweater with the golden words ‘Wild Ones’ across the front, he may be busy, but never dull, which is only to be ex­pected from a Bol­ly­wood direc­tor, screen­writer, pro­ducer and tele­vi­sion host!

Since he was young, Karan has been a lover of books, par­tic­u­larly sto­ries with a lit­tle fan­tas­ti­cal flair. In fact, the lit­er­ary world has had a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on his film­mak­ing ca­reer. I’m here to dis­cuss all things lit­er­ary, and how Bol­ly­wood is in­flu­enced by its books. First ques­tion: in the film

Rata­touille (2007), Gusteau states that ‘Any­one can cook’. It is later ex­plained that he does not mean that any­one can be a great artist, but that a great artist can come from any­where. Do you agree with this?

Karan: Ab­so­lutely! I know peo­ple study film and the art form of film­mak­ing, and go to art school, but for me, when look­ing at my own ca­reer graph, I feel I was al­ways meant for the movies. I was dra­matic – melo­dra­matic! – and I al­ways had that sense of hu­mour and loved the en­ergy Hindi cin­ema brought. I think any­one can, if you cul­ti­vate it in your­self. Ei­ther it’s a nat­u­ral gift, and that’s great if you veer to­wards it, but there are also peo­ple who can cul­ti­vate the kind of academia as­so­ci­ated with films, edit­ing, cin­e­matog­ra­phy, chore­og­ra­phy – so many de­part­ments! We have to

“I wanna be howard roark! I wanna talk to him, I wanna know him, I’m ob­sessed with him But I’m not him!”


re­mem­ber it’s not just di­rect­ing and act­ing! The only pre­req­ui­site is your pas­sion – you have to re­ally want to do it.

Do you re­mem­ber the first book that shaped your iden­tity?

Karan: I used to do a lot of read­ing when I was re­ally young. In the time I grew up, Enid Bly­ton was it! There was one book, I have to say, Zuni, that I read ev­ery week. It’s a lesser known and un­der­val­ued Enid Bly­ton book. It’s called The Land of Far-Be­yond. It’s about a group of peo­ple who are go­ing from a land of tor­ture into a land of hap­pi­ness and they carry a bur­den with them, the re­sult of be­ing bad peo­ple. This bur­den was sym­bolic of the emo­tional bur­den we carry with us, but be­cause it was a kids’ book, they showed it in the form of a phys­i­cal bur­den. It was a jour­ney of peo­ple who had fal­tered, fum­bled and failed. It’s a value book that I was drawn to, and it talked about karma at a very young stage. I was im­pres­sion­able and it stayed with me. I read it ev­ery week for a whole two years!

If your house was on fire and you had to save three books, which three would you choose?

Karan: Well…in this day and age, I’d save films and not books! The films I’d save would be The Shaw­shank Redemp­tion (1994), then the very first film I ever saw, which was Ro­man Hol­i­day (1953), and then Eter­nal Sun­shine of the Spot­less

Mind (2004). Th­ese are my go-to films. Ro­man Hol­i­day mostly be­cause of the emo­tional at­tach­ment – my mum took me to see that, my first film, when I was all of six years old, and I was mes­merised! Maybe the fact that I’m a film­maker to­day goes back to Ro­man

Hol­i­day in some way. Which fic­tional char­ac­ter do you most iden­tify with? Karan: Howard Roark in The

Foun­tain­head (by Ayn Rand) – I want to be him! Oh my god. I wanna be Howard Roark! I wanna be him, I wanna talk to him, I wanna know him, I’m ob­sessed with him but I’m not him! I’ve read books af­ter The Foun­tain­head of course, but noth­ing as pow­er­ful as that. It’s about in­di­vid­u­al­ism over col­lec­tivism, and I be­lieve that stayed with me; I be­lieve in not con­form­ing and mak­ing your own path.

What’s a clas­sic you haven’t read?

Karan: Kane and Abel (by Jeffrey Archer). I started read­ing it but I couldn’t get through it, even though I know a lot of Hindi and English cin­ema is em­bed­ded in that book! The other book that I re­ally tried to read was A Suit­able

Boy (by Vikram Seth). Couldn’t get through it. I think it was the size that got to me. I see the virtue in the writ­ing, but I need my books to be shorter now.

Name your favourite au­thors.

Karan: Ayn Rand, def­i­nitely. Enid Bly­ton – I know it sounds id­i­otic for a 46-year-old man to be say­ing Enid Bly­ton, but I just feel like I’m go­ing back to my child­hood and all the mem­o­ries that I have with The Land of Far-Be­yond! I’m go­ing to stick with those two; one is a clas­sic and one is my child­hood.

Who’s your favourite hero of fic­tion? Though [laughs] I guess you’ve al­ready an­swered this!

Karan: Yeah, stick­ing with my an­swer – Howard Roark!

What non-fic­tion book would you rec­om­mend?

Karan: I ab­so­lutely loved the An­dre Agassi au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, Open. I know noth­ing about sport or ten­nis, but his life jour­ney was just beau­ti­ful! The feel­ing of go­ing through his ups and downs with him, I just felt it. Not all bi­ogra­phies res­onate with me the way that one did.

What book that hasn’t been made into a film would you want to see a film adap­ta­tion of ?

Karan: The Foun­tain­head! Re­ally bad film made in 1949 by the way; it was a dis­as­ter. But now it needs to be a modern day adap­ta­tion into a Net­flix orig­i­nal. I want to see that hap­pen.

Could it be a Bol­ly­wood film?

Karan: No. Be­cause it’s got too much to say, and we don’t like to say too much! [laughs]

Do you judge peo­ple on the ba­sis of their book choices?

Karan: No, be­cause I don’t read enough ei­ther. I’d judge them on their film choice though!

Okay! What choice of film would make you fall in love with some­one?

Karan: I think if some­one told me they loved vin­tage Yash Cho­pra, Bimal Roy, Raj Kapoor, all the clas­sic film­mak­ers. Es­pe­cially from the young gen­er­a­tion. If any­one knows the lyrics of Waqt Ne Kiya Kya Haseen Sitam (Kaagaz Ke Phool) I would be like, I’m all yours, I’m in love with you!

What’s the most un­der­rated book or book se­ries?

Karan: The Land of Far-Be­yond; that par­tic­u­lar book of Enid Bly­ton.

What’s your favourite read­ing spot?

Karan: A long-haul flight.

Kin­dle or hard copy?

Karan: Hard copy, still. I even still write with pa­per and pen. There’s a beauty in it that I can’t seem to erase!

Which fic­tional char­ac­ter would you like to cos­play as, if you could?

Karan: Jay Gatsby (from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzger­ald).

What’s your favourite book-to­screen adap­ta­tion?

Karan: The Bridges of Madi­son County (by Robert James Waller) with Meryl Streep. Beau­ti­ful!

Which movie of yours would make the best book?

Karan: None! Who’d want to read any of those? Ugh! [laughs] I don’t think they’d war­rant a book. They just about made it to screen­plays!

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