Guest Comment: KJo Announces New Film Amidst Backlash
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 48 hours, you will have probably heard Karan Johar’s (essentially Dharma Productions’) new announcement of his co-production with Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment, a film to be directed by Gauri Shinde (of English Vinglish fame) starring Shah Rukh Khan (obviously) and……Alia Bhatt.
Yes, that’s right. SRK, hero for the last 25 years and counting, has been paired with Alia Bhatt, the newcomer who has been acting for the last 3 years. As we all know, Alia was launched by none other than Karan himself in 2012’s Student of the Year (no prizes for guessing who it was directed by). The public reaction, as seen on Twitter at least, has been of unanimous uproar. At this moment, there is no official confirmation, but speculation is rife that the film may depict an atypical relationship between the two and may not necessarily be romantic.
While it is no surprise that Karan chose to co-produce a film with SRK (their close friendship and Karan’s even closer friendship with Gauri, SRK’s wife, definitely played a hand), the choice of Gauri Shinde as director is a welcome surprise. Without question, her previous outing (English Vinglish) was a sleeper hit when it released and brought yesteryear queen Sridevi out of a long self-retirement. It was universally liked. This is an exciting move on Karan’s part and we hope this creative alliance is one that continues. In fact, Dharma has developed a reputation for launching budding new directors, giving them a huge break.
What is not a welcome surprise, however, is the casting of Alia. She seems to be firmly tied to only the Dharma camp and in her entire filmography till date of 4 released films, 3 of them have been Dharma films! The only outlier is Highway (produced by UTV Motion Pictures), but again, there have been rumours that Karan pushed for Alia to be cast! Of the upcoming films in her lap (Shuddhi, Kapoor and Sons, Udta Punjab, Shaandaar), ALL but Udta Punjab are either produced or co-produced by Dharma! There is no question that Alia is talented (her performance in Highway was critically acclaimed), but one wonders why she only ever seems to do films with Dharma. Undoubtedly, the films in her current and future lineup are incredibly big projects but the Hindi film industry is one where actors make their mark by working with different filmmakers, who each offer the actor a unique experience which moulds their craft. Continuing to only do films with Dharma may affect her career where other filmmakers may become scared to approach her for their next film, leading her to lose out on plum projects.
One also wonders why Karan chooses to only cast Alia in his films. Is she the only young actress in the industry? What about Parineeti Chopra, Shraddha Kapoor, Kriti Sanon? They are in the same generation, are also talented and have all started their careers around the same time. It’s been well speculated that Parineeti has not signed a new film in quite a while, and she is talented to boot, so why not cast her in a future Dharma film? Other actresses like Kriti and Shraddha are also no doubt thirsting to work with a prestigious production like Dharma.
The other prickly point is the age difference between Alia and SRK. That Bollywood repeatedly chooses to forcibly retire actresses once they reach a certain age while men in their 50s still play the lead role (and quite often, the romantic lead) is a well known fact. While this culture exists in Hollywood as well, there is no other industry as guilty of it as Bollywood. Without knowing the plot, the first assumption anyone will make of this film will be that SRK and Alia will be paired romantically opposite each other. Take for your consideration the fact that SRK is 50 years old and Alia is 22. This leaves an age difference of 28 years, which basically means he could be her father!! What makes matters worse is that Alia, while being 22, looks far younger, almost 17. Her personality and her conduct off screen makes us feel the same. Do we really need to see a 50 year old man romancing a heroine that looks 17?
This is a fact that many over social media have objected to after the announcement was made. The overall public reaction has been overwhelmingly negative towards this pairing, with most people shocked at the casting.
Another point of contention is that SRK continues to cast only himself in movies made by his production house. While this may be a better discourse financially (he probably doesn’t charge his usual fee and instead, takes a share of the profits after the release, thereby lowering the production budget of the film by a good 50 crores!!!), one wonders why, in this late stage of his career, when he could be stepping back and resting on his laurels, he chooses to still play the lead. There are only a handful of other actors who charge the same amount that he does and casting other heroes in his productions would not only lead to strategic alliances with other actors, but also ensure RCE continues to make money even when SRK hangs up the crown he’s held for the last 25 years.
Will this new venture be accepted by the public? Will the pairing of SRK and Alia work? Only time will tell.
Do let us know your thoughts on this topic below!