Interview: Karan Johar, Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt and Sidharth Malhotra Chat with Sunny Malik on Student of the Year (2012) Film

Karan Johar, Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt and Sidharth Malhotra talk to Sunny Malik about Student of the Year (2012) Bollywood Hindi Film

London, UK, October 18, 2012 (Washington Bangla Radio) Earlier this month, director-producer Karan Johar along with his debutant actors from Student Of The Year promoted their film in London.

The 40-year-old director along with the three new actors who form the lead cast of SOTY - Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt and Sidharth Malhotra - spoke to Bollywood reporter Sunny Malik about the film, their characters and much more.

Welcome to London. How does it feel that you are here on your first international promotional trip?

Varun: I studied at Nottingham University and while I was there, whenever a Hindi film used to release, I would see how excited all the desis would get. I was there when Om Shanti Om released. Cineworld (A cinema chain across the UK) was sold out in the city. It’s a strange feeling to be back in England and to come here for my own film. I am just wondering how the people from University would react to this right now.

All three of you have become stars in a way even before the release of your first film.

Sidharth: I think it’s too early to call us stars. Karan has just marketed us all really well (laughs). We’ll find that out on the 19th of October.

Varun: We just want to be accepted as actors.

Is it challenging to present new talent for you as you have only worked with movie stars in the past?

Karan Johar: Honestly, it was challenging to put the film out. It was challenging to present it in a certain way. It was actually a conscious effort to present Alia, Varun and Sidharth in an individual way. I tried my level best, besides in London, to do that. In London, because there is so much media the way it is done, we do collective conversational style interviews. I wanted everyone to know them individually because they are individualistic as characters anyway. As far as the star quotient goes, I do agree with them, as they are playing it humble because until the film releases, who knows what is in store for any of them. I hope there is enough buzz and curiosity for a newcomer film. As we know, films that have newcomers don’t even create that kind of buzz in the overseas market. But we hope that Dharma being a well-known company and some of my reportorial work that has connected to the diaspora, will hopefull aid us in having a better opening weekend than maybe, perhaps not (laughs). I really don’t know, it’s all up in the air. There is really no estimate.

Tell me a little bit about your characters in the film.

Alia: My characters name is Shanaya Singhania. She comes from a very affluent family. She is obsessed with dressing up. She loves clothes, bag and shoes and is all branded. She comes from a dysfunctional family as well. So she does tend to become a bit lonely. She is basically just like every teenage girl who wants that one guy who loves her unconditionally.

Varun: I play Rohan Nanda. He is the son of Ashok Nanda played by Ram Kapoor who is an industrial tycoon.  Rohan is a bit of a rebel who does not see eye to eye with his father. There is some friction there even though for the outside world they seem like a perfectly close family. Rohan’s change in his behaviour and growth as a human being happens when he gets introduced to Abhimanyu Singh played by Sidharth. How that change happens, you will have to see in the film on 19th October.

Sidharth: I play Abhimanyu Singh in the film who is new kid in college. He is not from an affluent background. He has come to St. Theresa on a scholarship which is a very elite school but he is very ambitious and he wants to win this competition called Student of The Year which gives him a further scholarship to get into a bigger college. He is very focused. He wants to be like Varun’s characters’ father and looks up to him.

At the press conference everyone talked about Varun and Sidharth having worked as assistant directors on My Name Is Khan. But did that make it more challenging for you Alia, because you came in front of the camera with almost no experience?

Karan Johar, Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt and Sidharth Malhotra talk to Sunny Malik about Student of the Year (2012) Bollywood Hindi Film

Alia: It was obviously very new to me because I did not know what it was to be in front of the camera. I had no clue about lighting, coming onto the mark, left of camera and right of camera, I did not understand these terms. But I have learnt as  I moved ahead.

Was Karan a strict director?

Alia: No, not at all (laughs). But when he says action, then you have to focus. He will have conversations and fun but he wants you to focus when it’s work but he is not strict.

What do you have to say about the initial criticism that you received from fans?

Karan: I wanted the first promo to be a lot of razzmatazz because I wanted people to at least notice the scale of the film. I did not want anyone to feel that it is just a newcomer film and it has been made on a tight budget and that we have cut corners or costs. We actually put ourselves out there and extended each and every bit of ourselves into the film. I held back, purposely and consciously, the soul connect of the film in the first promo and from the rest of the promos. Soon, everyone started getting into the world of the music and the music clicking big time has helped. The YouTube like bar is now going gaga over each unit that comes out. Everyone is now suddenly saying that  we can’t stop listening to the music and that it is working really, really well. But we still have held back the soul of the film. I feel, when you should walk in to see the film, you should be pleasantly surprised with the film’s inherent connect. I am glad that we started with a question mark of what it is going to be, why did Karan make this movie and why did he need to do this? I feel all these questions will be addressed and answered when the film releases.

When you announced the cast of the film, nepotism in the Indian film industry was discussed a lot by fans. How did you, Alia and Varun, feel about that as you come from film families?

Karan Johar, Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt and Sidharth Malhotra talk to Sunny Malik about Student of the Year (2012) Bollywood Hindi Film

Varun: I will speak about my own experience because I did some acting classes. There were kids who were in that acting class who were not from film families. There were people not just from India but different parts of the world like Dubai and England. When I made friends there, people told me you will get a launch because of your Dad. That is the mind-set. My Dad did not come from a film family and maybe he had that mind-set too before entering the industry. But what I did realise from the acting class and from my Dad’s experience was that when the director calls action and when you start performing, all that talk is out. The audience just wants to be entertained and they want to see a character. They want to see an actor perform and a story move forward.  That is what is important. After our film releases, the audience has to decide why we are here, because of our talent or because of our background.

Alia: Honestly, it was weird in the beginning. Nobody wants to be disliked. Everybody wants to be liked. I was upset because I did not like the fact that people were saying that I have not done anything to get this opportunity. But then, I also agree and understand that because my father is from the industry, it does come easier to me. I don’t deny that. But I don’t deny the fact that I never wanted this as much as anybody would and I have given it my five hundred per cent and I will continue to do so.

Student Of The Year releases in cinemas worldwide on 19th October 2012.

Photos: Anjum Shabbir