Karan Johar has always been quick to appreciate his peers’ work. The star director caught a special screening of Hansal Mehta’s Aligarh and declared he was “emotionally moved” by the film which has Manoj Bajpayee playing a gay professor.
Karan emerged in support of the film, to be released on February 26, and is promoting it. He said, “I found this film beautiful and important, and not just for the outstanding performances by Manoj Bajpayee and Rajkummar Rao. Hansal Mehta has made a thought-provoking film. It will make you think. If Aligarh’s script came my way, I would have loved to be a force behind it.”
The film deals with discrimination against the LGBTQ community and the filmmaker says he agrees with the underlying message of the film. Karan said, “The cast of the film believes there shouldn’t be any discrimination and I do too. It is important that people’s voices be heard. We can debate and argue about it, but that doesn’t mean we forget the issue. Films like Aligarh are a big reminder.”
However, Karan has himself faced criticism for portraying the gay community in a stereotypical manner in films like Kal Ho Na Ho (2003) and Dostana (2008). Karan said, “We did receive criticism for Dostana and people said it was stereotypical. We chose a path of comedy. Maybe it was our fault that we represented some characters in a stereotypical fashion. But later, I made Bombay Talkies (2013), which touched upon the issue.”
Asked if stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Salman Khan would essay such roles, Karan commented, “I can’t speak for anyone else but I can tell you my experience. Casting for Bombay Talkies was not easy. Several actors rejected roles because of their apprehensions. But I was elated when Saqib Salim and Randeep Hooda accepted their roles.”
He added that actors are cautious about playing such roles, as they are concerned about their ‘image’. “If you go to Aamir Khan with a film like this, he would engage with it. I have had conversations with them and they are ready to break through. Filmmakers need to make such films. We should break out of our parameters,” he said.