Karan Johar

Filmmaker Karan Johar speaks to the media during the promotion of his upcoming film "Ittefaq" in Mumbai on Oct. 30, 2017. “Ittefaq” is the remake of 1969 thriller of the same name starring Rajesh Khanna. (IANS photo)

MUMBAI—He clearly cannot resist it: at the first-ever press meet of “Ittefaq” at the Taj Land’s End hotel Oct. 30, emcee-cum-film’s co-producer Karan Johar could not resist his now-favorite topic: nepotism! So when Shah Rukh Khan (also a co-producer) and Sidharth Malhotra flanked everyone on the dais (Akshaye Khanna, Sonakshi Sinha, Johar, director Abhay Chopra, producer Kapil Chopra), Johar spontaneously quipped, “The two corners of this stage represent non-nepotistic people. In between are we ambassadors of nepotism! It shows how we co-exist so well in this industry!”

Just before the thank-you speech, in the end, Johar also called Renu Ravi Chopra, now the matriarch of BR Studios (the new name of BR Films today) on to the stage.

Shah Rukh Khan, in turn, quipped that Johar was calling the media “like my family” only because of vested interests when he needed them – Johar had requested the media not to reveal the murderer after watching the film! Earlier, talking about their relationship over more than 20 years, Johar wondered why their friendship had to be explained now and then – they had made ten movies together, not all as actor and director.

Khan again quipped, “I see us making films together in some capacity even at the age of 107! Our friendship is unconditional. Karan has on-off relationships with different people at different times, but we remain, friends, even if I may be working with someone he hates at any given time!”

Both of them raved about the new Chopra kids and their mother’s warmth. As co-producers (under Red Chillies Entertainment and Dharma Productions) with a literal legacy like BR Films, the common decision not to promote “Ittefaq” was agreed upon so that there was no chance of an accidental disclosure of the suspense and also because there could be very little to talk about a thriller.

Sinha gushed that it was “great!” that there was nothing like promotions here as mostly they were more difficult to do than the film itself. Sidharth Malhotra stated that he felt lost – this is his first film without the need to travel around the country and “dance at malls and meet people,” as Johar put it.

Johar stated that due to this, Malhotra, Sinha and Khanna bonded strongly even after the shoot was over. He raved about Khanna’s acting talent and Khanna, obviously in the mood, mock-growled, “But you have never taken me!” Johar then pacified him by reminding the actor that he had turned down the cop’s role in Johar’s production “Kurbaan” many years back!

India-West wondered why on the posters, the first two letters, “IT” were written in blood-red while “TEFAQ” was in white. Johar answered that this was publicist Rahul Nanda’s idea to emphasize the English word “It” because it (the story) happened in one night!

The word means ‘coincidence’ and when asked to talk about a real coincidence in their lives connected with their film; all three stars had their answers ready. The original “Ittefaq” (1969) was first offered to then-newcomer Shatrughan Sinha, Sinha’s dad, who turned it down as he was too busy. Her mother (Punam Chandiramani, then known as actress Komal) too had signed a BR Films project that never took off. So here she was, destined to do this film by completing the circle!

Khanna pointed out that his father Vinod Khanna had played a prominent role in Ravi Chopra’s debut film “Zameer,” and here he was doing the same in Chopra’s sons’ debut film. Malhotra stated, “Abhay and I had decided to work on this film many years ago, but it did not happen. Today, I am still in the film after the passage of time.” All three claimed that they had not watched the original 1969 trendsetter film starring Rajesh Khanna and Nanda.

Johar raved about the fearless courage of the Chopra brothers to take on a family classic directed 48 years ago by Yash Chopra for their grandfather B.R. Chopra, risking adverse comparisons. But Khan added that what sold for him about the script was the ingenuity – the core was followed, but there were significant changes and a whole lot of new characters. “It was actually like a new film!” said Khan.

A poll was taken online and even with the media attending the event on who was the murderer in the film and 31 percent opted for Sinha, with 23 percent saying it was someone other than Malhotra (28 percent) and Khanna (18 percent). After Johar announced the results, Sinha grumbled about being branded as a murderess by everyone when she was “so sweet!”

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