Karan Affairs: Yes, It Felt Like A Hostage Video. I Admit It

Published: January 31, 2017 13:51 IST
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Hi, guys! It's been a while and, well, a lot has happened. Let's see...We have new currency notes, America (God help them) has a new President, and Donald Duck has now become the word that rhymes with it! I have had a movie stalled, managed to release it, have started a new season of Koffee with Karan, released a book, spawned a 1,000 blogs about my sexuality, have been called craven, cowardly and 1,000 other things. And it's just the beginning of 2017! Happy New Year, by the way.

It's been a mad, bad, glad, sometimes sad few months. I've been the lull and I've been the storm and also somewhere in between. But that's ok. I love the limelight after all. I absolutely love it and you may have noticed that I've rarely been out of it these last few months! And I have come to realise that I'm fine with that. I like to be in the news! I like to be a trending topic and wonder when I'm not. I manically monitor the sales of my book and cheer that it's on bestseller lists. I find myself telling my PR person that she slip this or that titbit out. Add it all up, and I am an attention-seeker. And proud of it! The things I do.

When I'm feeding a story that I've drafted, that praises me, I'm still like "left side of the page please" because that's what gets noticed the most. I don't want to be the bottom half of a newspaper, I want to be top left (exactly like my profile in case you're wondering!) On social media, of course, no one (or very few) is in the limelight for the right reasons - you're either trolled or you're the travesty of the day! But as the wise man said: as long as you're trending! (Which I don't nearly as often as I think I should.)

I find myself asking questions that as a filmmaker I never thought I would ask. Like I get a call from a magazine for a feature and my first question is: "Cover or not?" Interview invite from a leading channel? I have stopped asking the topic, I'm just like "Primetime or not?"

If I am invited and put in the second row, I can be distraught for days! Why am I not in the first? Of course, that's actually rarely a problem because I am invariably on the stage! (Which is better than the front row, because I'm being paid for it.)

At a red carpet event, I make sure I'm not walking behind a bigger star. You must understand the strategy behind the limelight isn't easy either. It's like this: if I walk in behind Mr Bachchan, I will get ignored, so I make sure I pause a little longer, talk to people I wouldn't talk to otherwise, I make sure he's gone and been seated in the auditorium - and then I make my entry. Only then will they be able to see and appreciate my sparkling shoes! (I wear such expensive shoes for these functions and what is the point if no one notices?)

I rarely get a reality check, because of all my very generous reality cheques! Besides I never wanted to be intense director-saab hiding behind my beard or my camera. Give me the flash lights, the red carpets and all that goes with it. Please!

Oh and I love hoardings. I love them. Nothing makes me happier than my face splashed all over the city. (Other may not be so happy, but I LOVE it!)

Mahesh Bhatt once warned me "The end of the star is when the flowers stop coming." And now I check out my arrangement bouquets on my birthdays. I haven't yet counted the flowers themselves, but Give. It. Time.

I also want to say that there is a big difference in being publicity-hungry and being a limelight-seeker. Publicity-hounds are these who will do anything just to get any attention, like arriving for the opening of an envelope. I am not a hound, I am an attention-seeker. Very different animal. My kind of attention requires greater finesse.

Or being threatened by a political party. That gets you attention. It's not my favourite kind, but there it is.

And this is the irony, of course. Being in the limelight also puts you straight in the crosshairs. So you're still in the news, no one is indifferent, but you kind of wish they were. My comments about my sexuality, for example, which is apparently annoying LGBT communities and they're writing blogs (so many blogs!) either complaining about me or defending me. I read both and I'm really happy I'm the point of the debate. (Yes, I'm still not saying it, that remains my prerogative.) Sorry, all flagbearers, if you think I've offended you. I think I've done more for the community than many. And so to all those viewpoints: those who appreciate me, thank you for responding to my candor, to those who don't... sorry about that! I read everything and I love it! Call me a masochist, but I thrive even on the criticism.

So yes, I like the limelight, I like being in the news and I have learned to accept it, even if it's not quite on the way I have hoped for. Of course, I say this reminding myself to be careful what I wish for. I will not be this delighted the next time I have a film releasing and someone has (they so often do) a problem with it. Because no matter what I say or convince myself of, there is the kind of limelight that we can all do without. And when you're getting all the attention for a situation that's brought you to your knees, you wonder why you ever sought it out.

I've been criticized for going on the record and people have called my statement a hostage video. Yes, I've read all that. Yes, it made me cringe. Yes, I looked like I had a gun to my head, and yes, you couldn't see it, but it felt like it was there.

I hated having to sit there and declare my "nationalism" and what should constitute it. But it also got me thinking... I know what circumstances led me to do that, I understand, and it's not like today, I can apologize for making it, because that might put me into another kind of limelight which I do not want. Would I do it again? Probably not. I hope not. You find yourself feeling coerced and compromised in your morality, your ethics, your principles. Brought to my knees with a hostage video. And when a fellow filmmaker gets humiliated, you wonder if you have set a precedent that he is paying the price for? You hope you're wrong.

And then you realise what you should have always known: the trouble with being in the limelight all the time is it can blind you, even briefly, so you forget the darkness around it.

(Karan Johar is one of India's best known film and television personalities)

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