School of Fantasy


Karan Johar takes centre stage alongside his debutant cast, as they speak about their upcoming high-school drama Student of the Year.

At a time when Hindi cinema, in its attempts to please the global audience, is gradually looking to renounce its song-and-dance routine, director Karan Johar is happy to flaunt it as a significant part of his brand of cinema. "I don't want to do those cleverly done songs for the background. I want to go to Kashmir and shoot lip-synced love songs," said Johar on Thursday at the Screen Preview of his directorial film Student of the Year (SOTY), that releases on October 19. Also present at the do were the film's three lead actors — debutants Alia Bhatt, Sidharth Malhotra and Varun Dhawan.

The Dharma School of Films SOTY, produced by Johar's Dharma Productions, is a story of three friends, Rohan (Dhawan), Abhimanyu (Malhotra) and Shanaya (Bhatt), set in an uber-trendy high school in Dehradun. Love and friendship intertwine as its two male protagonists and friends-turned-foes compete for the 'Student of the Year' title. The film, Johar unabashedly admits, belongs to the world the audience associates his films with — sugar-coated fantasy, populated with fashionable protagonists. About the last bit, he shared a joke with Malhotra, whose character in the film comes from a middle-class family. "When I was giving Manish (Malhotra) the brief to design Sidharth's clothes according to his background, Manish said, 'I get it, it's Dharma middle-class'."

Johar, however, insists that despite the candyfloss treatment, the film's emotional core will appeal to all. "The movie's world is escapist and larger-than-life. Yet, the viewers will go back with warm emotions of the characters," he said.

Dismantling SRK's image

For Johar, who has mostly cast Shah Rukh Khan as the lead actor, it was quite a task to erase the superstar from his mind and direct three newcomers. "Few days into the shooting, I realised I was trying to give them Shah Rukh Khan-instructions. I had to start dismantling him in my head. I had to understand these new kids in order to direct them," he said. For the three debutants, Johar tapped into their real life traits to build the characters around them. "I noticed the slightly mad, vibrant side of Varun, the silent intensity of Sidharth and the mainstream chirpiness of Alia. We built their characters on these strengths," said Johar.

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