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Life & Style

Karan Johar on ‘Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani’ competing with ‘Barbenheimer’

  • Was really nervous because we were coming in the midst of a storm, says Bollywood filmmaker
Published August 8, 2023

Bollywood filmmaker Karan Johar said he experienced “deep-rooted anxiety” with his latest film ‘Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani’ competing with ‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer’ at the box office. Johar made the remarks in an interview with Variety on Tuesday.

Produced by Johar’s Dharma Productions and Viacom18 Studios, ‘Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani’ opened July 28 in the wake of the tandem release of summer blockbuster films ‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer’ on July 21. Its cast includes Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt along with Dharmendra, Jaya Bachchan and Shabana Azmi.

Johar spoke to Variety about the making of ‘Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani’, returning to the big-screen after seven years and how Bollywood storytelling has evolved.

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“At first I had apprehension and fear and then there was deep-rooted anxiety because both these films also performed very well in India,” said the filmmaker.

“The ‘Barbenheimer’ hype was real. Both have been tremendously loved and appreciated and I was really nervous because we were coming in the midst of a storm. It’s been one of the biggest Hollywood weekends in I don’t know how long and both have performed exceedingly well,” Johar was quoted as saying by Variety.

“We are already fighting with each other – week after week there are releases – there are huge regional successes, then there are the OTT [streaming] platforms that you’re combating with. And now we have to deal with the success of Hollywood. I’m like, ‘It all is too much.’ But I’m glad that we could shine even though there was a storm.”

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Johar has produced and directed many Bollywood blockbusters such as ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’ (1998), ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham’ (2001) and ‘Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna’ (2006) among others.

‘Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani’ is Johar’s first feature film since 2016.

On coming back to the set after a break, he said: “I believe that the quintessential family entertainer, you’ve seen a gazillion times in mainstream Bollywood.”

“If you had to make that in 2023, if you don’t update the syntax, and don’t put in elements that are relatable, then the film will just flatline.”

Based in Delhi, ‘Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani’ tells the story of a culture clash between two families – the intellectual Bengali Chatterjee family and the wealthy Punjabi Randhawa clan. Along the way it tackles several pressing topics such as patriarchy, gender stereotyping, body shaming and cancel culture.

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“If I had to take a mainstream family film with a large cast, if I didn’t bring in some new elements, some subversive politics, my take on patriarchy, entitlement, fat shaming, gender role reversal, if I didn’t do that in an organic fashion, and it’s not in a way that’s on the surface and on the nose, it’s very much embedded in the fabric of entertainment – it was very critical for me to do that,” Johar added.

After its second weekend of release, ‘Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani’ has grossed $25.6 million worldwide, including $15 million in India.

‘Oppenheimer’ has grossed $16 million in India and ‘Barbie’ $5.8 million, as per Variety.

The film’s release is also slated to help revive Bollywood’s box-office takings which were nearly decimated in 2022.

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“Everybody had gotten a little confused about what tonality to do, forgetting that we have our own strengths, and we have to constantly leverage them,” Johar was quoted as saying.

“Take that strength in the writing, put in cinema and just make good films. And we won’t need to fight with anyone. We will go back to being an individualistic force that we’ve always been.”

Johar’s next venture is a streaming show-running and directing debut with a global giant.

“I promised myself that I would make many more movies. Before I start losing the plot, I think I need like, 10 more movies out there in the world,” he concluded.

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