Karan Johar Announces New Movie Takht, The Return of the Mughal and the Return of Poetry to Hindi Film

Okay Karan, I’ll let you make me stay up late one more night.  I am so tired, but this can’t wait until morning.

Karan just announced on twitter his next big film as director.  First the plot teaser:

Then the cast:

Followed by another tweet highlighting the writers:

Karan says it all starts with the writers, so let’s begin by highlighting them.  Sumit Roy comes from TV, and one earlier film Zubaan with Vicky Kaushal.  Critically acclaimed, not much notice.  So he is a bit of a question mark, which is fine for a screenwriter.  Anyone can have one great story in him.

What is much more rare is having the great dialogues.  Especially truly beautiful classical poetic dialogues of the kind that used to be the norm in Hindi films.  There’s been a steady decline as “Hinglish” style has taken over, more and more scripts are clearly simply written in English and translated.  So I am very excited about Hussain Haidry doing the dialogues, a working poet and lyricist who writes IN HINDI.  Not yet another clever English speaking ad writer.

There’s a greater meaning to this.  The early great writers, and early great actors of Hindi film came from an Urdu tradition.  Dilip Kumar, for instance, was originally hired partly because he spoke a pure northern Urdu influenced Hindi and could correctly recite the gorgeous dialogues written for his films.  And as the Muslim strain has been increasingly wiped from films (for instance, notice in this whole large cast, there are no Muslim heritage actors), so has that tradition of poetry and beauty that is part of it.  Hiring Hussain Hadri says that this is going to be a throwback movie in many ways, including honoring the beautiful artistic tradition of Urdu poetry.  And accepting that as part of the tradition of Indian history.  And just in case that you think I am reading into it, this is the poem that rocketed Haidry to national and international attention:

 

Now, the actual plot.  In this era of proud Hindu historicals, look at Karan, coming out with a Mughal-set drama.  A battle for the “majestic” Mughal throne.  Not for the evil, or violent, or wrong Mughal throne, but the “majestic” one.  Beyond that, we know nothing.  If it’s about family and love and stuff and set during the Mughal empire, there are sooooooooooo many possible historical fictions you could use.  Starting with Salim-Anarkali of course, but there are loads of others.

 

And casting.  Like I said, no Muslims.  Which I am sure isn’t on purpose, it is just a sign of how much rarer they have become as actors in Hindi film in recent years.  I don’t think that is necessarily religious prejudice (although it might be in part), so much as, again, the early years encouraged a certain purity of Hindi speaking which tended to come from the Urdu speaking Muslim community.  And now, anyone can rattle off that strange combined Hindi-English stuff they are speaking.

(I have no idea what Dilip is saying here, and it doesn’t really matter.  Just listen to how beautiful he makes the words sound)

Beyond that, Karan is always accused of “nepotism nepotism nepotism”, but in this case it is a fine mix.  Vicky Kaushal and Bhumi Pednakar are related to nobody.  Ranveer Singh is only a very distant Kapoor connection, he got his break the same way Bhumi did, picked by the Yash Raj casting directors.  Kareena and Anil are, technically, from film families.  But they got their start so long ago, before it was quite so competative and connections were quite so powerful, that I don’t think you can necessarily count them.  And so we are let with Alia and Jhanvi, Karan’s old and new favorite.

I will be very curious how they in particular are used.  With this large of a cast, some roles will have to be more important than others. It is possible Alia and Jhanvi are there as a mutual favor, playing extended cameos which will heighten their profiles, but also be such small parts they wouldn’t bother with them for any other director.  Or not, it is also possible that everyone else will merely serve to make them look good.

One final thing that occurs to me, looking at the cast list, every single person on it except for Bhumi and Vicky are actually relatives in real life.  Surely that isn’t a coincidence.  At least, I hope not.  Anil is uncle to both Jhanvi and Ranveer (a more distant uncle to Ranveer, but still related).  And he and Kareena are also extremely distant connections.

Or maybe that is a coincidence?  The family connections are so firmly embedded in the industry, this could very well be Karan’s ideal cast and they also just happened to be mostly related to each other.

 

In terms of each actor in particular, for Ranveer this will be a test to see if he still has the magic touch with historicals when there isn’t the Bhansali magic to help him along (or the Hindutva fantasy for that matter).

For Kareena, this could be her first truly major impressive role in a “matron” position.  Looking at that cast list, I don’t really see a reasonable love interest for her.  And there are more boys than girls anyway.  So I imagine she will either be a strong and single mature woman, or paired with Anil in the older generation.  Either way, I am excited to see her as a heroine who isn’t just about the love story.  Especially since she got second billing.

Alia, this might be a challenge for her.  She has to prove herself in this role a little more, since we are all so tired of her playing the part for Karan.  And on a shallow note, I can’t quite see her in a historical.  If nothing else, I don’t think her pronunciation is pure enough for what I will call, for lack of a better term, “High Hindi”.

Vicky Kaushal, very excited for him!  He has the kind of real stage training and raw talent that makes me think he will be able to disappear into a historical character.  Also, he is the only actor to have worked with this scriptwriter before.

Bhumi, I just really don’t want her to be stuck in yet another “simple peasant woman” type role.  But I have this fear that she will be.  The palace maid, the plain arranged marriage woman, at best the low class mistress.  Or maybe not!  Maybe she will be the haughty princess and Kareena will be the low class mistress.  Wouldn’t that be a kick?

And Janhvi.  Depending on the role, I am probably fine with her.  She is very pretty and very young looking.  If she is the innocent in danger, that is perfect.  I just don’t want her to have a passionate romance or be a secret warrior woman or something like that, I don’t think she can pull it off.  Maybe in 5 years, but not yet,

And then Anil!  Presumably gets to play the wise adviser to all these young idiots.  Either the Emperor, or the chief minister or something like that.  Delightful!  I want to see him with period grey hair in fancy costumes, I think he can pull it off and have a blast.  And I am also very excited about seeing him playing a dignified mature part, somehow people tend to give him the younger sillier roles, and I want him to be respected for once.

Related image

(I want the Anil from this photo)

 

And the final piece, Karan himself!  This is a real departure for him in a lot of ways.  His first historical, that’s going to be a challenge.  It’s also the first seriously expensive film Dharma has made in years.  That is, I am assuming.  You wouldn’t want a Mughal setting without massive throne rooms and battle scenes and so on.  Karan is risking his talent and his study.

And my god is he sticking his neck out with this topic.  He almost got his last film canceled just for having a Pakistani actor in a few scenes.  But he said he regretted giving in on that, and I guess he was telling the truth, because coming back with a Mughal set film is quite the leap of faith.  A Mughal set film written by the author of “Hindustani Musalmaan”.

And the final risk, this is the first film he is directing without having written it himself.  Which I am sure is a very scary personal artistic challenge.  I wonder if he wanted to do this kind of story but didn’t trust himself to write it properly?  Or if the story came on his desk and he couldn’t resist directing it himself?  Or if he was just ready to move on to a new artistic phase?

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40 thoughts on “Karan Johar Announces New Movie Takht, The Return of the Mughal and the Return of Poetry to Hindi Film

  1. Muslim strain is increasingly wiped because this particular movie doesn’t feature a Muslim actor. Are you saying that the Khans are becoming irrelevant to Hindi films? Karan Johan likes certain ppl to work with-usually the successful ones & his own protégés. Pls don’t make his cliche casting to be a statement on the religious fabric of India. It’s observations like these that cause ripple opinions, counter opinions & end up making much ado about nothing & some free publicity for the film.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Not this particular movie, someone in real life or on the blog pointed out to me that if you look at all the many many young actors on the way up, none of them are Muslim any more. Which shocked me and made me start looking for it. I don’t think it’s a coincidence of casting for this film, I think there is no one he could have cast to play these roles who is Muslim. And like I said, I don’t think it is a big prejudice conspiracy necessarily, perhaps just an unintended result of the loss of Urdu in dialogue.

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      • Except for Dileep Kumar & the Khans(three out of four of them industry kids), there hasn’t been many Muslim actors in the past also rt? Fardeen, Zayed Khan, Imran Khan were also from a filmy family. It just proves that Bollywood is largely family/connection driven. If you are from a film family, you will get a break whatever religion you belong to. I can’t speculate on why there are no Muslim equivalents of a Vicky Kaushal or a Rajkumar Rao but I don’t suppose the struggles & journey will be all that different had there been a Muslim aspirant.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This one article from a while back said that Ranveer is playing an older brother with a younger brother that has negative shades and if this is the case then I have a very strong feeling that this might be about the war of succession between Aurangzeb and Dara Shukoh that happened during Shah Jahan’s last days. So Anil = Shah Jahan, Vicky = Aurangzeb, Ranveer = Dara, and Kareena = Jahanara (this fits in with the theory that Kareena does not have a love interest since Jahanara never married). Alia and Bhumi might be married to Ranveer and Vicky???? Anyways I’m quite excited about this project and if my theory turns out to be true (I could easily be wrong X-D) then I’d be even more excited because that entire conflict has always interested me.

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    • That would be an interesting different kind of role for Ranveer, to play the weaker loser historical figure. The one with the moral high ground, but not the crazed warrior ruler type. I’m excited!

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  3. This movie is about succession to battle after death of Shah Jahan .Ranveer is Aurangzeb the evil killer.vicky plays Dara shukoh his brother.bhumi/alia play their wives.kareena is their sister.no idea about Janvi/anil.
    Anil may play some millitart guy or the chief strategist etc.

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      • I heard on Twitter from some unconfirmed reports that it’s the story .anil might play Shah Jahan also .
        I read on Google the story it’s quite an interesting succession story and the succession was quite nasty and violent
        They had a smaller sister who played a double agent maybe janvis role.

        But I doubt whether kjo will be able to pull this off

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          • Isn’t there at least a chance the title will turn out to be an acronym? It’s not really “Takht”, it’s Tere Aankhon Ki Hatke Takht or something (I know that’s nonsense Hindi, but you get the idea)

            On Thu, Aug 9, 2018 at 8:27 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • There’s a while for the movie to release-so anything can happen. I just googled to see what exactly is the meaning of Takht & it says long sofa or bed in eastern country. That can’t be right. But if it is, I would prefer Kabhi Takht Kabhi Kursi.

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          • I googled “takht” and got “throne”. Which kind of fits I guess, if you consider a throne just a really nice chair/sofa thing.

            Kuch Kuch Mughal Hai?

            On Thu, Aug 9, 2018 at 9:16 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Kabhi Mughal Kabhi Dharma? And then it turns out the whole film is a present-past mix and in the present they are all wealthy college students in brand name clothing and in the past they are the Mughal royal family?

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          • Isn’t that a little too honest?And there will be outrage from Mughali Sena that their culture has been disrespected. On a different note, this is the third period drama announced from Dharma rt? And all three has Alia, a senior actor, a younger hero & some tier 2 actor-actress pairs. And one word titles. KJo is a man of templates.

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          • He’s a man who can read the trends. If Bahubali and Padmavat are setting records, he is going to get on that train. And he’s going to snap up Tiger Shroff after his last few films were suprise hits. And get in on that sweet sweet Southern remake money with Ranveer Singh and Temper.

            On Thu, Aug 9, 2018 at 9:52 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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            Liked by 1 person

  4. I really don’t believe Karan is the right person to handle a Mughal era generational saga with any degree of subtlety.He’s no Ashutosh Gowariker.The cast seems adequate -but nothing exceptional.The two brothers seem to be Dara Shukoh and Aurangzeb each being supported respectively by their sisters Jahannara and Roshnara. Maybe Bhumi or Alia might be Roshnara who ended up losing her status to Jahanara despite backing the winning candidate.I’d suggest reading Great Mughals by Dirk Collier to get a complete unbiased look into the brothers’ history. Since he’s Belgian he has pointed out the merits and flaws of both brothers.

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    • At least he isn’t writing the script. And we really don’t know what Karan is like as a director when he is working of off someone else’s script. It could be he ends up focusing on the visuals and drawing out performances from his actors, and leaves the story something completely un-Karan like. That’s what he has done as a producer, Wake Up Sid and Agneepath and Kapoor & Sons were very un-Karan, despite him closely mentoring the creative team.

      On Thu, Aug 9, 2018 at 9:19 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  5. I think we had enough mughal stories and muslim actors in bollywood.. what about the representation of other communities.India is not just abt upperclass hindus and muslims…muslim population is 15% and the dalits are 25%.still no mainstream bollywood film about dalits and stars from dalit background.. Same with other categories like christians buddhists etc.. Compared to them muslims had much better representation in bollywood.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s another way things have gotten worse in recent years. Acchut Kanya, one of the first major Hindi hit films back in the 1930s, was about a Dalit-uppercaste love story.

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      • Compared with the 50s and 60s we have hardly any Muslim stories.Which one was the last? Daawat-e-ishq? The early Muslim socials like Mere Mehboob, Gazal, Nikaah etc had a charm of their own -the language, the costumes and customs,the hero spouting poetry at the drop of a hat.Nevermind that I have to look up every other Urdu word.For eg: Beimaan, fiza, jalwa,naghma… and so on.Yup the Dalits and the Christians deserve movies.But considering Bollywood’s stereotyping,I’d rather they stay far far away.

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          • According to Bollywood wisdom, all Christian women must wear frocks all the time and nearly always named Rita.The men are of course drunkards,fishermen or smugglers.And all dalits must be darkskinned.

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          • Also, Christian young women are much much more likely to get pregnant out of wedlock (Julie, Khamoshi)

            On Fri, Aug 10, 2018 at 12:02 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • But Christians in Malayalam films are potrayed very realistically. Probably because the vast majority in Kerala are Christians and Muslims.

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  6. The problem with Karan is he doesn’t always cast the right people for the job. It’s almost always his gang of actors from Dharma (they’re also a talent agency, so makes business sense). Vicky Kaushal and Kiara Advani are both represented by Dharma now. And both of them connections within the industry so they’re not pure outsiders.
    Why not cast someone like Ali Fazal? Or even the women – must there be Alia in every Dharma movie?? Like Aishwarya said, Alia literally has a career handed to her on a platter now. All she needs to do is not mess it up.

    I am confused as to why he didn’t try to get Ranbir in, cos then Ranbir-Kareena would’ve been great casting as well. Surprised that Kareena has taken this, she moves into an older slot with this – no love interest etc.. very unlike Kareena 🙂

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  7. Pingback: Karan Johar Announces New Movie Takht, The Return of the Mughal and the Return of Poetry to Hindi Film — dontcallitbollywood – Business Startup-Bay Area

  8. I’m still processing my thoughts on this one…I’m, of course, excited for any new KJo directorial venture (even if I know I’ll have issues with it…it will be interesting!). I’m very glad he’s not writing this one…the subject matter does deserve a little more care and his scripts can get pretty tortured but not in the good ways.

    I’m excited about the cast, but also a bit alarmed that not one of them is Muslim. Just imagine if this were Fawad Khan in Ranveer’s role. Or even Imraan Khan. Both would have looked more like Kareena’s brothers as well.

    I’ve always been surprised that there aren’t more historical epics (or just historical films in general) being made in Bollywood. Since my first Hindi film was Jodhaa Akhbar and then I soon after watched Mugal-E-Azaam, I’ve always just expected for there to be more of the same…but really it took until Bajirao Mastani, the awful Mohenjo Daro, and then Padmaavat for there to be that kind of film. It’s clearly a new trend (and I’m all on board…though I haven’t truly been enthralled with any historical epic since Jodhaa Akhbar and I’m not that big a fan of Mugal-E-Azaam, which is terrible to admit, I know!) I guess there are a fair share of 19th century revolutionary films and films about partition and the odd random historically-set films like Parineeta, Lootera, or Bombay Velvet.

    It’s going to be a super long wait for this one.

    Also, must have your take on the Manmarziyaan trailer asap! I cannot wait for that one and may need to see that one in the theater.

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    • Sheila Nayyar in her epic Oral Narrativity article on Indian film argues that the lack of historicals is part of the oral tradition. That is, a sense of time as circular, or stationary, rather than moving forward. Which explains things like why everyone is just dressed in 70s clothing in Kabhi Kabhi whether it is 22 years in the past, or the present day. And why you wouldn’t necessarily see quite as many historical films as you might expect.

      But there did used to be more, less about big historical epics and more about particular settings that were interesting. The Muslim social mentioned in another comment tends to take place in some amorphous time of the past, when the formal artistic Muslim society was in it’s full flower. Or you might see something like Sahib Biqi Aur Ghulam or Kaagaz Ka Phool that are sort of in the past, but it’s more about one or two particular historical shifts they want to investigate than fulling committing to period clothes and sets and so on.

      There is another strain of historical film, the “Fantasy” films that Rosie Thomas writes about. Those would be more like Bahubali than Jodha-Akbar.

      And then of course the big problem with history in India, until 71 years ago it wasn’t shared history. Everything was happening differently to different parts of the country. I notice this with Tipu Sultan, for instance. He was a hero in Hyderabad, but a villain elsewhere in India. And still is. So how do you make a film on his life if you know half your audience will love it and half will hate it?

      If Karan is doing the Aurangzeb story, he is neatly avoiding at least some of the controversy. He can make the brother who loses the thrown into the “hero” and the one who wins intot he “villain”, and then he has neatly made the Mughal’s both heroes and villains so you can cheer or hiss depending where in the country you happen to live and what that historical period was like for you.

      For Manmarziyaan, I said in another comment on the trailer post, it’s Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon!!!!!! Right? Only, totally different. But once I had that in my head, I couldn’t unsee it.

      On Thu, Aug 9, 2018 at 3:25 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • HA! He acknowledges the Yashji influence I’ve always seen in his stuff!

      I really wish I could interview Karan sometime, he gives great industrial interviews. I want to talk to him about choosing to direct from someone else’s script and how he works as a producer with other directors and what is his vision for the future of Dharma, and Hindi versus other language industries and how they can work together, and all that stuff.

      On Fri, Aug 10, 2018 at 9:27 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  9. A couple of other recent movies with poetry or poetic dialogue include Bajirao Mastani, Ishqiya, Dedh Ishquiya, and perhaps Jodha Akhbar.

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