MUMBAI: He is 36 years old and a well-established filmmaker. But despite the accomplishments Karan Johar is awestruck when he meets his favourite stars.

Excerpts from an interview

Q: So, you are 36!

A: ... What do I say to you about turning 36? I’m shattered. I can’t believe I’m inching towards 40.

Q: But life begins at 40, remember?

A: It’s the biggest lie about age. Let me tell you, life does not begin at 40. It’s an illusion created by those who can’t accept they’re going old. I accept I’m no longer a teenybopper. I’m older and hopefully wiser.

Q: Has the film industry made you wiser?

A: It has toughened me. I don’t know if I’m around too many wise people to judge my wisdom. I only pray I’m not making the wrong decisions.

Q: You seem to be making all the right moves.

A: I’m making all the right noises.

At heart I remain an excited child who’s been given a toy called cinema. I’m awestruck with the place I’ve been given in the film industry. Even today when I meet a star I admire, I still feel awestruck. I’m still a star-struck child, though I try hard to hide it. Every time I sit across Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan, I’ve to pinch myself.

Q: In spite of your own success?

A: That evaporates from my head when I’m with these stars. Though one part of me says I deserve it, I still remain rooted to reality. That’s something I can’t help. My father (producer Yash Johar) was the epitome of humility. He was unbelievably humble. He taught me to not let success or failure conquer me, to just do my work.

Q: You used to be a pompous child?

A: I wasn’t pompous. I was snobbish. I was complex about various things, including my weight. It was a bad cover-up job. If today I’m so gregarious, it’s because I’ve overcome my complexes. Today I’m very happy to interact with as many people as possible. I can’t say my life is an open book. There’re chapters I don’t want anyone to read.

Q: Really?

A: Oh yes, I’ve many secrets. I can’t call them just skeletons. They’re full bodies in my closet.

Q: You continue to go all out for Shah Rukh.

A: Yes, but isn’t that a given in any true friendship? These are things I do without thinking for people I love. And Shah Rukh is much more than a friend. He’s my family, a father figure. When he walks into a room, I stand up. I respect him. In fact, I’m petrified of him and he knows it. He’s not my back slapping buddy. His wife Gauri is my friend. She’s the one I say ‘Oh shut up’ to. Even in my wildest dream I can’t imagine saying shut up to him.

Q: Do you miss that one special person to share your bed with?

A: When I spoke about this, Farah Khan made fun of me. I’m lonely and single. But I’m looking for love. I’ve lots of romance in my heart. And I’m waiting for some of it to happen to me this year... I do look forward to the right person in my life. I know I’ll find love very soon.

Q: You sound so sure of yourself.

A: I am. I’ll also make my best film this year and buy a new sea-facing home and move into it with my mom. I’ll have the most rocking decade anyone can dream of. I’m going to make sure Dharma Productions is the best production house in the country. I’ve these cravings in my heart. And I’ll make them happen.

Q: Is your new film called My Name Is Khan or just Khan?

A: It’s a toss-up between the two. The letter ‘K’ has been kind to me. I’m torn between superstition and pragmatism.

Q: Okay, Kajol or Kareena for your next?

A: You will have to watch this space.

Q: Is your next film about the Muslim identity and the isolation of the mainstream Muslim?

A: I’m just making the film I want to. I’m not doing it to be radically different. It’s a film with love, emotions and heart. I know it is unusual to my personality. But isn’t it time I started getting out of the safe zone at 36?

Q: So no more formula?

A: My Name Is Khan excites me. I’m excited by the fact that for the first time I’m directing a film that has characters and situations I don’t know about. I’m excited by the research that I’ve to do for this film. I’m nervous and anxious. It challenges me. So much so that I think I’m the wrong man for the job.

Q: Are you also posing a new challenge for Shah Rukh in the film?

A: Who am I to pose new challenges to Shah Rukh? He challenges himself every day of the year. All I can do is to give him a role... In My Name Is Khan, I’ve a new zone of excitement to share with him.

Q: Can you ever make a film without Shah Rukh Khan?

A: I wouldn’t like to think about it. Of course, it can happen. One can never predict about where life takes us. But right now I’m just happy to have him in every film I direct.