In a major coup, Karan Johar's My Name is Khan has been selected in the Berlin International Film Festival. What's more, the film has been picked for the Official Selection of the festival, which takes place from February 11-21, 2010. Karan Johar is jubilant. "It will be my first time in Berlin, and I'm so excited," he says. "Of course, I'll be going with Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol! There's nothing as prestigious as presenting my film at the Berlin film festival's official selection. Even more than awards, it's getting eyeballs at such a festival that is important."
Not many Indian films have made it to the official selection in Berlin the last decade except for Farah Khan's blockbuster Om Shanti Om was - it was part of the Berlinale Special. My Name is Khan will play in the 'Out of Competition' section. Johar said that Fox (which is distributing the film), is comfortable with the 'Out of Competition' slot, as it fits into their international release dates.
My Name is Khan raises the bar for a Karan Johar film, with a love story layered with two key non-romantic issues: Shah Rukh Khan plays Rizvan Khan, a Muslim living in the US post-9/11, and he suffers from Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism.
"Regardless of the issues, I hope the film will find wide acceptance on the humanitarian aspect," Johar says. "Rizvan Khan makes very large points in the garb of simplicity and innocence. Only emotions connect, and they are universal, and I hope Rizvan Khan touches hearts everywhere. I try to raise the bar for Indian cinema with every film I make. I am young, I've got the infrastructure. Weekend box office numbers are no longer enough, I want to be acknowledged. My first concern will always be my domestic base. But within the parameters, we should try to reach a global audience by using our content, keeping the storytelling plausible, and syntax sensible."
As Hollywood major Fox Searchlight is distributing the film in the US, and Fox Star Studios in India, Johar had told the press, "This is the first time such a deal has been inked, where the film will release beyond the mainstream diaspora, and that is exciting."
As for Berlin, he adds, "I can't wait to be in Berlin, walk the red carpet, watch the film with the audience and interact with it afterwards!"
The Berlin film festival has already selected two more Indian films, Umesh Kulkarni's Vihir (The Well), produced by Amitabh Bachchan's AB Corp, and Laxmikant Shetgaonkar's Paltadacho Munis (Man Beyond the Bridge). Their selection is not yet closed.
Meenakshi Shedde is India Consultant to the Berlin Film Festival and curator for international film festivals worldwide.