Mumbai: Filmmaker Karan Johar avoided the use of the word "nepotism" -- which had sparked a roaring debate in Bollywood two years ago -- at the trailer launch of Dhadak, which marks the debut of late Sridevi's daughter Janhvi Kapoor and Ishaan Khatter. He says the talents -- irrespective of their family name -- work hard to be where they are.
Karan has launched a slew of celebrity children in Bollywood -- from Alia Bhatt to Varun Dhawan and now Janhvi to Ananya Pandey.
At the trailer launch of "Dhadak", Karan was asked what are the things he has to keep in mind when he makes films with such talents, who come with a film background.
He said: "That they grow beyond their name and make their own identity. I think that is our responsibility and their responsibility."
"These days people focus more on names rather than the talent, but they tend to forget that one puts a lot of hard work, heart, dedication, discipline and mental preparation to face the camera, the audience and the media... It is not easy, really. It is difficult."
Without mentioning the term "nepotism", which had become widely used when actress Kangana Ranaut accused Karan of being a "flagbearer of nepotism" two years ago, he said: "We always use a tag... Like a word of the season. I know that word (nepotism) was doing around for last two years and I am again perhaps encouraging the same concept... But I will not utter the word. But I want to say, they are not here because of that word, but because of their hard work."
Asked what made him choose Janhvi and Ishaan for the film "Dhadak", a remake of the hit Marathi film "Sairat", Karan said: "The story is about an innocent love story. To bring such innocence on-screen, I needed first-time talent."
He said Ishaan first struck him while judging a TV show with Ishaan's step brother Shahid Kapoor.
"I was judging a show with Shahid where Ishaan happened to meet him on the set. So I just saw Ishaan and got a glimpse of a certain body language, expression and personality. So, I instinctively decided on him.
"I think Manish Malhotra is the fashion father of Janhvi. He knows her for a long time. He used to keep talking about her so much that I felt like I know her even before meeting her. Then I went to meet her family where I saw her. Then later when I met her personally, I saw her potential to be on-screen and saw that spark and excitement," said Karan.
Directed by Shashank Khaitan, "Dhadak" is releasing on July 20.