Karan Johar - a retrospective

With My Name is Khan almost in theatres, the Internet has been inundated by promos, appearances, interviews, etc, etc of Karan's latest movie. While it' been heaven every which way you look for all Shah Rukh fangirls out there, it's been almost more interesting for me to watch Karan Johar in all of this. I have come to the conclusion that Karan, the cheeky monkey that he is, could possibly be the best friend any girl could ask for (and I'm sure Kajol agrees). Some love his movies, some hate them, I firmly land in the former category without any apologies, and KJo's films represent a good portion of what I love about Hindi cinema. While I get ready to take in his latest offering I thought I'd take a look at the cinematic journey that put our Karan where he is today.

Born May 25, 1972 to Hiroo and Yash Johar, film producer and founder of Dharma Productions, Karan made his entry into Hindi film as an assistant to Aditya Chopra in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge where he also had a small role playing Raj's best friend Robby. He has always maintained that he thought he would land firmly in the field of design, either fashion or interior, so it's interesting to learn that he's often responsible for choosing Shah's costumes. Of his own admission, Karan doesn't think that acting is his forte, though he continues to be involved in front of the camera as talk show host and has done several cameos as himself.

Karan debuted as a director for what is one of my favorite Hindi movies, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai which went on to win numerous awards including Lux Cee Awards, Sansui Viewers' Choice Awards, Aashirwad Awards among others. KKHH, at the time, was only the second film to win the 4 major Filmfare awards (best movie, best director, best actor and best actress). It was also the highest grossing film of the year.

Love triangles are a staple of romantic comedies, but what I find intriguing is that KKHH is the only movie I think I've seen where both of the girls win the boy (and not in a three-way sort of way). While I could scream at Rahul for not seeing Anjali's potential in college, at least she ends up getting her happy ending after all (and thank god because the alternative was unbearable!). Interestingly enough, the role of Tina was offered to several actresses before it reached Rani, including Twinkle Khanna, Tabu, Shilpa Shetty, Aishwarya, Karisma Kapoor, Urmila Matondkar and Raveena Tandon. Also, the role that went to Salman was first offered to Saif Ali Khan. Bollyviewer from Old is Gold had an interesting post at her blog that speculated on Anjali's missing years. Check it out - it's good fun!

One of my fav songs from the film:

On the top of a lot of people's "let's convert 'em" list is Karan's second film,
Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham in 2001. I have to admit that I've actually only seen this film once in it's entirety, though I've probably watched the songs on youtube over and over again. While some will argue that the film is manipulative and somewhat ridiculous in spots, I think it is the quintessential famly drama despite it's flaws. Not only does Karan give us numerous heart wrenching emotional moments, but the film also houses the very best acting, stunning choreography (by my absolutely favorite Farah Khan), outstanding music and opulent sets all wrapped up in a very contemporary package. Definitely K3G showed that Karan was not just a one hit wonder and the film went on to win numerous awards.

Shake your tail feather, Amitabh!

2006 saw Karan bring Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna to the big screen in a film that tackles many subjects, the most visible being infidelity. This movie, while not a favorite of many, will probably always be one of my favorites, as it was the first Bollywood movie I ever saw. After seeing close to 100 films, I have to applaud Karan for taking such a large risk as far as his subject matter goes. While the film didn't do well in India, it did manage to acquire the title "highest grossing overseas film of all time." Though he's not the first to make a movie based on sensitive material, I think he does it with maturity. Each of his characters are flawed, giving the film a sense of realism, but he manages to give the audience a good balance of serious and comical moments (one of my fav scenes is the one of the mattress store). Plus I love the music in KANK and I was so happy to finally get the soundtrack just the other day.

I have to add that one of the things I love about Karan's films is how he is able to cast Amitabh Bachchan in roles that allows us to see him not just as the stern family figure but gives him the opportunity to let his hair down. His Sexy Sam role in KANK is very charming and one of the highlights of the film.

Besides directing, Karan, through Dharma Productions, the company he inherited from his father, has written and produced several films. Though I haven't seen them all, some of my favorites include Duplicate, Dostana, Wake Up Sid and my #1 favorite movie Kal No Naa Ho. Not only did he host a fav talk show of mine, Koffee With Karan, but he made his television come back in January 2010 with the fan-centric show, Lift Kara De. Where do I sign up for that one Karan? In 2006 he became the first Indian filmmaker to be a jury member in the Miss World competition, in Warsaw, Poland (a gig I'm sure he was ecstatic to be a part of) and he was honored in 2007 when he was chosen as one of 250 Global Young Leaders by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum 2006. Most recently he ventured into the world of fashion with a show during India's Couture Week last year. Beware the Meghna Mathur syndrome Karan, beware!

Of course, the release of My Name Is Khan marks Karan's 5th directorial venture and the public waits with baited breath for what many anticipate will be his best and most successful movie to date. With the magic trio together again, I don't doubt this could mark a milestone in each of their careers.

Love him or hate him, Karan's sure to be around for many many years to come!

18 Response to "Karan Johar - a retrospective"

  1. rhilex says:
    February 10, 2010 at 7:30 PM

    WOW, what a great tribute! One of your finest posts. Very professional, yet still personal. =) Gotta love KJo.

  2. shell says:
    February 10, 2010 at 8:02 PM

    Thanks! I've always really enjoyed Kjo's movies, but this media blitz for MNIK has really exposed a lot of his personality, at least for me.

  3. Tady Rox! says:
    February 10, 2010 at 10:37 PM

    Beautiful Post! I LOVE YOU KARAN!!!!! OMG!!! Less than 2 days to go...

  4. dink213 says:
    February 11, 2010 at 3:29 AM

    going to NY in three days so looking forward to see mnik on a big screen.
    Ever seen Koffee with Karan? the guy does great inteviews.
    grat post.

  5. shell says:
    February 11, 2010 at 7:34 AM

    Tady Rox - Thanks for the compliment. It's hard to believe after all that waiting, that the movie is almost here. CAN'T WAIT!!!

    dink213 - How exciting to not only see MNIK, but in NY too! I'm jealous! ;)
    I love Koffee with Karan, but have only gotten to see it on youtube. And thanks!

  6. Anonymous Says:
    February 11, 2010 at 8:32 AM

    Koffee with Karan was available on-line at one time, I have the entire first season on my computer.
    As for KKKG I give that DVD to friends to watch who wonder why I watch Bollywood movies, it's great fun to see the reaction when they bring it back. Some love it, some complain about having to read subtitles and two are now hardcore SRK fans. They have watched every SRK DVD I have, are working there way through Netflix and we're all going to see MNIK this Saturday.

  7. Reema says:
    February 11, 2010 at 1:23 PM

    Great post. Karan deserves more love. :D

  8. shell says:
    February 11, 2010 at 1:27 PM

    thanks Reema, and yes he does.

  9. shell says:
    February 11, 2010 at 1:31 PM

    lvrplfc41 - I've only seen a small handful of the episodes for Koffee, but I'm pretty sure you can find most of them still online. Would be nice if they would put it all of dvd though.
    I wish I could get my friends to sit through a movie with me. Gave my bestie some 2 Christmases ago (my fav Shah Rukh films at the time) and they still sit in the plastic. I am going to see MNIK this weekend though with my husband and then again next weekend with my sis. I can't wait.

  10. bollyviewer says:
    February 11, 2010 at 9:50 PM

    Ooooh KJo - I have this love-hate relationship with him. Cant stand his directorial ventures, but LOVE Koffee With Karan. When they put it up on Rajshri, I landed up watching everything in a single weekend! He makes a great talk-show guest too - almost as good as SRK! I loved his appearance on Farhan Akhtar's TV show (Filmigirl labeled it "Fanta with Farhan" and for the life of me, I cant remember the show's real name!)

    I'm sitting on the fence with MNIK - the reviews will decide whether I trek to Moviedome or watch it in my living room!

  11. Anishok says:
    February 11, 2010 at 11:02 PM

    Just got around to reading this amazing tribute. Great job Shell!
    No matter what everyone says, Karan's movies are my personal brand of chocolate for the soul. And I totally agree that he'd make the bestest, bitchiest and sweetest friend ever.

  12. shell says:
    February 12, 2010 at 6:56 AM

    bollyviewer - from what I can tell the movie is getting outstanding reviews. I plan on going on Saturday (and hope that when I get to the city the movie's not sold out!) Cross your fingers for me!.

    I never saw Karan on Farhan's show. I wonder if the website is still up for it. I'll have to check it out.

    Anishok - Thanks! and I totally agree. Chocolate for the soul indeed!

  13. Bikram Singh Bathh says:
    February 13, 2010 at 8:10 AM

    Excellent write up! This is the best one I have come across out of whatever I have read in your blog.

    Personally, Karan is my all time favourate film maker. I think he can't get a bigger fan than me. :D

    About the film, I must say its a truly International film which has a very very strong message.

  14. Jules says:
    February 13, 2010 at 9:12 PM

    That was great, Shell..

    I love his films... and am WELL JEALOUS that you just went and saw MNIK without me. OMG. The angst!!!

  15. ajnabi says:
    February 15, 2010 at 7:41 AM

    I love these sort of write-ups, Shell. I always learn something new. :-)

  16. shell says:
    February 15, 2010 at 8:01 AM

    Thanks and I'm glad and amazed that anyone can learn anything from my posts - everyone's knowledge always seems to surpass mine!

  17. Darshit says:
    February 20, 2010 at 9:46 AM

    Yes, he has produced nice movies including KHNH and WUS. Both my favs. And besides his KANK, I love both of his directed movies. KKHH has highest viewings in my list. KJo is the guy the most influential in bollywood. Great post Shell.

  18. shell says:
    February 21, 2010 at 8:48 AM

    Bikram - Thanks very much! I would have to say that he is probably one of my favorites as well. I thought MNIK was a very special movie, will have a write up on it soon.

    Jules - Well, I'm glad we got to go see it together after all. Loved sharing it with you.

    Darshit - Thanks Darshit. More than any other director out there, his movies, both directed and produced (though I refuse to see Kurbaan, seem to get the best reacion from me, and now 3 of his movies make my all time favorite list.