MY FAVS : Directors – Karan Johar

In this new series My Favs, I will be talking about one such person from the Hindi Cinema who has mesmerized me with their movies. With Karan Johar trending for Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (and for many other reasons), I thought it fit to start the series with the man.

Karan Johar, now one of the most famous persons in the industry, is either extremely loved or viscously hated. You walk up to any foreigner not knowing about our movies and ask him/her the first image that comes to their mind when they hear the word Bollywood. It will either be an actress in saree dancing in a foreign locale or some man spreading his arms or people crying nonchalantly. Now whose movies covers it all?

With two of his films – Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (KKHH) and Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham (K3G), Karan managed to give a face to Bollywood (whether that’s good or bad is debatable). I don’t know about then, but today these films are hated for over-dramatizing, stylizing and taking gigantic leaps from realities. But people like me love these movies for the brilliant music that comes along, the big star ensemble, the feel-good vibe that it brings and to witness some of the most genuine character conversations you will ever see.

Karan has repeatedly said in his interviews that yesteryear legends like Yash Chopra and Raj Kapoor are his inspirations. He is someone who has only watched and loved Hindi movies in his early life. Being a son of producer Yash Johar somehow landed him in the director’s chair. His movies, like of others mentioned, are what one would call “celebration of life”. Back then, it was this kind of cinema that ruled Bollywood. His entry was not a revolutionary one, but it certainly amped up in making our cinema completely on its own.

There are hardly any technical reasons as such for me to love his films. I was in my childhood when Karan started his career. For me, K3G and KKHH were one of the few films that made me love Hindi cinema. As a child, I loved the songs, the cheesiness, the drama and its comedy. Thanks to its popularity, they were televised quite often (even today) and I started to look to its storylines, its characters. If you think of it, every movie had something that is not so often seen in films. Whether it is second marriage in KKHH, adultery in Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (KANK) or discrimination faced by Indians in My Name is Khan(MINK).

But all this is of course done by peppering in dance sequences, melodramatic scenes and light heartedness. What matters the most is that it works. Many others do it. But it is Karan who gets it right.

He has worked with Shah Rukh Khan in 4 of his 7 films. But in none of them you will see him doing a “larger-than-life” role. He even made Khan a mentally unstable protagonist with MNIK. Even with the ensemble, none of the characters feel left out. And it’s not always the main ones, but small characters like that little Punjabi kiddo in KKHH wins you over. I often use the iconic “Tussi naa jao” line sometimes. Characters and their emotions – two things I always look for in movies, are the core of any Karan Johar film.

It is his non-commitment to usual commercial tropes, but still making it cater to everyone that makes him special. His female characters aren’t just mere props, but very integral to the storyline. Scenes shift from comedy to drama seamlessly which isn’t so easy to pull off. And not everyone can boast of giving the world a chemistry like SRK-Kajol.

Karan knows his place and the kind of cinema he’s there to make. He doesn’t pretend to be making a “brainy” film. And he also doesn’t take the tag of a “massy” film too lightly. He is been credited as a writer for all 7 films, but it is the director in him that does the magic. The biggest takeaway however is the promise that he brings in. With every film he has matured. He is willing to come out of his comfort zone and make a teenage film with newcomers at the age of 40 (Student Of The Year).

Magic is really the term to describe his films. A man who had no prior knowledge about filmmaking, makes some of the biggest blockbusters of all time. Not the ones that are forgotten in one weekend. But the ones that stays with you forever.


KARAN JOHAR’S MOVIES: RANKED

6. STUDENT OF THE YEAR

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One could see some weakening in this one, probably due to absence of known faces. SOTY was good on the fun part, but except for the climax, it lacked certain emotional heft. The best thing to say is that we at least got two gem of an actors – Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt.

5. KABHI ALVIDA NAA KEHNA

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In his third film, Karan tries to inculcate all the tropes that worked in the previous two films and put a serious issue like infidelity for the story to revolve around. The problem was, that the film failed to stand on its own. It didn’t match to the standards on any fronts (except for the music). But nonetheless, only a few directors like him can make a 3-hour plus film engaging.

4. MY NAME IS KHAN

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Probably Karan’s least hated films. I personally thought that Shah Rukh’s portrayal as Rizwan could have been a bit more better. But all other actors and Karan himself were in fine form here. To top it all, there was Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s brilliant music.

3. BOMBAY TALKIES (SHORT)

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If you dislike Karan Johar for all his other films, this one will blow your mind. The short starring Rani Mukherjee Randeep Hooda as a gay person, was a revelation. It shows the maturity that Karan has gained over the years.

2. KUCH KUCH HOTA HAI361b031ea11b312ce1ed96ceef1e8ede

4 years after assisting for Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge, Karan pairs up its lead actors again, but in polar opposite roles. It was a romantic comedy like no other. The kind of innocence with which the film was made is very rare to find today.

1. KABHI KHUSHI KABHI GHAM

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Rahul and Anjali are back, but also with Rohan and Poo (Pooja). This multi-starrer is by all means the Karan Johar trademark, and recieved the most polarizing reviews. But it is also the film that has stayed with me forever. I can watch any scene from KKHH anytime. And still it would bring the same reaction that I had for the first time.


As I write this, news broke that MNS chief Raj Thackeray has called off the protest on the condition that the team donates 5 crores to the Army Relief fund. And there is a message to be shown at the beginning of the movie, expressing their condemn for the Uri attacks.

This is heartbreaking in so many levels. For one, the film by no means is breaking any law. The chaos is just because it features Fawad Khan. Who, I think, is a brilliant actor first and then a Pakistani artist. It’s grave injustice done to the man who is so loved here. But this pure extortion is even more depressing. Here’s what a retired Army officer had to say about it –

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It is very unfortunate that Karan had to bow down to them for such peculiar, childish reason. I now don’t blame Anurag for targeting Modi in the series of tweets.

What can we really do stop these mobs in using Bollywood as a tool for their publicity is another topic. The bottom line is – nothing upsets me more right now than seeing one of my favorite director’s vision being hampered, mocked and questioned.

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