Karan Johar Birthday: A Look At The Filmmaker Who Reinvented Commercial Indian Cinema

As Karan Johar celebrates his birthday today, let’s take a look on how the filmmaker revolutionised the commercial cinema in India and has emerged as not just a visionary but also a smart filmmaker

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Karan Johar Birthday: A Look At The Filmmaker Who Reinvented Commercial Indian Cinema
Indian film industry has grown and evolved over the years. Every filmmaker that has stepped in here, has tried to give their own unique take and contribution to this industry. Many of them became legends over the years, while countless others vanished in oblivion. But there is a filmmaker that came in the late ’90s and revolutionised the commercial Indian cinema space and that is Karan Johar.

Up until the late ’90s, Indian masala films pandered to the Indian audiences. Even in stories meant for the rich and urban population, the stories were still rooted in a believable Indian setup. But then came Aditya Chopra’s Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge that kind of opened the doors for westernisation in terms of location and story. Karan was an assistant director there and not just that he donned several hats while working there. He was an actor in the film and Shah Rukh Khan’s stylist as well.

DDLJ was the place where Karan got his practical knowledge as he shared in his autobiography An Unsuitable Boy. So, when he debuted as a director with Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, he changed the perception of an Indian college life. Used to the relatable and subtle portrayal of an Indian student’s life, the Indian audiences suffered a shock when they saw this unheard of and fantasy type college environment that Karan showed in KKHH, but that played a big part in pulling in the audience.

With his future films, Karan continued to pander to an untouched section of the audience, the Indian diaspora in the west. Also, he kind of pioneered in bringing the escapist cinema to India, where the audience got to immerse themselves in exotic locations, melodious music and a fantasy land, where things eventually turn out for the best.
Over the years, Karan has been criticised several times for presenting an unreal world to the audience, like showing a school like St Teresa in his Student of The Year franchise, that would normally won’t exist in India. But, actually what the filmmaker has done is that he has brought all the desirable things from the west and dipped them into the Indian setting before presenting them to the world through his films. No one knew what and how a prom night would go about in India until Karan showed it in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham or Student of The Year.

The filmmaker might get trolled or criticised for his style of filmmaking or for making films only about the rich, but there is no denying the fact that Karan knows what his audience wants. After his father, Yash Johar’s demise, Karan brought Dharma Productions to new heights, making it an elite production house and a dominant force in the Indian film industry. Through his films, he presented a beautiful world that the audience loved to get lost in. It might not be achievable or real, but it sure feels good.
Karan is also a smart filmmaker, proven by the fact that none of his directorial films have failed commercially till date. He is known for his flair and he knows how to show it in his films too. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know how to make quality cinema. Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna is arguably his best film till date, but maybe it was ahead of it’s time then as adultery was too big and taboo of a subject to discuss openly in 2006.

If Karan has given a SOTY, he has also given a My Name Is Khan, proving his films are not just visually appealing but heart touching too. He is also a person who identifies the potential in a film, be it big or small. If he has distributed a grand film like Baahubali in Hindi, he has also backed a film like The Lunchbox. 

In his career of over 25 years till now, Karan has showed that it’s not wrong to live in a fantasy land with big mansions, schools where kids go to proms and have unreal experiences, that it’s okay to take a break from our daily life and immerse ourselves into a fantasy world where everything is grand and colourful and escape into it for three hours. 

Image Source: Instagram/srk.stills/student_oftheyear/karanjohar, spotboye archives
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