Karan Johar Birthday Special: 5 Best Films Directed By Dharma Head Honcho

Karan Johar needs no introduction! Bollywood's ace director celebrates his birthday today. On the occasion of his special day, here's a look at 5 best films directed by him.

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Karan Johar Birthday Special: 5 Best Films Directed By Dharma Head Honcho
Karan Johar is one of the most popular stars in Bollywood. The director is celebrating his birthday today. “For me cinema must be an escape route. I believe characters in my film must laugh and cry,  fall in love, suffer heartbreak, go through an entire gamut of emotions. That’s my world, and I invite audiences into it,” Karan said  to me  in an  interview once. Karan  Johar has produced  approximately  40  films so far(including unreleased ones). Among them he has  directed only 9. Here is  looking at Karan’s finest as  director.

1.     Kuch Kuch Hota Hai(1998): I  vividly remember Karan’s directorial  debut  was  released alongside David Dhawan’s asinine Bade Miyan Chote Miyan(a  wretched  ripoff of the Will Smith-Martin Lawrence starrer Bad Boys) on  16 November  1998.There  was  pressure on me to watch Dhawan’s film and I did. I hated  it. The  next day I saw  Karan’s film. I was enchanted with its  virgin language , colours, textures.I saw the film twice  the same week. I don’t think Karan  has directed a better  film than Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.  Except Maybe My Name Is Khan.Kajol-Shah Rukh’s chemistry  was so  removed  from what lead pairs  generally share. But the real stars  of  the show were  the two kids Sana  Saeed and Parzan Dastur  as Anjali and the silent Sardarji.Interesting fact:Karan’s mom  Hiroo Johar  played a cameo  part.  When  Kuch Kuch Hota Hai completed 10 years Karan  had said to me, “I don’t watch my films. I’m not a fan  of my own work. I feel this is my most honest work. Because I was absolutely fearless  when I made  it.But after that  I was  just  trying to  hold on  to  the position  I had created.”

2.     Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham(2001): A  top  heavy  voluptuous star-studded multi-starrer, Karan  Johar  told  me in an  interview in  2001,  “I got the idea for this film a month before the release of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai when I was working on the background music of the earlier film. Of course the film is quite different from how I had visualized it back then. Initially it was the story of how two daughters-in-law bring  a  family together.  Then I threw the idea around with my friend Adi(Aditya Chopra). He thought  the story of two daughters-in-law would make the male characters very weak. So  we decided to make it the story of two brothers, played by Shah Rukh  and  Hrithik. Earlier the protagonists were the  father Amitji, and the elder son Shah Rukh. Eventually the younger son , Hrithik, also became a protagonist. After Kuch Kuch released  I left the story , to enjoy the euphoria of my released film But four months later I decided to go back to the script. I must thank Adi  for giving shape to my idea. Finding the right actors for the characters  and getting them to agree was easy.  Shooting with them was easy. When it finished I couldn’t believe I had  pulled  it off.  I didn’t really have to work too hard on the actors. Everyone had a fully bound script. So every actor  was familiar with the atmosphere, attitude and tone of every scene. Hrithik knew he was Shah Rukh’s younger brother. I wanted his body language to be that of a 20-year old. I wanted him to be the baby of the family. Shah Rukh is the eldest adopted son. I wanted him to be constantly one step behind  his screen father all the time. In only one sequence I wanted Shah Rukh to look Amitji into the eye. Shah rukh’s body  language had to be more relaxed with Kajol and Jayaji. Jayaji had to be quiet and submissive, strong from inside but prompted into speaking her mind only at the end. Kareena and Kajol too knew exactly what to do before coming on the sets.  Initially it took the actors a little time to get into character. But they got in character much faster than I expected. Because their  preparations were tremendous.  Hrithik and Kareena were not the stars when I began my film. My whole endeavour was to get  Shah Rukh and Kajol together again. Kajol and Jayaji were the ones  I was most apprehensive about getting them to agree with. When they agreed to do the film I was over the mountain.”

3.     Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna(2006):  This is indeed a definite sign of Karan Johar's maturation as an artiste and a filmmaker. This is a film that derives its inspiration energy from Karan's favourite filmmaker Yash Chopra's interesting but abortive "Silsila".Even more interesting is the casting... the role of the unfaithful husband played in Chopra's film by Amitabh Bachchan has gone to Shah Rukh Khan. A cranky bitter failed footballer Shah Rukh uses his wounded ego as a battering ram to destroy his marriage to the career-driven and yet domesticated Preity Zinta.So far so cool! It's Abhishek Bachann playing the utterly devoted husband's role done by the dependable Sanjeev Kumar in "Silsila" who hits the most honest notes.KANK showcases the biggest Bollywood stars in roles of fatally flawed spouses that normally would shake up the egoistic equilibrium of our stars. KANK is a triumph of star-driven opulence. If at heart it's a clever take on infidelity, on the surface level it remains to the end a very good-looking film. Every technician from Anil Mehta (cinematography) to Sharmishta Roy (production design) to (Niranjan Iyenger (dialogues) and Javed Akhtar (lyrics) has striven passionately to furnish Karan Johar's mellow-drama with a bedrock of aesthetic believability. The film looks glossy and glamorous and yet believable. Karan said about this unusual film in his career, “The message, if any, is to marry for  the right reason. And if you’re in a miserable marriage you’re wronging   two people. Amitji says  in  the film, ‘By carrying  on an incomplete marriage you’re denying love to  yourself and  your spouse.’ Incomplete relationships are of no value   to  anyone. Are you trying to say  one should  continue in a miserable marriage? Doesn’t every individual have  the right to happiness. I’d love our women to become much more independent-minded and career-minded so that they could’ve a life of their own after  a  broken marriage. Yes,  sometimes marriage takes place under parental pressure or because a person feels he or she’s getting old.   Please treat marriage as  a venerable institution which  you visit only when you’re sure of yourself.”

4.     My Name  Is Khan: This  is  a near-flawless work, as perfect  in  content, tone and treatment as  any  film can get  . The ‘message’ of humanism  doesn’t  come across in long pedantic  speeches . The film’s longest monologue has  our  damaged  but  exceptionally coherent  hero Rizwan telling a  congregation  of Black American church-goers  about his dead son  . And if that moment  moves  us   to tears it’s because the emotions are neither manipulative nor flamboyant.It  isn’t because Rizwan’s  son Sameer   perished in  a racial attack. It isn’t even because  Shah Rukh Khan delivers his life’s best performance in that moment of reckoning. Rizwan’s  heartfelt  rhetorics are not about  changing the world with words. Born with  a physical disability this   is  a man on  the move. And boy, does he move!  About My Name Is Khan,  Karan Johar had said, “Content- wise My Name  Is Khan is diametrically opposite  to  whatever I’ve done  in the past. You know,  on   the  very first day of shooting  my cameraman Ravi Chandran looked at me   and said, ‘I don’t think  you’ve ever shot something  like this.’ This  is  the  first time  I’m directing a screenplay I haven’t written  myself. This  gives  me  a level of  detachment  from  the proceedings and  yet a lot  of  attachment.   It has   released a whole plethora of  unexplored emotions  in my head.  This time  I’m being  creative in a  different  way. And Shah  Rukh  plays  a   completely different human being I’ve never directed  that  person before. It took a  few days for all of us  to  get  into  the groove. How this exploration  of  a new territory  will turn out, no one knows.

5.     Bombay Talkies(2013):  In  the 4-segment  omnibus  my favourite story is  Ajeeb  Daastan  Hai  Yeh  directed by Karan Johar where a sterile marriage between an urban working-couple played by Rani Mukherjee and Randeep Hooda  is shaken by the arrival of young ebullient homosexual who enters couple’s frozen marriage in a most unexpected way. This story, more than any other, pushes Indian cinema to the edge to explore a theme and  emotions that have so far been swept under the carpet by those who decide what audiences should and should not be given to experience. Johar whose most brilliant film My Name Is Khan was also about a marginalized community, strips the urban relationship of all its shock value. He looks at the three characters’ frightening spiritual emptiness with a dispassion that was denied to the characters in Johar’s earlier exploration of crumbling marital values in Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna. Thanks to the unsparing editing(Deepa Bhatia), a gently arousing background score(Hitesh Sonik), deft but credible dialogues (Niranjan Iyenger) and camerawork by Anil Mehta that sweeps gently across three wounded lives, Johar is able to nail the poignancy and the irony of  his urban fable in just 4-5 key scenes. This is his best work to date.While Rani delivers another power-packed performance (and she looks gorgeous too) Hooda needs to get rid of that trademark scowl .It’s Saqib Saleem who steals this segment with his unmitigated spontaneity and reined-in ebullience. Karan  had once  said to me, “Being Karan Johar is  both an advantage  and a disadvantage. That very brand name comes in the way  of  people  expecting something  different  from me. But I love  the work I do, love  the industry  I live in. I feel privileged  to  be in Indian cinema. Where else can you laugh, sing, cry and dance and  still be  at  work?” Where, indeed.


Image source: SpotboyE archive