Now would be a good time to confess that I’m a KJo buff.
Because of stuff like this:
“The censor board and I have the same problem. We both don’t have a sex life.”
2012 is a pretty big year for Dharma Productions. So let’s do a breakdown of how the company has fared since Karan took over.
The (SR)K Phase
Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Ghum, Kal Ho Naa Ho, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna
With fresh filmy dreams in his eyes, SRK and Kajol firmly by his side, the letter “K” tucked snugly in his pocket, Karan’s directorial venture KKHH remains one of THE defining Bolly films of this generation. Perched right around the time Bolly was juuuuust starting to go global, it hit all the right notes of melodrama, NRIism, SRKism and Kajolism.
That film obviously catapulted Karan into the big league and prompted him to go all kitchen-sink on us for his next, K3G, perhaps the filmiest, most melodramatic, jingoistic, star-laden film of all time. (Okay not all time, but recent times). K3G is the film where you invariably cry no matter how much you swear you’re not going to cry this time because it’s so ridiculous.
MAN I MISS MOVIES LIKE THAT.
More tear-jerking ensued with Kal Ho Na Ho and ended, of course, with the famous fallout with Nikhil Advani. Oh, and there was also Soham Shah’s Kaal which I’m sure, like the rest of us, he’d like to forget ever happened. It’s safe to say that his first attempt at opening Dharma’s doors to directors other than himself was pretty disastrous.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) after K3G and KHNH, Karan got typecast as the “bubblegum-lehenga-glam” movie director and this is when all the KJo-bashing started in earnest.
The First Turning Point (or Karan is Crowned Ambassador of Bollywood)
But not as earnestly as after KANK.
By 2006, Bollywood was on the global map big time and nothing was as global as the KJo/SRK combo. KANK was Karan’s Silsila, an attempt at a mature love story tackling the sticky issue of extra-marital love and infidelity.
Like all his films, it had its moments but was inconsistent (Sexy Sam? please) and sent both feminists and married women through the roof. What a sacrilege against the sacred institution of marriage! What a sacrilege against women!
Oh well, he tried.
But KANK definitely was a turning point in that it was the beginning of the end of Karan’s brand of filmy-glam style. I don’t really believe his story that he got bored with this kind of filmmaking. I think it was more about his need to please the intellectuals, to prove that he can make “serious” “sensible” and “global” cinema (a fever that gripped the entire industry for a couple years. Remember U, Me Aur Hum?)
Around this time, Karan was seen giving the “Bollywood Sensibilities Speech” in earnest at every foreign press event, Bollywood “showcase”, award show and his own TV show. Bollywood was finally cool and he was our head honcho.
He really relished that role.
The New Kids
Dostana, Wake Up Sid, Kurbaan, I Hate Luv Stories, We Are Family
Alongside Ambassador duties, Karan focused his attention on the producing side of things with an aim to expand Dharma into a mini-studio of sorts a la Yash Raj.
By and large I think Karan’s done a pretty good job of picking his directors. Tarun Mansukhani for Dostana, Ayan Mukherjee for Wake Up Sid (genius find) and Rensil D’Silva for Kurbaan (not the best story setup, but nicely directed.)
For me, Punit Malhotra’s IHLS (yeesh with the acronyms, but what to do?) was the worst of the lot. No surprise there seeing as he’s Manish Malhotra’s nephew and clearly a “favor”. And though We Are Family was a pointless and ill-advised re-make, I didn’t think Sidharth Malhotra’s direction was at fault (it was such a “pretty” film!)
Generally I feel that the choice of story material hasn’t been the best during this phase (Hollywood hangover), but the directors are a very talented bunch.
Ah, but even as he was playing headmaster to the freshman class, Karan was secretly scheming with screenwriter Shibani Bhatija to take over the Oscars with a film called…..
The Second Turning Point (Or Karan Fails To Cross Over)
MY NAME IS KHAN.
Okay. This is when my KJo bubble burst big time. (Also the start of my SRK bubble bursting.)
I’m firmly in the anti-MNIK camp. I
hated it did not enjoy it despite all of its good intentions. Even Kajol couldn’t sway me. This was a kind of emotional manipulation I wasn’t willing to play along with. Give me an over-dramatic mother and Manish Malhotra lehenga any day. I don’t want to see Karan Johar of all people take up the issue of terrorism and racial stereotyping.
MNIK was touted as a Big Important Co-production with Fox Star Studios that was supposed to take over the world or something. But it was hugely polarizing for the audience. And it was competing with the juggernaut that no one saw coming - 3 Idiots.
One of my clearest memories of that time is that during awards season, everyone was going crazy for 3 Idiots’ historical box office right when Karan and SRK were campaigning for MNIK and trying to convince everyone what a Historically Big Important Movie it was.
It was awkward.
In short, 3 Idiots and Aamir Khan totally stole the spotlight from MNIK not unlike the way Salman Khan and Bodyguard stole the spotlight from Ra.One.
(See the pattern there? I sincerely hope it doesn’t become the SRK Gets Ambushed By Another Khan jinx.)
Dharma 2.0 ( aka The I Know I Can Do It Without SRK Phase)
Agneepath, Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu, Student Of The Year, Dostana 2, Balaji Project with Akshay Roy, New Rensil D’Silva project with Emraan Hashmi, Meluha Adaptation
That’s quite a slate. Karan Malhotra’s Agneepath looks astounding and if you’ve seen the trailer on the big screen it’s doubly astounding. This is the kind of Hindi film I’ve been looking forward to for ages and I’m hoping to God that it’s not a case of trailer-is-better-than-the-movie.
The only miss I’m seeing in there is Shakun Batra’s Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu (inspired by Woody Allen, SATC’s walk-n-talks and also back to the extra “k” in “ekk” gah) but I think Kareena will save that one.
I’m desperately curious how Karan will fare with Student Of The Year, his first directorial venture EVER without The Khan and not only that but rank newcomers to boot. Is this the return of “bubblegum” Karan or does he have a new strategy and creative vision as a director?
Things may be up in the air directorially (<–not a word, just made it up) but as a producer (or perhaps it’s more fair to credit CEO Apoorva Mehta) he’s making all the right moves.
- A tie-up with perhaps the hottest prodco on the block right now Ekta Kapoor’s Balaji
- Another hot new director pick with Akshay Roy who has AD’d on some really impressive projects (Vanity Fair, Water, The Namesake and Taare Zameen Par)
- The rights to Amish Tripathi’s bestselling Shiva Trilogy which even had Hollywood’s attention for a time.
They’re expanding in all the right ways, from their choice of projects to their stable of directors, their creative partnerships to bringing in new and deserving talent.
And there’s one thing that I also have to hand over to them – as you know if you’ve been reading my blog, it’s a pet peeve – they are not over-marketing their films.
Thanks Dharma. I’ll forgive you the MNIK blitzkrieg.