Karan Kumar Johar (born Rahul Kumar Johar; 25 May 1972), often informally referred to as KJo, is an Indian filmmaker and television personality, who primarily works in Hindi cinema. He has launched the careers of several successful actors and filmmakers under his company Dharma Productions. The recipient of several accolades, including two National Film Awards and seven Filmfare Awards, he has been honoured with the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 2020.
Rahul Kumar Johar
25 May 1972
|Alma mater||HR College|
|Honours||Padma Shri (2020)|
The son of producer Yash Johar, he made his directorial debut with the romantic drama Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), which earned him the National Film Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment (as director), the Filmfare Award for Best Director and the Filmfare Award for Best Screenplay. His next films, the family drama Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham... (2001) and the musical romantic drama Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006), were both major critical and commercial successes in both domestic and overseas markets. His social drama My Name Is Khan (2010) earned him his second Filmfare Award for Best Director. Johar produced the spy thriller Raazi (2018) and the biopic Shershaah (2021), both of which won him the Filmfare Award for Best Film, with the latter also earning him the National Film Award – Special Jury Award (as producer). These, along with other films he has produced or directed under his company, have established him as one of the leading filmmakers in Hindi cinema.
Johar has also ventured into other avenues of the entertainment industry. He hosts a television talk show, Koffee with Karan since 2004, a dating show What the Love! and a radio show Calling Karan, and appeared as a judge on competition reality shows Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa and India's Got Talent.
Early and personal life edit
Johar was born on 25 May 1972 in Mumbai, India to film producer Yash Johar, founder of Dharma Productions and Hiroo Johar. He has Punjabi Hindu ancestry from his father's side, and Sindhi Hindu ancestry from his mother's side. He studied at the Green Lawns High School. In his autobiography, An Unsuitable Boy, Johar recounts that he took the entrance test of the elite all-boys boarding school, The Doon School in Dehradun, but scored a zero in mathematics. This led the then headmaster Gulab Ramchandani to write a very "emotional letter" to Johar's mother, declining admission. After Green Lawns, he attended H.R. College of Commerce and Economics, both in Mumbai.
Johar started his career in the entertainment industry as an actor, when he played the role of Shrikant in the 1989 Doordarshan serial Indradhanush. As a child, he was influenced by commercial Indian cinema: He cites Raj Kapoor, Yash Chopra and Sooraj Barjatya as his inspirations. For a time, Johar followed numerology, creating film titles in which the first word and a number of others in the title began with the letter K. After watching the 2006 comedy-drama Lage Raho Munna Bhai which was critical of numerology, Johar decided to stop this practice.
Discussing his sexual orientation, Johar said "Everybody knows what my sexual orientation is. I don't need to scream it out. If I need to spell it out, I won't only because I live in a country where I could possibly be jailed for saying this". In February 2017, Johar became father to twins (a boy and a girl) through surrogacy. The twins were born at Masrani Hospital in Mumbai. Johar named his son Yash after his father, and his daughter Roohi named by rearranging his mother's name Hiroo.
Film career edit
Initial work, debut and breakthrough (1995-2001) edit
He made his own directorial debut with the romantic comedy-drama Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998). The first half of the film centers on a college love triangle between an insensitive boy (Shah Rukh Khan), his tomboyish best friend (Kajol), and the prettiest girl at the college (Rani Mukerji), while the second half centers on the now-widowed boy's attempt to reconnect with his best friend who is now engaged to marry a businessman (Salman Khan). The film became a major blockbuster at the box-office and received positive reviews from critics. Writing for Planet Bollywood, critic Anish Khanna commented that "Johar makes an impressive directorial debut, has a good script sense, and knows how to make a film with S-T-Y-L-E." It won the National Film Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment. It swept most of the major awards at the 44th Filmfare Awards, including Best Film, Best Director, and all four acting awards.
Johar's next directorial venture was the ensemble family drama Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham... (2001). The film starred Amitabh Bachchan as an egotistical rich industrialist, Jaya Bachchan as his compassionate wife, and Shah Rukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan as their two sons. It also featured Kajol and Kareena Kapoor as sisters from a lower-class family who become the love interests of Khan and Roshan respectively. The film became Johar's second consecutive major blockbuster at the box-office and received positive reviews from critics. Critic Taran Adarsh commented that Johar "confirms the fact that he is the brightest in film firmament. The premise [of the film] is simple, but it is the storytelling that deserves the highest marks." Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham... earned him his second nomination for the Filmfare Award for Best Director.
Widespread success (2006-2010) edit
Johar's third directorial venture was the ensemble musical romantic drama Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006), which dealt with the controversial subject of marital infidelity and dysfunctional relationships set against the backdrop of non-resident Indians (NRIs) living in New York City. The film's plot follows a washed-up athlete (Shah Rukh Khan), whose frustration with his wife (Preity Zinta) results in an extramarital affair with a family friend (Rani Mukerji), a schoolteacher who is also unhappy with her marriage to her childhood friend (Abhishek Bachchan). The film emerged as Johar's third consecutive major blockbuster at the box-office and emerged as the highest-grossing Indian film of all time in overseas markets at the time. It received highly positive reviews from critics who praised Johar's departure from the directorial style of his first two films. Rajeev Masand wrote, "Few writers have such solid control over their screenplay as Johar does. Few understand the intricacies of narrative as well as he does. Johar goes from highs to lows, from plateaus to peaks with the ease of a pro. He knows exactly how to turn a seemingly ordinary scene into something special with just that one line of dialogue, or that hint of background music." The script of the film which was co-written by Johar received recognition by a number of critics and was invited to be included in the library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna earned him his third nomination for the Filmfare Award for Best Director.
Johar's next directorial venture was the social drama My Name Is Khan (2010), his first film not written by him. The plot follows a Muslim man with Asperger's syndrome and his Hindu wife, played by Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol, who live in San Francisco and face racial prejudice after 11 September attacks. The film became Johar's fourth consecutive major blockbuster in both domestic and overseas markets, and received rave reviews from critics who praised Johar's unconventional directorial style. Critic Subhash K. Jha wrote that the film "is a flawless work, as perfect in content, tone, and treatment as any film can get." My Name Is Khan won Johar his second Filmfare Award for Best Director.
Continued success and experimental projects (2012-2018) edit
For his next feature film Student of the Year (2012), Johar chose not to cast established actors for his lead roles and instead recruited three debutante actors (Sidharth Malhotra, Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan). The plot revolved around the quest of a group of students who are all gunning for the title of "Student of the Year" at their college. The film was a moderate commercial success and received mixed reviews from critics. Some called it "supremely entertaining and enjoyable," while others called it "a film which suffers from the lack-of-a-story syndrome."
Johar then teamed up with Zoya Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap, and Dibakar Banerjee for Bombay Talkies (2013), an anthology film released to celebrate the centenary year of Hindi cinema. Each of the directors made one short film to contribute to the large anthology. The plot of Johar's film followed a magazine editor (Rani Mukerji) who discovers that her husband (Randeep Hooda) is gay after an interaction with an intern at her office (Saqib Saleem). The film did not perform well at the box-office, but earned positive reviews from critics, with major praise for Johar's segment earning him Queer Palm nomination at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.
Johar's next directorial venture was the musical romantic drama Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016). The film featured Ranbir Kapoor as a man dealing with an unrequited love for his best friend, played by Anushka Sharma. It also featured Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as an older woman who engages in a brief relationship with Kapoor's character, and Fawad Khan as the love interest of Sharma's character. The film emerged as his fifth major blockbuster at the box-office and received positive reviews from critics, who called it "Johar's most grown-up film yet." Ae Dil Hai Mushkil earned him his fifth nomination for the Filmfare Award for Best Director.
Johar teamed up again with Zoya Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap, and Dibakar Banerjee for Lust Stories (2018), an anthology film released on Netflix that served as a follow-up to Bombay Talkies. The film was praised for its exploration of female sexuality, a subject rarely dealt with in Indian films. Johar's segment revolved around a newly married schoolteacher (Kiara Advani) whose husband (Vicky Kaushal) fails to recognize her lack of sexual satisfaction.
Career expansion (2018-present) edit
In August 2018, Johar took to Twitter to announce his next film Takht, a period drama based in the Mughal era. It was supposed to feature an ensemble star cast of Ranveer Singh, Kareena Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Vicky Kaushal, Bhumi Pednekar, Janhvi Kapoor, and Anil Kapoor. With a screenplay by Sumit Roy, dialogues by Hussain Haidry, and music composed by A. R. Rahman, it was supposed to be the second film directed by Johar that was not written by himself. In an interview with Firstpost, Johar stated that Takht would begin filming in September 2019. However, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire project was postponed, with Johar stating that he would pick it up again in the future.
In 2020, he reteamed with Banerjee, Akhtar and Kashyap for the horror anthology film Ghost Stories, the sequel to Lust Stories. Ghost Stories premiered on Netflix on 1 January 2020. His segment in the film told the story of a newly-married woman (Mrunal Thakur) and her experience with her husband's (Avinash Tiwary) post-traumatic stress disorder. Unlike its predecessors, it received mixed-to-negative reviews from critics upon release.
In July 2021, it was announced that Johar would direct a romantic comedy instead, titled Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani. It starred Dharmendra, Jaya Bachchan, Shabana Azmi, Ranveer Singh, and Alia Bhatt in lead roles. It was released on 28 July 2023 and emerged as a critical and commercial success. The film ranked among the highest grossing Bollywood films of the year.
Johar's directorial work (with the exception of anthology films Bombay Talkies, Lust Stories and Ghost Stories) has been produced under the Dharma Productions banner, founded by his father Yash Johar and taken over by him after his father's death in 2004. In addition to his own directorial work, he has produced several films by other directors under the Dharma banner. Many of these films have become major critical and commercial successes including Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003), Dostana (2008), Wake Up Sid (2009), I Hate Luv Storys (2010), Agneepath (2012), Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013), 2 States (2014), Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania (2014), Kapoor & Sons (2016), Dear Zindagi (2016), Badrinath Ki Dulhania (2017), Raazi (2018), Simmba (2018), Kesari (2019), Good Newwz (2019), Sooryavanshi (2021) and Brahmāstra: Part One – Shiva (2022).
Other work edit
In addition to working as an assistant director on Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995), Johar was an actor in the film, playing the minor role of a friend of Shah Rukh Khan’s character. Since then, he has made cameo appearances playing himself in films like Om Shanti Om (2007), Fashion (2008), and Luck by Chance (2009).
He made his full-fledged acting debut alongside Ranbir Kapoor and Anushka Sharma in Anurag Kashyap’s period drama Bombay Velvet (2015), in which he played the main antagonist. Although the film did not perform well at the box-office, Johar earned some appreciation for his performance. Critic Sarita A. Tanwar commented, "The only consolation in the film is Karan Johar who brings a lot of dignity to the character of Khambatta... which is commendable since this is totally outside his comfort space."
Johar has worked as a costume designer for Shah Rukh Khan on many films like Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995), Dil To Pagal Hai (1997), Duplicate (1998), Mohabbatein (2000), Main Hoon Na (2004), Veer-Zaara (2004), and Om Shanti Om (2007).
Johar is the host of Koffee with Karan, a talk show where he interviews actors, directors, producers, and other prominent members of the Hindi film industry. The series has run intermittently since 2004, with seven seasons as of July 2022[update]. Since 2012, he has served as a judge on the reality shows Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa (with Madhuri Dixit and Remo D’Souza), India's Got Talent (with Malaika Arora Khan, Kirron Kher, and Farah Khan) and India's Next Superstars (with Rohit Shetty). In January 2022, he appeared as a judge on the Colors TV's show Hunarbaaz: Desh Ki Shaan along with Mithun Chakraborty and Parineeti Chopra.
Johar is also an investor in an AI-led adtech influencer marketing platform Konfluence. The company had raised a pre-series funding of $4 million as of 8 February 2022.
|†||Denotes films that have not yet been released|
Acting roles edit
|1995||Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge||Monty||Feature film debut|
Also assistant director
|2003||Kal Ho Naa Ho||Customer in the café (uncredited)|
|2005||Home Delivery: Aapko... Ghar Tak||Himself (cameo)|
|2006||Alag||in the song "Sabse Alag"|
|Om Shanti Om||Himself (cameo)|
|2008||C Kkompany||Himself/Game show host (cameo)|
|2009||Luck by Chance|
|2014||Hasee Toh Phasee||Client (cameo)|
|Bombay Velvet||Kaizad Khambatta|
|2018||Welcome To New York||Karan/Arjun|
|Simmba||In Dance number (Cameo)||in the song "Aankh Maarey"|
|2019||Good Newwz||Himself (Cameo)||in the song "Chandigarh Mein"|
|2004–present||Koffee with Karan||Host|
|2008||Say Shava Shava||Judge|
|2012–present||Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa|
|2012–2018||India's Got Talent|
|2017||Dil Hai Hindustani|
|2018||India's Next Superstars|
|2020||What the Love! with Karan Johar||Host|
|2021||Bigg Boss OTT||Host|
|International Film Festival of India opening ceremony||Host|
|2022||Hunarbaaz: Desh Ki Shaan||Judge|
|2022||Bigg Boss 16||Host (week 3 and 18)|
|2023||Bigg Boss (Hindi season 17)||Host (For Week 7)|
Awards and honours edit
The death of Sushant Singh Rajput sparked a debate on nepotism in the Hindi film industry. Johar was one of the personalities who were targeted by the late actor's fans for allegedly encouraging nepotism by casting children of established Bollywood stars in his films instead of outsider talents. Johar was first accused of this by Kangana Ranaut on Koffee With Karan. however, various members of the industry came to his defence. A complaint was filed against Johar "for abetting" Rajput's suicide.
Johar has responded to the nepotism allegations, saying that his production house has introduced 21 debut directors, "out of which, I can say, 16-17 are not 'nepotistic' young filmmakers. They are not from the fraternity or the industry. They are completely from outside." Regarding his casting insiders, Johar said, "Why do they discredit some of the actors who are from (the industry)? I think they are talented enough to face the camera and maybe, one thing can say is that they get easy access, but after that, they have got a journey ahead."
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I was half Punjabi and Sindhi, so food was a big part of our daily life.
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First, we tried getting into Doon School. I went for the exam. The principal then was a gentleman called Gulab Ramchandani who was my mother's uncle. I gave the test, but I was very bad at maths and got a zero in it. It was a multiple-choice test...The principal wrote a very emotional letter to my mother, and told her that he had tried his level best to get me through, but even he couldn't justify a zero in a subject to the school board and get me into Doon.
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