Karan Johar’s faith in new talent is unshakable

Karan Johar gave the film industry some real talents: Alia Bhatt, Sidharth Malhotra, Varun Dhawan, Ishaan Khatter, Janhvi Kapoor and Siddharth Shukla (introduced to the cinema in Johar’s Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania).

The trick to being Karan Johar is not to take yourself too seriously. This bottle label comes with a warning: others may choose to take your autonomy for not taking you seriously, too seriously. And you end up being shortchanged for your accomplishments because cynics think Karan Johar is synonymous with good times. Where’s the wine and cheese?

But wait. Look at the vast array of extraordinary talents that Karan Johar has given to the film industry. He scores higher than other famous Bollywood Christopher Columbuses except Shyam Benegal. Karan is flattered and amused to be compared to Benegal. He feels like it’s like comparing Khadi to Gucci (his favorite brand).

But apart from his sartorial dazzle, his flamboyant lifestyle and his glamorous friends, Karan gave the film industry some real talent: Alia Bhatt, Sidharth Malhotra, Varun Dhawan, Ishaan Khatter, Janhvi Kapoor and Siddharth Shukla (introduced to the cinema in Johar’s Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania).

Among the directors, those who have been the discoveries of Karan Johar are Nikkhil Advani, Puneet Malhotra, Ayan Mukerji, Rensil D’Silva, Soham Shah, Sonam Nair, Vinil Mathew and Shashank Khaitan. Significantly, nearly all of these directors opted to continue working with Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions, and those that parted ways like Karan Malhotra and Soham Shah delivered duds after leaving Dharma.

Karan Johar does not bind any of the talents to a contract. Unlike his best friend Aditya Chopra whose discoveries have to make their first three films with his banner, Karan Johar gives his discoveries the freedom to rob the chicken coop whenever they want.

Vijay Deverakonda would also be free to sign any Hindi film he wants after the production of his Karan Johar liger is released. Liger director Puri Jagannadh is already looking for other Hindi producers. But Vijay is not going anywhere. His second film will also be for Karan, and Karan only.

Karan cultivates talent. He’s not trying to own it. When Alia Bhatt wanted to work with Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Karan didn’t object although he didn’t really agree with Bhansali. Instead, Karan facilitated the first encounters between his favorite goddaughter Alia and Bhansali.

Incidentally, he signs all of his proteges for their full market price after they become stars.

Karan’s current project is Vijay Deverakonda. Karan strongly believes that Vijay has the potential to be the next big thing after Alia Bhatt. Many speculative elements in the film industry believe that Karan brought Vijay D from the South to create a star rival to Kartik Aaryan in Bollywood.

It is simply not true. In fact, here’s a thought to leave with readers. Karan’s patch-up with Kartik is fast approaching. Watch this place.

Subhash K Jha is a Patna-based film critic who has written about Bollywood long enough to know the industry inside out. He tweets at @SubhashK_Jha.

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