Discussion Post: Let’s Fix Karan Johar’s Persona!

Anonymous just mentioned in a comment that Karan should hire the same PR professionals that Shahrukh is using, and that got me thinking about what I would do, were I to be hired by Karan.

Karan’s PR now seems to be focused on him being the best friend of everyone powerful, on him being fun and entertaining and spectacular in public appearances, and on him being a cool nasty harbinger of taste in the industry. Which worked fine until Kangana started attacking him on his professional credentials (claiming that he only hires/casts through nepotism) and suddenly everyone has lost all respect for him.

Now, here’s what I would do, were I to be hired by Karan! Forget the talk show, the fashion, the big parties, the public friendships. Bring out the “Dharma is the fastest growing and most successful banner in India” part of things. Talk about how he was the son of a failed producer who built this business from scratch. And also talk about how he has discovered and nurtured so many behind the scenes talents over the years. Do a “Behind the Scenes at Dharma” series where he is very serious and wearing normal clothes and talking about what he is passionate about. Downplay his role as mentor to young stars, upplay his role as mentor to young directors, writers, producers.

And I would make sure Karan gets credit for the really out there groundbreaking films he has made and produced. I know he wanted to build a Dharma brand identity, the studio with the fun youthful movies, but at this point that brand is damaging him personally and the studio identity. He needs to push Agneepath, Kapoor & Sons, Baar Baar Dekho, The Lunchbox, Raazi. Build Dharma into “the studio that can and will do anything” instead of “the studio that only does romances”. And along the way, maybe that will get people to take a second look at Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, My Name is Khan, and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and see that Karan himself doesn’t just make “happy young romances” either.

Anyway, that’s what I would do! Reposition Karan as the head of a business, and that business as one that has a lot of variety in what it does. What would you do to fix Karan’s PR?

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40 thoughts on “Discussion Post: Let’s Fix Karan Johar’s Persona!

  1. My advice to Karan: stop showing off. Nobody likes a braggart.

    He already knew people were fed up with him pushing star kids especially Alia. Instead of taking heed of that and receding a little, he threw it more into people’s faces like he was giving them the finger. He started doing photo shoots and magazine covers with her and flaunting her visits to his house and such. What is the need to do this? You can have whatever connections you want but not everything needs to be made public. You can have people come to your house without immediately putting up pics! You can have a party without calling paps to cover it.

    Similarly, stop showing off your clothes. Men don’t look good doing this. HIs outfit of the day posts were cringeworthy. He takes away his serious director credentials by acting like a clown and showing off his crazy looking and expensive clothes all the time. It invites nothing but ridicule. Nobody thinks he is a fashionista in spite of him trying so hard so why?

    Just back off, in every regard. You don’t have to hide away like Aditya Chopra but take a back seat sometimes. Let the actors and director promote their movies. Why does he so badly need to be involved in every single aspect? The reason he looks like the king of nepotism is because he so closely nurtures these star kids, from publicly hanging out with their parents to showing off personal pictures from their parties to going on the promotional circuit with them. Student of the Year is not a Punit Malhotra film – it becomes a Karan Johar film. Nobody remembers who directed Kalank – it is just a Karan Johar movie.

    Less is more. You don’t need to be in the public’s face 24/7. It generates irritation and annoyance. Everything you do starts annoying people when they can’t get rid of you. Back off and let people breathe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think he has to choose one thing. He can be serious and business-y in every other way, but still do the crazy clothes. Or he can be serious and business-y but still do the mentoring of the young actors. Or the parties. OR whatever. Pick one thing and it is a nice human touch to a serious person. Have too many things, and he starts to feel like a collection of postures and quirks instead of a person. You know?

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    • I am so frustrated by how he is making it hard for me to justify my fandom! At least, to others. I am his fan because I think he is a business visionary, a brilliant writer, and a great mentor (NOT to actors, to directors. No one is as selflessly supportive to upcoming artistic talent as Karan). But no one sees that, because they just see the other stuff he is throwing in our faces, like he thinks it is tacky or uncool or something to talk about his real work.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Same. Exactly. I’m a big big KJo fan, and it’s just difficult to support him. People don’t see MNIK, they see SOTY. They see Kalank failed, they don’t see how good Kesari was.

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        • YES!!!! He gets so much grief for “nepotism” or selling the same old thing or whatever, and then you look at the Dharma roster of talents behind and in front of the camera, and it isn’t true at all. Only, Karan isn’t going around to parties Anurag Kashyap or Gauri Shinde, that’s all saved for the star kids and suddenly it gets hard to justify my arguments for him as a mentor to diverse talents.

          Liked by 1 person

        • That’s because he himself doesn’t respect the movies that he is most liked for. He trashes KKHH, ignores MNIK and then claims his best work is Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, which was terrrrrrible. He wants desperately to be part of the cool young group to the point that even his old friends make fun of him that everyone at his party is less than 20 years old. He comes across like a totally fake poser and people sense it.

          Liked by 1 person

          • What’s strange is that all of that is what he is doing in public, but if you look at the actual work coming out of Dharma, it is very different. He must have very different opinions down deep in his heart than what he says out loud. And he is right, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is his best work as a director. Not the best film as whole or anything, but the camerawork and stuff like that is miles and miles ahead of what he has done in the past.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Karan wearing normal clothes? I wish! I have a headache everytime I see his atrocious clothes. But without his style, gossip, etc I won’t be Karan anymore. He worked for years to create his persona, and being honest I think he is proud and doesn’t care what we think about him (or at least till it won’t ruins his finances). He had millions opportunities to look nicer and better (especially thanks to his show) but he didn’t care.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I don’t want to tell him to “tone himself down”, because from his memoir it sounds like he really struggled to reach a point where he is happy with himself and being who he is.

      But there must be a happy medium, right? Some way to still be Karan, but also talk seriously about film and his vision for the industry and stuff instead of just gossip.

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      • He doesn’t need to change who he is but what is the public flaunting for? Wear whatever you want but do you really need to post outfit of the day posts bragging about what crazy designer clothes you’re wearing? He asks for all the bashing himself by deliberately bringing so much notice to it.

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  3. Reblogged this on Aarnav's Blog and commented:
    I’m a big Karan Johar fan, and this post precisely describes the problems the fans face defending his work. He’s a great director, who has given us My Name is Khan. His production house produces one Kesari for every Student of the Year, while jumping on unique scripts like Dear Zindagi, Raazi, Baar Baar Dekho and more, in which sure some are failures, but each is worth an attempt. Then, he’s dragged into unwanted controversies due to nepotism, totally ignoring how many great directors he has given work to who do not belong from the industry. I’ve a simple question, if you had a big business, wouldn’t you help your friend’s son to get in your company and be big? Nepotism exists in every kind of industry, and therefore in Bollywood too.
    Let’s see how hard working he is. Not only he’s a father to two, he writes scripts, directs movies, runs a Talk-Show, judges many shows, runs a Radio show, and produces & distributes over 5 talked-about movies every year, among which atleast 2 are nominated for the best awards in several categories. If he likes to attend Bollywood parties against working so hard, what’s the issue? He works hard for the money he earns, let him spend it on his fashion style.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I think at his core is the scared boy who knew he was different than society wanted him to be. He spent so much time hiding in plain sight. The saddest part of his book was when he talks about taking lessons on how to walk and talk in a more masculine way. As many of you can relate to, we are all no matter our age still captive to some of our adolescent demons. Not being able to be overt about your crushes and what you want and feeling all wrong is so painful and doesn’t go away. The flamboyant clothes etc. are the way for him to say, “this is me, take it or leave it; I’ll be who I want.” I also think some if his less nice behavior comes from that place too. Even now when he has almost openly declared that he is gay, he still has never actually said it. Think how painful that is. I think that is way Shah Rukh (and Gauri) have forgiven him any moments of non-loyalty to them because they understand his pain better than anyone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, and I also think that the flamboyance has become another kind of protective mask. He doesn’t let himself be serious any more, it all has to be over the top for him. I think in real life he is serious, he must be, because the people he is friends with aren’t just superficial friends. It’s not just SRK and Gauri, there’s lots of people in the industry who seem willing to stand up by and for him. He must be giving them something more than just gossip and nasty comments like we see in public. I want to see that Karan, the serious “real” one.

      On Tue, May 14, 2019 at 11:01 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t know about this. Karan is powerful. Everyone will agree to that even if they don’t him. Good relationships need to be maintained with people like him so that doesn’t necessarily mean he has a great serious personality.

        He does some downright awful things! He called up Aditya Chopra and tried to get him to drop Ranveer and Anushka from his movie because they’re too ugly! He makes fun of other people’s English because he’s a snob. I’ve heard actors say Karan has spread fake rumors (aka lies) about people hooking up and relationships that never existed. He maintains relationships with journalists/critics and uses those connections to plant stories. There *is* a negative side to him and it needs to be acknowledged. That doesn’t make him an evil person because everyone has their bad side. However, he isn’t all sweetness and roses either. I’m not sure how many people will be left by his side if he becomes unsuccessful. Not many, I bet.

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  5. I also think he needs to cut the umbilical cord with Alia. They will both be better off without this interdependency in the long run. After the almost across the board criticism of Alia being miscast in Kalank, he followed it up with that horrendous item number of hers with Tiger in SOTY2.

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    • He’s lost his mind when it comes to Alia and this is coming from someone who likes her. He shoves her into things where she shouldn’t be and which don’t fit her because he’s so desperate to project her as the greatest actress BW has ever seen. Who in their right mind would have given her that hook up song? She looked like a 15 year old trying to look sexy and failing. It brought out all her weaknesses. She was equally miscast in Kalank. He even tracks down other successful directors and “recommends” Alia to them and then comes on as a producer if they agree. If he doesn’t stop this obsession, he’s going to ruin the career he made for her by overstepping and giving her things she’s not appropriate for. The result will be bad for both.

      He thinks he has a brilliant plan in mind. Pick up friends’ kids, make a career for them, they are grateful and work cheaply for him, and he can use them for the next 10 years until they are too old and useless for him. It is a good strategy, no doubt, but things don’t always go according to plans.

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    • I believe they do have a deep personal bond, but the public acknowledgement of it is a bit extreme. Compared to, for instance, his bond with Twinkle Khanna. She comes on Koffee and tells personal stories about their friendship, but there is no need to go around getting photos at every party or whatever. They can stay just as close as they want to be in person, and even have little professional acknowledgements (I loved Karan’s cameo in Shaandar, for instance), but it doesn’t have to be the most important thing about Karan.

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  6. Karan probably felt isolated in his childhood and early adulthood but he needs to let go of the negativity now. Because no one cares about his sexual orientation atm. It’s no longer taboo and you’re not going to be considered a pariah anymore. He comes off real bitchy to non-insiders and there is no need for that really. Didn’t Aysuhmann say that he tried to audition with Dharma but was told “We don’t take non-star kids”. Really??? It’s fine he if he doesn’t want to work with outsiders – its his company and he can do what he wants but if he were atleast a little less in your face about it it would be better. And when he gets together with Alia its an even bigger turn off. She was unbearable during Kalank promotions (Varun,Adi and Sona were so much more fun)

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    • See, I think he comes off as mean to non-insiders but actually isn’t. That’s where he needs the better PR. Kiara Advani, Sidharth Malhotra, Diljit Dosanjh, Tara Sutaria, Fawad Khan, and on and on and on. Even Vicky Kaushal is barely an insider. Someone else mentioned a story that he tried to get Adi to drop Ranveer and Anushka from a movie, but then he cast Anushka himself. What he does in reality is very different from how he presents himself in public.

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      • I think Karan has a really good eye for talent and what to do with it. He genuinely cares about them – unlike YRF who is on their way to becoming the worst talent agency. They have Ranveer and Ayushmann on their roster and look at the movies Yrf’s making! But Karan needs to tone down his disdain.

        Also, the way he threw Kajol under the bus in his book after their fight makes me think his loyalty isn’t as strong as he thinks it is. I’m not Kajol fan but she had been extremely dignified.

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        • It was interesting how he handled Kajol in his book. She is in it for a long time, stories about the making of DDLJ and Kuch Kuch and stuff, and it is all very warm and appropriate (no big scandals revealed, generally talking about her with love). And then he hits the point where they broke up and talks specifically about the tweet she made (which was a public tweet) and how it hurt him. So yes, it was super weird and also just plain dumb to make public that he was ending a lifelong friendship. But on the other hand, he didn’t actually use the book to punish her. If he was really petty he could have revealed about her affairs, or her marriage, or any kind of secret stuff she didn’t want to come out. But he didn’t cross that line, just said “this is what she did and it hurt me”. I agree though, Kajol handled it with a lot of dignity. Even that amount of publicity, a friend making public your friendship break-up, is painful. And she didn’t react.

          On Tue, May 14, 2019 at 1:07 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  7. I like KJo, think he’s a genius. To me, Bollywood says “India” the way the eagle says America, and Karan Johar is the poster boy of all that’s good and bad in the Hindi-driven part of the industry. He does everything: TV, fashion, produce, direct, mentor, write, party, goof off, make mistakes, make money, talk too much then not enough. He can be disdainful and a suck-up, innovative and hum-drum, irritating and refreshing, overexposed and masked. Never a bore, he’s always a complex and fascinating icon of a complex and fascinating institution. While there’s always room for growth, I wouldn’t change anything about KJo geared towards “fixing” his image. Unless of course, he starts to take that big slide into Pariahville. Which I don’t believe he or Indian cinema ever will. He’s too smart and Bollywood is too entrenched. Hindi films have survived damning, occasionally ignorant, criticism from Indians and non-Indians alike. That’s because, bombs or blockbusters, they are genuine; always true to themselves. Likewise KJo. I don’t think he “fakes” anything. I think he’s always whatever at the moment feels genuine. He jumps in with both feet, swims or sinks, but never drowns. I fully expect to see him, 20, 30 years from now, wrinkled, stooped but dressed in something shiny, accepting an award from the Prime Minister for his “noble contribution to our beloved country and our beloved movies.”

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    • This reminds me of Raj Kapoor’s death scene. Similar to Karan Johar, his films were vilified for years by the “reviewers” and the government, while the public continued to love them. At the end of his life, ill with diabetes, heart problems, everything else, the Indian government decided to give him an award. He flew to Delhi to receive it in a televised ceremony and, as he stood up to approach the stage, suddenly collapsed with a massive heart attack. While the cameras watched, he was rushed outside to the Presidents personal ambulance (always available in case of emergencies) which took him to the local hospital, where he died. It’s perfect, he died just as showy and over the top and publicly as he lived.

      On Tue, May 14, 2019 at 2:22 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • I agree with Maria’s comment completely.

      In fact, why does KJo need to “fix” his image at all? He’s arguably the most interesting complex man in Hindu cinema. Unlike SRK, his films aren’t flopping. And he makes the right partnerships for promoting pan Indian cinema.

      As for nepotism, Ananya.is getting better reviews than Tara, and both Alia and Varun are doing far better than Sid careerwise. So one could make the case that Karan and Dharma are far better at spotting talent among star kids than among nonstars, so I think I prefer him bringing us the cream of the star kids crop than pushing untalented nonstars on us. Let YRF debut the nonstars instead, they seem much better at spotting people like anushka ranveer ayushman bhumi vaani parineeti.

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      • I don’t want him to necessarily change what he is doing, I just want him to change how he is presenting what he is doing. Let us see that keen business mind along with the big heart.

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        • I am usually at least reasonably impressed with what he has to say during any business-oriented or director-oriented interviews I catch of him on YouTube. My only complaint might be that he hogs the mike, not letting anyone else get a word in edgewise. But that just shows his enthusiasm and plethora of knowledge. But maybe a few more such interviews and having than well publicized would balance out the fun side.

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          • I remember when he started Koffee thinking “this is amazing, this brilliant artist and powerful businessman is taking time out to indulge his silly side”. And now it feels like it has flipped around, his main identity is the silly side instead of the brilliant artist and businessman. Maybe time for a new show? “Java with Johar”? Which is deep discussions of the future of the industry and film as art and so on with the other big movers and shakers. Forget Karan-Kareena, I want to see a Karan-Zoya conversation.

            On Tue, May 14, 2019 at 5:59 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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            Liked by 1 person

  8. He’s clearly really smart and creative but I think he’s too transparent and if he was more aware of his image, he would adjust it in a way to be more appealing. He just doesn’t care I think.
    People get annoyed with him cause he’s constantly promoting star kids in the lead roles which is annoying, but no one’s telling him to not help his friend’s kids, just to give equal opportunities to others maybe?
    But from a business point of view, I get it. I mean debuting star kids generates so much more excitement from the public and thus more money. But he should remember all of the actors who started off as nothing and made it big, including the ones who began their “star family”. I mean if he took risks and gave roles to total outsiders more (aside from one role in an ensemble cast) then people wouldn’t find it as irritating. Nepotism is one of the things a lot of people hate about Bollywood and Karan shoves all the star kids down everyone’s throats. But if he actually held auditions and for example cast a total outsider in Raazi, people would slowly move past the nepotism thing.
    Anyway I love his movies, I think he’s quite an emotional and deep person from his more personal interviews. I wish he’d make another kal Ho Na Ho or KANK type of film with SRK, Rani, Preity etc. Btw what’s his relationship like with Preity or Rani these days?? I’m just curious

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    • See, where I think he is making his mistake is that he is giving opportunities to others, but he isn’t promoting that. His last film as a director featured three established actors from outside of the industry, plus one star kid who had more than proved himself (Anushka, Aish, Fawad, and Ranbir). But he wasn’t bringing Anushka to parties with him or giving her a big personal interview on his shows. Kiara Advani is another protogee, total outsider. But again, not going to the parties with him. He needs to start talking more about the films where he did use some kind of interview process and his purely professional relationship with some of those actors he uses once and never again.

      On Tue, May 14, 2019 at 2:58 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  9. I highly doubt that he called, “Aditya Chopra and tried to get him to drop Ranveer and Anushka from his movie because they’re too ugly!” He knows Aditya waaaay better than that and he loves Ranveer. And is this true: “Didn’t Aysuhmann say that he tried to audition with Dharma but was told “We don’t take non-star kids.”?
    I think he is pretty smart and has done amazing things with Dharma. Please, everyone remember, this whole nepatism nonsense started with the BIGGEST WACKO of them all: Kangana!!!! He has done a lot for a lot of people, he just realized that she was crazy first.

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    • I think the Ayushmann story, said on Koffee with Karan’s encouragement, was more about them wanting established stars or something like that.

      It’s interesting with the “ugly” comment, because acting and film is an industry where personal appearance matters. So yes, absolutely, there are roles where Anushka’s appearance would make her not right for the part. Sultan for instance, it was a bit of a stretch because she was playing a wrestler but is so thin and does not appear to be muscled. I think absolutely Karan and Adi talk over major casting decisions and Karan gives his opinion based on a variety of reasons (like, “don’t hire Kangana, she’s totally nuts”) and that is his prerogative.

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    • Karan himself revealed this on a much older episode of KwK that he swung by YRF’s office and noticed Anushka and Ranveer and told Adi they weren’t good looking enough. to be mainstream hero/heroine. This was during BBB in 2011 so much before Ranveer made it big.
      Ditto for the other comment – Dharma said something like they work with only established stars/star kids

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      • I can believe both those comments, but I also don’t necessarily think they are inappropriate? There is a particular look that goes with being a mainstream lead, nothing wrong in saying whether or not someone has it. And it’s a business plan to only take established people, not do open auditions. My company works the same way, I was the last hire from an ad, everyone else was word of mouth recommendations.

        On Tue, May 14, 2019 at 6:02 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • It’s fine to take established people or someone who has wom, but publicizing that as “we only hire established/star kids” is a little icky. It could at the very least be messaged better, but Karan feeds off on this, he loves to elicit an extreme reaction in others. And it just sounds cliquey and exclusive.
          But on the other hand, at least he’s gracious enough to admit it when he’s wrong.

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          • There is an old article I read with him back when he was filming KANK or MNIK, I can’t remember which. anyway, it was the kind of serious in depth discussion of his life as an artist that we don’t really get any more. And he talked about how he only wanted to work with established stars, because that way he didn’t have to worry about them. That is, he could focus on his greater vision for the film and just slot them in as tools with familiar and reliable abilities. If he said something like that, like “I want to mentor young untried directors and the best way to make it easy for them is to cast established actors to help them with their movies”, I don’t think anyone would object. But of course he doesn’t say it like that.

            On Tue, May 14, 2019 at 9:34 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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