Hindi Film 101: Karan Johar, What Do the Numbers Say? Nepotism or No?

We’ve been talking back and forth a lot lately about the issues with Karan’s public image and how it does not reflect who he is outside of the limelight. At least, I don’t think so. And I wanted to go through the actual facts of his career, not how he presents himself but what he has accomplished behind closed doors, so we can take a look at Karan the Artist and Karan the Businessman. Most of this post is simply listing out and counting categories of films from Dharma productions.

Disclaimer: This is based on publicly available information about Karan’s career, plus his memoir which inspired no denials or corrections from anyone it talked about, and which was written with extreme honesty and openness leading me to take it as the truth.

Since the release of his second film, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, Karan has turned himself into a character from one of his movies. He is gossipy, funny, shallow, and catty. He likes who he likes and doesn’t like who he doesn’t. He is man who likes watching the celebrities rise and fall and not interfering. The impression he gives is a troll who feeds off the fame and talent of others and enjoys manipulating them. But the reality of his career and resume reveals somebody who is very very different. I want to try to write a post that focuses on Karan the professional and his remarkable accomplishments, not Karan the public figure.

Karan in his autobiography goes into great detail of his early life and childhood. I’m just going to mention the 3 important facts that relate to his life as a producer and artist:

  1. Karan’s father was a minor failed producer. He only made one successful film in his career, Dostana. His main job was as an importer-exporter, films were a hobby for him not an income. Karan was not born to power or influence in the film world.
  2. Karan was the only child of elderly parents. He has only one relative his age, a second cousin, otherwise he is completely alone in the world. He has no “nepotism” available to him.
  3. Karan was a sad sensitive child with few friends, his first real friends were in college, he is still close to them and made one of them the head of his production house. He has always been loyal to those who befriend him.

Now, moving on to his professional career. At 21, Karan met Aditya Chopra. They had seen each other at a few parties as children, Karan knew him as “Yash Uncle and Pam Aunty’s son” not as a particular person. Now, they were both out of college and loafing around the city waiting for the next chapter. Aditya was committed to film, had been his whole life, and had a successful banner (Yash Raj Films) waiting for him to take over. Karan was not planning to go into film, his father hadn’t produced a movie in years and their family banner (Dharma) was essentially dead. Besides, Karan had no training, had never thought seriously about film. But Aditya started talking to him and loved his ideas and begged him for help. It was not his connections that got Karan his start, it was his genius.

Karan and Aditya wrote DDLJ together. It was Aditya’s idea, but Karan wrote the speeches, helped him finalize the plot, everything. Aditya was the one who asked him for help, begged him even, because he recognized his talent. And when they finished the script and Aditya’s father gave him the go ahead to start filming, Aditya begged Karan to help, said he couldn’t make this film without him. This is Karan’s version (not bragging, but just saying it) in his book, and Aditya gave the seal of approval to it.

Image result for karan johar ddlj
Karan on the set of DDLJ.

On the set of DDLJ, Karan started as just the wardrobe assistant and occasional extra actor. He planned to stay just in wardrobe, he liked clothes. But as Aditya turned to him more and more, and the people on set slowly realized that he was essentially co-directing the film, he was moved out of wardrobe and into more of an assistant director role. Towards the end of the shoot, both the stars (Shahrukh and Kajol) told Karan they wanted him to direct their next movie and wouldn’t take no for an answer. This is not a normal thing. And it’s not something you would do just to be “nice” or because someone is funny and charming on set. Shahrukh and Kajol were both experienced stars by this point, and they saw something really remarkable in Karan.

Karan is very modest in his description of the Kuch Kuch Hota Hai shoot, says that it was just like an Archie comic, that he didn’t even know how to use a camera, that his father and Shahrukh put together all the details and he could just focus on his part of it. But the reality is that at 26, making his very first movie, he already attracted the top talent of the industry to him, and he broke box office records.

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Karan on the K2H2 set.

Karan is similarly modest in his description of Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, that he wanted to make a movie like Sooraj Barjatya’s and Yash Chopra’s, that everyone was very gracious and generous in agreeing to be cast by him and follow his directions. But again, look at the reality and not just how he talks about it. 6 top stars agreed to be in this movie at his convenience no questions asked, 7 if we count Rani Mukherjee. They trusted his talent and his judgement. And their faith was rewarded with the success of the film.

Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham was the first massive overseas hit. It brought Indian film to the mainstream in London, Berlin, Toronto, everywhere. DDLJ (also written by Karan) started the trend, but it was K3G that really brought it forward. K3G also built Yash Raj Films, they snapped up the distribution rights. The money YRF made from K3G box office, DVD sales, and now streaming is what keeps them churning along. Ditto K2H2 and DDLJ. Karan Johar’s original mind founded not one, but TWO of the studios that run the industry today. Love him or hate him, you have to respect that.

Post K3G, Karan had money to burn. He could have made another movie following his own vision, but he decided to artistically challenge himself. Dil Chahta Hai was the move he respected, original and different. He didn’t think he could direct something like that, so instead he wrote the script and gave the money to make it to someone else, Nikhil Advani. In his 3rd movie, Karan was already trying to nurture new talent behind the camera and push the envelope of Hindi film forward. Kal Ho Na Ho was another massive hit.

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Karan and Nikhil Advani, the first director he helped launch

Karan’s father died during the filming of Kal Ho Na Ho. Karan was now 30 and sole in charge of one of the most promising small banners in Hindi film. His immediately called his best friend from college, Apoorva Mehta, who was working in London for Eros in a distribution role and ask him to take over Dharma films. Apoorva still runs it today.

Once Karan brought on Apoorva, his first instinct was to try a risky film with a new director and newer cast. He didn’t want to do the same old thing as his previous movies, and he didn’t want to write a script and supervise closely on set like he had for Kal Ho Na Ho, causing a difficult power struggle between him and the director.. Thus, Kaal. At the last minute Karan watched the final cut and realized that it was not going to make back the money they invested. So he filmed a promotional song and managed to save the film. He also decided from then on he was only going to produce films that he supervised and fully understood as a director. After those first two mistakes, he tried to find a balance between mentoring and control.

Now, since Karan and Apoorva started running Dharma, let’s look at some numbers. Not little individual cases and issues film by film, but the broad sweep of what they have produced:

Total films produced/co-produced: 38

Number of films from first time directors: 16, 42% of the total

Number of films from female directors: 4 (11% of the total)

Non mainstream Hindi films discovered, promoted, and distributed by Dharma: The Lunchbox, The Ghazi Attack, Bahubali 1 and 2, The Bucket List. 5 films, 13% of the total

Image result for the lunchbox
Yes, Dharma gave The Lunchbox its mainstream release. But it doesn’t fit with the Dharma brand, so they don’t talk about it.

Films with female lead characters: We Are Family, Gippi, Dear Zindagi, Raazi, The Bucket List, 5 films 13% of the total.

Films with Minority Main Characters: Kurbaan (Muslim), My Name is Khan (Muslim), Hasee To Phasee (Mentally Ill), Shaandar (Sikh survivor of 1984 Pogram), Kapoor & Sons (Homosexual), Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (Muslim), Dear Zindagi (Muslim), Raazi (Muslim), Dhadak (low caste), Kalank (Muslim). 10 films, 26% of the total films.

Films that Deal with Controversial Social Issues (obviously some overlap with previous section): Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, infidelity and divorce. Dostana, LGBTQ issues. Kurbaan, the Muslim minority and prejudice. My Name is Khan, the Muslim minority and prejudice. We Are Family, divorce. Agneepath, human trafficking. Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu, divorce. Gori Tere Pyar Main, village improvements. Hasee To Phasee, feminism and mental health. 2 States, parental and spousal abuse. Ungli, corruption. Kapoor & Sons, LGBTQ issues. Dear Zindagi, mental health. The Bucket List, feminism and organ donation. Dhadak, honor killings. 15 films, 40% of the total in which social issues are embedded into the plot and impossible to ignore.

Image result for dhadak hindi
Dhadak was a remake, and a cheap attempt to launch star kids, and all the other bad things you want to say. But it was also the first mainstream Hindi film to deal with caste and honor killings in literally YEARS. If they just wanted a good launch film for Janhvi, they could have picked any script.

Films outside of the romance genre: Agneepath, Ungli, Brothers, Dear Zindagi, Bahubali 1 and 2, The Ghazi Attack, Ittefaq, Raazi, The Bucket List, Simmba, Kesari. 12 total, 31% of their output.

Films Featuring Talented Unconnected in the Hindi Industry: Wake Up Sid (Konkona Sen Sharma), Gippi (Riya Vij), The Lunchbox (Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur), Kapoor & Sons (Fawad Khan), The Ghazi Attack (Taapsee Pannu and Rana Duggabatti) 5 films 13% of total

Films Featuring Established Mainstream Actors With No Close Personal Relationship to Karan*: Kaal (John Abraham, Viviek Oboroi, Esha Deol, Lara Dutta), Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (Preity Zinta), Dostana (Priyanka Chopra and John Abraham), Kurbaan (Saif Ali Khan and Viviek Oboroi), I Hate Luv Storys (Imraan Khan), We Are Family (Arjun Rampal), Agneepath (Sanjay Dutt, Hrithik Roshan,Rishi Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra), Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu (Imraan Khan), Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (Deepika Padukone), Gori Tere Pyaar Main (Imraan Khan), Hasee To Phasee (Parineeti Chopra), 2 States (Arjun Kapoor), Ungli (Emraan Khan), Brothers (Jacqueline Fernandez), Shaandar (Shahid Kapoor), Kapoor & Sons (Ratna Pathak, Rishi Kapoor), Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (Anushka Sharma, Aishwarya Rai), OK Jaanu (Shraddha Kapoor and Aditya Roy Kapoor), Ittefaq (Sonakshi Sinha, Akshaye Khanna), Bucket List (Madhuri), Simmba (Ranveer Singh), Kalank (Sanjay Dutt, Madhuri Dixit, Aditya Roy Kapoor, Sonakshi Sinha), Student of the Year (Tiger Shroff). 23 films, 60% of the total

Image result for Good News Dharma
Another one coming soon, big name leads, controversial topic, first time director. That’s the Dharma balance, use the star power to get the hard films out there.

Films Featuring Actors with No Relatives in the Film Industry*: Kaal (John Abraham, Lara Dutta), Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (Shahrukh Khan, Preity Zinta), Dostana (Priyanka Chopra, John Abraham), Student of the Year (Sidharth Malhotra), Gippi (Riya Vij), Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (Deepika Padukone), The Lunchbox (Irrfan Khan, Huma Qureshi), Hasee To Phasee (Sidharth Malhotra), Brothers (Sidharth Malhotra, Jacqueline Fernandez), Kapoor & Sons (Sidharth Malhotra, Fawad Khan), Baar Baar Dekho (Sidharth Malhotra, Katrina Kaif), Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (Aishwarya Rai, Anushka Sharma), The Ghazi Attack (Taapsee Pannu), Simmba (Ranveer Singh), Kesari (Akshay Kumar), Student of the Year (Tara Sutaria). 15 Films, 40% of the total.

Now, comparison with the industry as a whole! Just limiting it down to mainstream releases of 2018, because that is a manageable sample size for me, and a few easy to find objective measures (for instance, I wanted to include first time directors, but too many of them don’t have enough of a record online for me to be sure):

Total Number of films I am including: 71

Percentage of Films with Female Leads: Padmavat, Pari, Hichki, Raazi (Dharma produced), Veere Di Wedding, Happy Phir Bhaag Jayegi, Manmarziyaan, Helicopter Eela, 8 films, 11% of total.

Percentage of Films with Female Directors: Raazi (Dharma Produced), Manto. 2 women, 3%

Percentage of Films with Minority Main Characters: Hichki (disabled), Beyond the Clouds (Muslim), Omerta (Muslim), Raazi (Dharma Produced, Muslim), Sanju (Muslim), Dhadak (low caste, Dharma Produced), Mulk (Muslim), Gold (Muslim), Laila Majnu (Muslim), Kedarnath (Muslim), 10 Films, 14% of Total.

Dharma produces only 2% more female lead films than the average (although to be fair, 2018 was high on female lead films).

But the other categories are not even close:

3 times as many female directors work from Dharma versus the industry average.

Twice as many films have a minority lead character versus the industry average.

2018 gave us a good sample in general, but I want to compare with another banner over time. Anurag Kashyap gets a lot of deserved credit for discovering new talent. And he has produced 37 films, almost as many as Karan (and a few of them co-produced with Karan). Of the films he has produced:

Number of Films with First Time Directors: 10 films, 27% of total

Number of Films with Female Directors: 0 films, 0% of total

Number of Films with Leads who HAVE Relatives in the Industry*: That Girl in Yellow Boots (Kalki married Anurag, no greater nepotism than that), Shaitan (Kalki again), Aiyyaa (Rani Mukherjee), Luv Shuv To Chicken Khurrana (Kunal Kapoor, married to Amitabh’s niece), Lootera (Sonakshi Sinha), Hasee Toh Phasee (Parineeti Chopra, Priyanka’s cousin), Bombay Velvet (Ranbir Kapoor), Masaan (Vicky Kaushal, father is a stunt coordinator), Shaandar (Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt), Udta Punjab (Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Kareena Kapoor), Raman Raghav 2.0 (Vicky Kaushal), Bhavesh Joshi Superhero (Harshwardhan Kapoor), Manmaarziyaan (Abhishek Bachchan, Vicky Kaushal). 13 Films, 36% of total

You can disagree with a data point here and there, but looking at the raw numbers, what I am seeing is that Karan has a disproportionate focus on encourage new director talent, especially female talent.

The majority of his films feature established popular actors who have no particular connection to him. And so long as they are established, he doesn’t care if they come from a film family background or not.

30% of his films are not “Dharma” films, not the light romance that his studio is perceived as making. 40% of his films, including many of them that are “just” romances, deal with serious controversial social issues. A quarter of his films, again including many of them that are “just” romances, have a lead that is a member of a minority community.

Let me suggest a hypothesis. Perhaps the reason Karan spends so much time on talk shows and making nice in public and pretending to be harmless is so he can quietly produce films ranging from Kapoor & Sons to Dhadak that deal sensitively with taboo topics, topics every other mainstream filmmaker in India avoids. Perhaps the reason he uses so many established stars is so he can help so many new directors get started. Perhaps the reason he makes jokes about his female characters is so no one notices that Dharma leads the industry in promoting female stories and female talent. Perhaps the reason Dharma keeps pretending to be the harmless romance company is so no one notices that it has had 3 movies threatened with boycotts by the religious right in the past 10 years (Wake Up Sid, My Name is Khan, and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil). Generally, is it possible that Karan is peacocking around and hiding in plain sight so no one notices what is happening behind the curtain?

Image result for karan johar

*All of these people have been to his parties and vice-versa and have appeared on his talk show. None of them were mentored by him, none of them invited him to their weddings, none of them support him at his father’s funeral, they are friends but they are not family. Notice I exclude Kareena, Kajol, Shahrukh, Alia, Varun, Sidharth, Rani, Abhishek, Amitabh, and even Akshay since he is Twinkle’s husband and Ajay since he is Kajol’s, and Saif after he married Kareena.

*I am literally looking for people with no relatives. Karan is accused of “nepotism”, let’s try to find actors who got their start through relatives. Doesn’t matter if they are big names or small or found adopted family in the industry or ended up marrying a fellow actor, were they born into it? I’m even being generous and only counting Shahrukh once.

*Anurag is known for discovering new talent, but I want to show that even the company that is the best at focusing on new talent still ends up using folks from within the industry. Just because they are there.

36 thoughts on “Hindi Film 101: Karan Johar, What Do the Numbers Say? Nepotism or No?

  1. Are you tweeting this? I want to retweet it. I am followed by a lot of people who need to read this. Great great post!!


  2. I like your take on Karan and have no issue with his dichotomous personages. We all have contrasting layers.

    BTW, I saw Anurag Kashyap in a film, Anjali CBI, I think, Tamil, I think. He played the villain and he was frightening marvelous. I Wiki’ed him and, except for marrying Kalki, the guy is amazing.


    • He’s an odd dude. I didn’t like him, because he tends to do overly dramatic self-pitying public statements (for instance, blaming the Indian public for not appreciating Bombay Velvet), and he tends to date/marry much much younger women. But on the other hand, I really like how friendly and enthusiastic he is about Karan, and appearing in mainstream films. He seems like a snob but he really isn’t. And while I may not like his films because they are a bit too male focused for me, I can appreciate the intelligene of his style. Most of all, his reaction to a #MeToo scandal at his production house really really impressed me.

      Oh, and you should watch Akira if you haven’t! I really like it, and Anurag has another strange part as a villain.

      On Tue, May 28, 2019 at 3:58 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



    • Thank you! Will fix. And I considered adding Nawazuddin, but I did specify “lead” actors. I haven’t seen it, is he definitely a leading role?

      On Tue, May 28, 2019 at 8:14 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  3. What a great post! It is so refreshing to read about Karan and his career without all the snarky remarks people make about his public persona. Whatever you may think of Karan the person, you’ve demonstrated here that you can’t take his remarkable success–and, yes, maybe, his subversiveness–away from him.

    I didn’t know as many of the details behind his involvement in DDLJ. I knew that Karan and Adidya only casually knew one another before the film, but I did not know (or didn’t remember) that Karan essentially co-directed the movie and wrote the script. Of course I remembered the SRK-Kajol story about promising to be in Karan’s first film. That story always seemed sort of whimsical to me, but knowing what you’ve shared here it’s clear that they recognized Karan’s brilliance and wanted to work with him.

    I will also retweet. People should read this.


    • Karan’s version in his autobiography of how K2H2 came to be is very clear. Shahrukh said “Karan, when are you directing me?” on the set of DDLJ, and then called across and confirmed with Kajol too. Karan didn’t have a script or an idea or anything. He tells the story as a “Shahrukh was so wonderful and generous and encouraging” story. But I can’t imagine he would have made such a firm offer if he didn’t see Karan’s talent. And he was right of course, Kuch Kuch changed all their lives and made their careers.

      I’m glad you liked the post! It was satisfying to me to see it all written out. I vaguely felt some of the things, like Karan having more female directors and new directors, but stuff like the number of films with minority lead characters really surprised me when I wrote it out.

      On Tue, May 28, 2019 at 9:03 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  4. Very interesting. Btw Wake up Sid was threatened with boycotts for religions reasons? Also kal Ho Na Ho could be added to the no close personal relationship with Karan and the outsiders category right?


    • I decided to start post-Kal Ho Na Ho, after Karan was officially in charge of Dharma.

      Yep, Wake Up Sid was threatened with boycotts because the characters use “Bombay” instead of “Mumbai”. Karan had to come out and explain and apologize and take responsibility. The Shiv Sena just does not like him.

      On Wed, May 29, 2019 at 2:42 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  5. Very interesting post, but I disagree with: “Films Featuring Actors with No Relatives in the Film Industry” & “Films Featuring Established Mainstream Actors With No Close Personal Relationship to Karan”.
    The % can be high but it’s nothing to be proud of, I mean, he casted SRK and Preity in KANK, because they were ther biggest stars at that moment. Preity was the 2nd choice, and she in not the heroine. The main pair have very close relationship with Karan, so IMO the movie should be on the list. Anushka in ADHM, Deepika in YJHD – don’t have close relationship with Karan (maybe), but were big stars. He wants his movies to be big so he hires stars, it’s normal, and he doesn’t do it to help somebody, but to earn money (nothing wrong with that, he is a businessman and a good one). The problem people have with him is that he doesn’t cast new people and doesn’t give new talented people a chance (maybe except directors). Is there at least one actor/actress without connections who made it thanks to Karan? I can only think about Sid Malhotra, and he is a strange example because he is not talented, and he didn’t make it big really. This is the problem. I understand he cast famous faces, but he has this short list of names he hires and doesn’t want to hear about new people.

    (I don’t remember, if it was in his book or in some interview, when he was talking about nepotism, he said it’s not true he only cast star kids, because he offered Nawazuddin Siddiqui a role (and Nawaz refused) In my opinion it doesn’t count because N. was famous at that point and Karan didn’t do him any favour. )

    Anurag’s list:
    Kunal Kapoor married Amitabh’s niece in 2015, and Luv chicken something something is from 2012.


    • I don’t think it is anything to be proud of either! It just is what is. He is accused of nepotism, but that’s not true. He likes casting actors who are established and already have a fan following, not actors he is related to or likes personally.

      Let me rephrase what you say “The problem people have with him is that he doesn’t cast new people and doesn’t give new talented people a chance (maybe except directors).” What if you said instead “he gives new talented people a chance everywhere except actors”. Which is true, he helps tons of new directors and struggling directors get a shot. Amit Trivedi, the composer, has a career thanks to Karan too. Anurag Kashyap gave him a couple small films, and then Karan gave him his first real mainstream job with Wake Up Sid. Cinematographer Hemant Chaturvedi did Company and Maqbool, and then Karan picked him for Kurbaan and Brothers. Ayesha Devitre was a make-up artist who Karan picked and turned into a writer with Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu and Kapoor & Sons. And that’s just me taking a few films at random and looking down the production list. Do we really want to fault a producer for not launching many new stars when he encourages new talent in every other field besides acting?


      • As long as he does good movies with this limited set of actors , no we can’t fault him. But we all know he makes a lot of mistakes in casting. E.g Baar Baar Dekho, as you said, it’s first time director, and maybe also the last, because Karan hired Katrina and Sid, and none of them is good actor. Then Kalank, and I didn’t love Dear Zindagi too because in my opinion Alia looks like 12 y/o and I wasn’t buying her as a serious cinematographer who has many problems in her relationships.


        • Now that is a criticism I can get behind!!!! And one that makes complete sense from what Karan has said about himself as an artist. He pictures very particular people in roles when he is planning a movie. Essentially it is the same way I write a fanfic, I change my story around to match the actors I want to use and I use the actor names instead of characters.

          It works sometimes, but not always. Shahrukh was a hard fit in KANK, and I think Karan is shoving Alia into boxes where she doesn’t quite fit right. On the other hand, SRK and Kajol in Kuch Kuch were perfection, and so was Rani in KANK, Ranbir and Aish in ADHM, and so on.

          What really strikes me is the times when he hasn’t been able to get the actor he wrote for, how great it turns out! Rani was a replacement for Twinkle in KKHH, and Preity for Kareena in KHNH. I think Saif was a replacement in KHNH too but I can’t remember who for. So maybe Karan should keep writing and planning for one cast, but not actually cast them.


      • The Amit Trivedi bit is reaaaaaaallllly stretching it.

        SEL did the music for Wake Up Sid. Not Amit Trivedi – he did the background score. Ranbir liked that part of the background music and wanted it to be made into a song and used in SOME commercial movie if not this one. It’s the only song by Amit Trivedi in the album. This all happened AFTER he’d already worked on Dev D and won every major award for it, incl the National Award.


  6. How many new directors or crew he has launched since 2015. I believe Dharma/Karan was more open to new talents when they were smaller. All their good movies were smaller rom-coms/relationship dramas with new directors,new crew with less risk involved. Post the success of Baahubali (which earned him a good lot of money,just by being a distributor.And no,KJo didn’t seek them out,Rana went and set the ball rolling on this)Dharma seems to push for the big movies.The success of Raazi gave him a big in-house star also. Even when he introduced Alia,Varun in SOTY,there wasn’t a that much clamor of nepotism. It started when he started making it a practise-a business model. The Karan Johar/Dharma in the last few years is different from the Karan/Dharma of earlier years and that is evident in the movies that Dharma is making and the way Karan Johar conducts himself. Even the industry,world around us has changed so much in the last few years and it’s reflective in the audience preferences, perception building etc
    As for comparison with Anurag Kashyap,does he even make as many movies or has the same turnover as Dharma? If you want to compare,it should be with YRF cos they are similar in the money power,business goals and operating model. They have introduced a lot more stars and directors who doesn’t have a connection with anyone(or one that we don’t know of)
    Also assuming all you are saying is good,why is Karan Johar hampering his own brand? And when he’s doing that,why expect people not to judge him?
    Lastly comparing one year of data on one side with 10-12 yrs worth of data on the other side will always be skewed in favor of the latter. Why even bother?


    • Good News, their next film, will have a first time director. Baar Baar Dekho in 2016 had a first time director (and a woman). Ghazi Attack had a first time director (from the southern industries). Dear Zindagi and Raazi weren’t first time directors, but they were women who had a hard time getting noticed or produced and Karan gave them a much larger platform. Ittefaq had a first time director. Kargil Girl will have a first time director. Shershah will have a southern director making his first Hindi film. Kesari had a director who had been working on Punjabi films since 2009. There’s an untitled horror movie that Bhumi and Vicky are supposed to do that will have a first time director. 22 films since 2015 (counting the upcoming ones), 6 of them with new directors. 2 of them with women directors. 3 with directors from other industries.

      Anurag does make the same number of movies, that’s part of why I picked him. 37 films, versus 38. And Anurag is extremely good at finding and encouraging talent in front of the camera, which is wonderful and valuable. But he is just not as good as Dharma at finding and encouraging new directors, especially women. That doesn’t take anything away from what Anurag does, or mean that Dharma couldn’t be better at finding in front of the camera talent. But it also doesn’t take away from the fact that Dharma finds and encourages new directors. YRF is a less good comparison, they have slowed their output of new films in the past few years, while Dharma has increased the number of films released.

      You are right that one year of data will be skewed versus many years. But this is the best I can do with the time I have. Even just looking at that one year, Dharma produced two movies with minority lead characters, one movie with a woman director, and one female lead film. No other studio did that in 2018.

      I agree that Karan is conducting himself oddly in public and pushing a narrative of discovering new talent from within the industry and it is a problem. But what I find interesting is that if you look at what his studio is actually doing, it does not match how he conducts himself in public. Behind the camera, he is finding and encouraging different kinds of talent and the stories he is producing are different kinds of stories. Both these things can be true.

      On Wed, May 29, 2019 at 9:33 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  7. I’m not a Karan Johar fan but I don’t think he needs to be defended in terms of how he runs his business. Ultimately, it’s a private company and he can do what he thinks is appropriate. If he wants to use star kids, it’s his choice. That’s how a lot of small businesses are run – you hire people in your family or friends because you know and like them and are under no obligation to create opportunities for others.

    The main reason he gets flak is that he is too visible and always in everyone’s face. It gets tiring to see him everywhere and putting his two cents into every medium, every controversy, and every relationship. There is no escape from him. He shows up on reality shows, he judges dance shows, he doles out advice on radio shows and now he’s coming to annoy more people on Netflix. He calls the paparazzi to come and take pictures even when his little kids have a birthday party because he wants to show off all his connections. Nobody would care if a big show wasn’t being made of it.


    • What bothers me is when criticism of his persona gets extended to criticism of his business and art. I just don’t like the inexactness. You can complain all you want about his celebrity behavior, but that doesn’t take away from what he does elsewhere. Like, with Ranveer, people mostly manage to divide his performance in Bajirao Mastani from his ridiculous behavior in promoting Bajirao Mastani.

      Anyway, we agree, as a businessman there aren’t really a lot of legitimate complaints to be made, but as a public person there are.


      • That’s because Ranveer is still new and hasn’t fully exhausted the audience yet. There are people who dislike him because of his personality but that would grow ten fold if it goes on for 20 years.

        All actors/celebs have the best years of their career in the beginning because at that point they are considered refreshing and giving the audience another choice away from the firmly established stars of the last 30 years. You will see this change in the next 5 years when he’s been around for a long time – people would start getting annoyed of him flaunting his marriage/wife, the attention-seeking would get irritating, the flashy clothes would become dull, and since stories are limited in movies as it is, his work will start getting called repetitive. It’s how the cycle works. Someone else will take the new and refreshing place then.

        Karan in in the place where people are just tired of him where the same things they used to like once upon a time will make them roll their eyes now. People used to love KwK years ago but now people groan even hearing about it. There is no way to successfully overcome that change in atmosphere. It is what it is.


        • So, Karan and the general public need to go to couple’s counseling together and rediscover the spark?

          Which I guess is what a really good PR consultant is supposed to do! Interpret the needs and wants of the public and help the celebrity find a way to fulfill them without essentially changing themselves.


          • What could a PR person possibly offer him? They might suggest reducing his visibility but is that really an option for him? He does all those reality shows and appearances because it’s a source of income for him. Movies can be shaky and if things don’t go well, Karan’s personal income helps tides things over. Not only that, he has kids now so money is more important than ever for him so he would not be willing to take cuts in that just for the sake of his image.

            He already does more series appearances like Davos and director’s roundtables and panel discussions. But the truth is that those things don’t get attention because they are boring. Most people have no interest and the media doesn’t cover it a lot either.

            The only thing that gets a lot of coverage is him launching yet another star kid or making some stupid catty remark or theories about him being a bad friend because he clashes his movies with people he claims he is close to. But that can’t be changed either. Dharma is making so many movies nowadays that if he wants to spread them out over the year, it’s going to end up clashing somewhere with someone’s movie.

            I don’t think there are any practical solutions. The only thing he can hope for is that he makes good movies and the public ends up liking them. That would keep the criticism on the lower end.


          • I’m not a PR professional, but this is the situation they are supposed to solve, the issue of how to keep doing what you are doing but make people react in a different way.

            Good point about the money to be made in those personal appearances and so on. But long term, that money is going to dry up if folks get tired of him. Although maybe he doesn’t care long term, maybe he just wants the money now to build up Dharma and then will disappear again once he has what he needs?


  8. I think films that Dharma co-presents should be removed out of the equation. Because he’s just on board as a co-presenter. He started co productions if any of the Dharma talent starred in the film (BBD, Dear Zindagi). Don’t think he or Dharma should be credited for those movies for e.g. Baar Baar Dekho is essentially Excel. Likewise for Ghazi Attack and Baahubali.
    That aside, the biggest reason he gets so much backlash is because he is essentially curating a career for Alia Bhatt and maybe for others too now. That just unevens the playing field. She gets roles/movies that are tailor made for her. DZ was supposed to star someone else but she got in. Now she’s very hardworking and makes use of those opportunities but even then Alia’s competitors aren’t competing with Alia – they’re competing with Karan’s might and Alia.


    • He started with Alia and is now on to Jhanvi, Ananya, and the upcoming Shanaya. He is going to curate a career for all of them. I don’t think people care what he personally does at Dharma but he is using his power and connections to implant his so-called young discoveries into every movie, even ones from other production houses. It doesn’t leave a lot of room for others.


      • I’m holding off on judgement with Janhvi and Ananya and Shanaya. It’s possible they just have a two or three film deal with him. Could be Janhvi will get her two Dharma movies and then never work with him again. But so long as her second movie is still in the works, it’s to his advantage to keep promoting her. Look at Varun, he did 2 Dharma films right away and then has been doing all kinds of weird other things since then, we don’t really think of him as a “Dharma” star, do we?


    • I don’t know, I considered removing the co-presentations. But Baar Baar Dekho, for instance, was stuck in limbo for 2 years, Excel had bought it but wasn’t able to pull together a cast or move forward in any way. Karan came on, picked Sid and Kat to star, and suddenly there was movement and the thing actually got made and released. Karan was looking for a project for Sid, sure, but that doesn’t change exactly which project he chose (a female scripted and directed movie by a first time director). And it wouldn’t have gotten made if he hadn’t taken a hand.

      Agree he is getting a lot of backlash for relying too much on Alia right now. And that is a problem. But on the flipside, I don’t think he gets enough credit for the other things he does, like promoting new talent behind the camera and getting risky scripts produced and released, and bringing non-Hindi films to Hindi theaters.

      On Wed, May 29, 2019 at 1:55 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



      • He doesn’t get enough credit for the latter because that’s not the theme he’s trying to sell. OTOH he makes a conscious effort to sell him+Alia together. Magazine covers, KwK, awards. He really should dial it down a notch. And maybe Alia can help by not claiming all she had to do was make a phone call to get the movie. Kalank would’ve been a much better movie if they cast someone more grownup else in Alia’s role


  9. If one of my analysts presented a similar data analysis to me at work, I’d throw it out. Not being mean, I honestly would. There are too many data points in here that I would have excluded, and they all help make Karan look good. Like divorce being the social issue addressed in so many of his movies. Umm, no. Bollywood has a long history of showing rich people who don’t know how to make marriage work. Karan didn’t come up with that nor do his movies do a good job of normalizing divorce. They just make it look like a rich person problem. I could go on.


    • Wow sounds like you’re ready to start your own blog instead of injecting an unnecessarily condescending comment on this one! Can’t wait for that!


  10. I don’t understand the list of “film featuring people with no personal connection or industry connection” because for every Priyanka in Dostana there’s an Abhishek in that very movie. In every example there’s a nepotistic or personal connection cast member. Obviously every single cast member can’t be from this group but the point is he really does heavy up on connected people. He introduces new actors who are “connected” and then they throw in a couple fandoms for good measure (Sid, Tara).


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