Karan Johar (born 25 May 1972), often informally referred to as KJo, is an Indian film director, producer, screenwriter, costume designer, actor and television personality who is primarily known for his work in Hindi films. He is the son of Hiroo Johar and the acclaimed producer Yash Johar.
Johar made his directorial debut with the blockbuster romance Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), which earned him the Filmfare Awards for Best Director and Best Screenplay. His next two films were the ensemble dramas Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… (2001) and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006), which were both very successful in the overseas market. His counter-terrorism drama My Name Is Khan (2010) earned him his second Filmfare Award for Best Director. These, along with the several successful films he has produced under the Dharma Productions banner, have established him as one of the leading director-producers in Hindi cinema
Early and personal life
Karan Johar was born in Mumbai, India to Indian Bollywood film producer Yash Johar, founder of Dharma Productions and Hiroo Johar. He studied at the Greenlawns High School and attended H.R. College of Commerce and Economics, both in Mumbai. He received a master’s degree in French.
Johar started his career in entertainment industry as an actor, he played the role of ‘Shrikant’ in 1989 Doordarshan Serial Indradhanush. As a child, he was influenced by commercial Indian cinema: He cites Raj Kapoor, Yash Chopra and Sooraj R. 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 film, Lage Raho Munna Bhai which was critical of numerology, Johar decided to stop this practice.
Johar is a single father to twins (1 boy and 1 girl) through surrogacy. The twins were born at Masrani Hospital in Mumbai. Johar named his son Yash – after his father; and his daugter Roohi – rearranged from his mother’s name Hiroo.
Johar entered the film industry as an assistant director on Aditya Chopra‘s Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995), which is regarded as a landmark in Hindi cinema. He then made his own directorial debut with the blockbuster romance 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 another man (Salman Khan). The film became a major blockbuster at the box office and received mostly positive reviews from critics. Writing for Planet Bollywood, critic Anish Khanna commented that “Karan 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 multi-starrer 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 major blockbuster at the box office and received mostly 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.”
Johar’s third directorial venture was the multi-starrer romantic drama Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006), which dealt with the controversial subject of marital infidelity against the backdrop of non-resident Indians living in New York City. The film’s plot follows a washed-up athlete (Shah Rukh Khan), whose frustration with the professional success of his wife (Preity Zinta) results in an extramarital affair with a family friend (Rani Mukerji) who is also unhappy with her marriage to her childhood friend (Abhishek Bachchan). The film was a major success in India and an even larger success overseas. It received mostly 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 Karan 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.”
Johar’s fourth directorial venture was the counter-terrorism drama My Name Is Khan (2010). The plot follows a Muslim man and his wife, played by Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol, who live in San Francisco and face racial prejudice after the September 11 attacks. The film became a major commercial success, 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.” The film won Johar his second Filmfare Award for Best Director.
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, Varun Dhawan, and Alia Bhatt). 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 very well at the box office but earned positive reviews from critics.
Johar’s next directorial venture was the romantic drama film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016), starring Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Ranbir Kapoor and Anushka Sharma in lead roles. The film received mostly positive reviews from critics and was a commercial success.
Johar’s directorial work (with the exception of Bombay Talkies) has been 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 successes including Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003), Dostana (2008), I Hate Luv Storys (2010), Agneepath (2012), Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013), 2 States (2014), Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania (2014) and Kapoor & Sons (2016).
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 celebrity-based talk show where he interviews actors, directors, producers, and other prominent members of the Hindi film industry. The first season aired from 2004 to 2005, the second season aired in 2007, the third season aired from 2010 to 2011, the fourth season aired from 2013 to 2014, and the fifth season started airing on 6 November 2016.
- “Indradhanush” Doordarshan TV Serial (1989) – Srikanth
- Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) – Rocky
- Main Hoon Na (2004) – credits
- Home Delivery: Aapko… Ghar Tak (2005) – himself
- Alag (2006) – (himself/voice in the song “Sabse Alag”)
- Salaam-e-Ishq (2007) – (himself/voice)
- Om Shanti Om (2007) – (cameo as himself)
- C Kkompany (2008) – (cameo as the Game show host)
- Fashion (2008) – (cameo as himself)
- Luck by Chance (2009) – (cameo as himself)
- Bombay Velvet (2015) – Kaizad Khambatta
- Shaandaar (2015) – himself
- 1999: National Film Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment (Director) – Kuch Kuch Hota Hai
- 1999: Filmfare Best Director Award – Kuch Kuch Hota Hai
- 1999: Filmfare Best Screenplay Award – Kuch Kuch Hota Hai
- 2002: Filmfare Best Dialogue Award – Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham
- 2011: Filmfare Best Director Award – My Name Is Khan
- 2002: Filmfare Best Director Award – Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham
- 2004: Filmfare Best Movie Award – Kal Ho Na Ho
- 2008: Filmfare Best Director Award – Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna
- 2009: Filmfare Best Movie Award – Dostana
- 2010: Filmfare Best Movie Award – Wake Up Sid
- 2001: IIFA Award for Best Costume Designer – Mohabbatein
- 2002: IIFA Award for Best Dialogue – Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham
- 2004: IIFA Award for Best Story – Kal Ho Na Ho
- 2011: IIFA Award for Best Director – My Name Is Khan
- 2002: IIFA Award for Best Director – Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham
- 2008: IIFA Award for Best Director – Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna
- 2011: Apsara Award for Best Director – My Name Is Khan
- 2013: President’s Honour – Student of the Year
- 1999: Screen Award for Best Director – Kuch Kuch Hota Hai
- 2004: Screen Award for Best Screenplay – ‘Kal Ho Naa Ho
- 2002: Star Screen Award for Best Director – Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham
- 2004: Screen Award for Best Film – Kal Ho Na Ho
- 1999: Zee Cine Award for Best Director – Kuch Kuch Hota Hai
- 2011: Zee Cine Award for Best Director – My Name Is Khan
- 2011: Zee Cine Award for Best Story – My Name Is Khan
- 2013: Stardust Award for Dream Director – Student of the Year
- In 2007, Johar was chosen as one of 250 Global Young Leaders by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum 2006.
- On 30 September 2006, Johar became the first Indian filmmaker to be a jury member in the Miss World competition, in Warsaw, Poland.
- He was the only other Indian apart from PM Manmohan Singh to be invited for the opening ceremony of the London Olympics.
- In 2017, Johar was invited as cultural leader in World Economic Forum.