Karan Johar for HELLO! India© HelloIndia

HELLO! 100 Most Influential: Karan Johar

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Apoorva Mehta

Why he matters: Disruption-proof, K.Jo has unabashedly addressed marital infidelity, lust stories and even post-9/11 paranoia with his ‘Dharmic’ storytelling; and his OTT shows boast 1.6 million loyal viewers across the seven seas! Childhood friend and CEO of Dharma Productions, Apoorva Mehta, unspools a celluloidal multihyphenate who rules even in the digital era.

In 1987, Mugaddar Ka Faisla was released, accompanied by grand banners showcasing the name of renowned film producer, Yash Johar, across Mumbai. At that time, I had developed a close friendship with his son, Karan Johar, and I distinctly remember asking him whether his father had made the movie. To my surprise, Karan instantly lied and replied, “No, no, my dad is a businessman. He doesn’t make movies.”

His transition from being a shy individual, once embarrassed by his unwavering love and obsession for Bollywood, to becoming a multihyphenate figure in the industry and also an influential business titan, can be likened to a passionate love affair that drives one to pursue their heart’s desires...

Karan and I are childhood friends, and our journey began when we were in 6th grade. Today, when I look back, I feel fortunate to call him my friend and also be able to work with him.

In all these years, in life and in business, three things have always stood out to me: his impeccable intuitive nature identifying the sweet spot of success, with the confidence to trust that instinct and also act upon it; his compassion and grandeur in kindness; and most importantly, his ability to take a joke! As I love to say, “You can crack a joke on Karan... And you can trust him to do it better!”

A Legacy of Love & Learning

Karan draws inspiration from Raj Kapoor’s grand scale, the intimate nuances of Yash Chopra’s conflicts and his own passion for the industry. But what makes him innately “Karan” is his father’s legacy - his empathetic nature welcoming everyone with open arms. Even though he has a lot on his plate, he will always make sure to dedicate time for his friends and loved ones. It’s almost like everyone has 24 hours, but Karan has extra special ones just for his friends and family.

Then there’s his mother, who’s always been his next in line, being both his biggest cheerleader and harshest critic. She continually pushes him to be the best version of himself.

Karan’s astute business sense and intuitive understanding of the audience and the industry set him apart from others. He has launched 18 directors and seven actors, and his decisions — whether it includes expanding Dharma Productions into an empire, or venturing into new projects like hosting a talk show — are driven purely by instinct. However, it’s his love for everything cinema that shapes his every move!

Karan Johar for HELLO! India©HelloIndia

A Big, Welcoming Heart

Karan possesses the rare gift of being able to laugh at himself. As people become more successful, they often take themselves too seriously, but not him! He approaches flattering reviews and harsh critiques with the same light-heartedness and enthusiasm. This ability grants him the freedom to be himself and embrace all that comes with it.

Understanding Karan means comprehending the paradoxical nature of love, a recurring theme in both his work and personal life. He can create both frivolous movies, like Student of the Year, and intense dramas, like Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna. He can bet on films like Kapoor & Sons while still staying on top of digital trends, as well.

Outside of work, Karan is a constant presence with various shades of passivity. He’s a kind-hearted companion with a flair for theatrics, the life of any party, and one who can bring out your inner self with his innocent humour and generous love. He’s a loyal friend who never lets go, an anchor to a crazy clan, a devoted father and someone who can make you fall in love with love itself.

There’s no other filmmaker in the world you would expect to break into dance, except Karan Johar. With him, you can always expect delightful surprises, for he’s truly one of a kind…

Photos: Vaishnav Praveen, House of Pixels

To see who else is on the list, grab the copy of HELLO! India’s August 2023 issue right here!