The Importance of being Karan Johar

by Yogesh Parmar | 904 views | Add comment

For a grown up, straight man, I have a terrible - if mildly worrying - obsession with Karan Johar.

For someone who makes a living by attempting to comprehend and explain human behavior, I have an enormous, insatiable and even an unhealthy appetite for his cinema.

And yet, there it is. The affection, admiration and applause for the man, the persona, the flair, the complexity and the oeuvre.  And most of all, for his sensitivity and sensibility as a film maker.

This piece is fanboy material by design - it is for the most part about the influence of his - the joharian school of cinema (new phrase coinage alert)  -  on me, as someone who grew up in the late nineties as also on our popular mainstream culture - something that our man isn't credited for often and not nearly enough with.

The one film that divides my life - and perhaps for many in my generation - in the classical before and after chasm -  is Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. I remember distinctly -  the morning after, the movie felt different.  I was yet to fall or rise in love - and yet there I was - in love with the idea of love.

For a sixteen year old, the film was a ripple at first and a wave almost immediately after, engulfing in its wake a spectrum of yet to be named and not entirely understood - at that time -  feelings. It was baptism by fire, if you will, but only a very pleasant one.

And all of it eventually lead to my first infatuation, with who else but in true joharian unrequited style, a teacher in my school. For many others, it meant living vicariously the 'Rahul' life.  And for yet others, the problems that the protagonists in his movies faced had great aspirational value. Life must be good if you have those problems.

It also meant two other things in the medium term: A rash of similarly themed movies ensured I acquired a reality distortion syndrome - for instance, there were two colleges I went to - the one that was my monochrome reality and the other that was fantastical.

More damning -  and something that I realised only a decade later in hindsight  - was the fact I became a true blue cinema tragic - someone who looks for and is frequently bewildered when the real life manifestation of reel life didn't match or add up. Whether it is about how people are supposed to react to a stimulus or how love is supposed to look like and feel like or indeed what going away must mean, the whole shebang.

And then, somewhere in between, it became uncool to like Karan Johar or his cinema. His name was the new slur in town. But here's the thing. Almost everyone I know hated Kabhie Khushi Kabhie Gham when they first saw it. Almost everyone I know has since seen it a gazillion times and loved it. Almost everyone has mouthed those lines of repartee or has aspired to be in those situations.

For some, he might have made a better film with My name is Khan, but Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, K3G and Kal Ho Naa Ho (Writer and Screenplay) together formed the DNA of what is being referred to as the Joharian school of cinema - one that  has informed and influenced our collective conscience deeply since - at a conscious and subliminal level.

Think about it. We all may want more 'reality' in our cinema in general and his cinema in particular but what we also really seem to want in our lives is a piece of that exact cinema itself  - whether it is wanting our weddings to be embellished with pre and post shoots; whether it is the rituals that make them up and still exist way past their sell by date only because they are cool; whether it is the song and dance routine that is pretty much the mainstay of every wedding; or whether indeed it is how weddings across the country - irrespective of culture and religion - have people turning up in outfits that are straight out of a Johar film.

And that is only to speak of our weddings. Imagine what he has done to our idea of what a college should be like. Or even friendship. You get the drift.. No person, with the exception of Shah Rukh khan, has defined and had a sustained and significant impact on popular culture as Karan Johar.

Of course, much of the goings on in his movies are not rooted in reality, some of it is manipulative, but almost all of it is intensely desirable. Poof, the aspirational value of his films!

Tommy Hilfiger must be sending Diwali gifts yet and Polo owes a debt of gratitude to him.

Dil Chahta hai was the zeitgeist defining film of the time but Kuch Kuch Hota Hai changed the syntax of our film-making in its own way.

By making Student of the Year, and not taking himself seriously, Karan in his public persona and his cinema is being the one thing that is the single biggest challenge for any of us who is over 25 - relevant.

By not taking himself seriously, he is ensuring that people take him and his work seriously. Unlike his contemporaries - and some very honourable and worthy names there - who are stuck in a time warp and have rendered themselves irrelevant.

True to form, he has reinvented himself - a V3.0, as it were. And in this avatar he is pouting without a trace of self consciousness on Mary and Chameli, and holding forth at Harvard Business School at once. Elsewhere, in some of the funniest writing I have read in blogs this year, he is running with the dogs and hunting with the hounds.

Congratulations on your latest, Karan. In my mind and heart, I have already decided that I am going to love it. The watching itself is incidental. I have wanted to write this note for a decade but what better time than the release of your latest labor of love.

Thank you  for the memories. May the incandescence live on.

This article is by guest author Yogesh Parmar. People lover. Founder - The game changers. behavioral scientist. cinema tragic. storyteller. performance arts aficionado. Yogesh Parmar also blogs at http://www.thegamechangers.co.in/.

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