As filmmaker Karan Johar steps into the 41st year of life, Koimoi takes a close look this commendable director’s professional journey and why we think he has been path breaking all through. Son of renowned producer Yash Johar, Karan was born with a silver spoon. Sustained scathing criticisms at being elitist, Karan deserves credit for achievements that has gone unnoticed in his career.
I still remember stumbling across an article in a leading daily where a LGBT activist had slammed Karan Johar’s insensitivity at portraying the gay characters in a film. Loading them with negative stereotypes, his work has often been deemed as satisfying heterosexual sensibilities of the larger audiences. Another leading website after following the release of Bombay Talkies condemned it. From the homosexual mosaic of vision, the film’s character justified most pertinent and prevailing clichés, home-wrecker and stalker to point the few. While I am carefully sympathetic to many of these opinions, perhaps even agree with a few, I see KJo as a gay crusader of sorts.
From a man who began his career with typically grand candyfloss films, his work has matured over time. If we study the premise of his film henceforth, there is gulf change with each. And as for Gay crusader, I am not being humorous but simply believe in that!
Commercial and mainstream Bollywood isn’t supposed to make a point. It is all fuss and feathers and the film isn’t supposed to brand forward a social message. When he framed a Kantaben element in kal Ho Na Ho or made two of Bollywood’s most irresistible men pose gay with each other, I personally had no qualms regarding it. Hindi cinema has always been a fantasy world, but Johar managed to familiarize the audiences with the existence of these relationship quantum(s) at all. With heterosexual being more prevalent, mainstream Bollywood first encountered hints of from Kantaben in Kal Ho Na Ho. The portrayal isn’t new. Prevalence of transgender people has often sustained in the sidelines of many films in the 90s, but Karan Johar had the guts to make Shah Rukh Khan and Saif Ali Khan get suspected of the same on silver screens.
He took it a step forward when he made Dostana. The striking line in the climax, ‘did you two ever…’ that Priyanka asks seemed like a substantial question enough, mostly because the story was set in Miami. Such stories won’t even be viable, feasible or possible in native India. Dostana, we undoubtedly have to admit did the unthinkable. It brought into mainstream Hindi cinema, the shunned concept and the word Gay. No one before Johar had the guts to come out so boldly on it. Art film makers who have made elaborate films haven’t risked using the word so gallantly.
Johar progressed with every film. From Kal Ho Na Ho to Bombay Talkies was a journey. While many have bashed Bombay Talkies and especially Johar’s track for many reasons, I maintain it was beautiful. Filmmakers in India suffer from extreme inhibitions when it comes to scripting and executing films. We complain narratives are getting complicated, but how can one be simple if everything incurs the wrath of extremists and social Nazis?
Before Dostana, gay relationships were viewed in a depleting fashion, it was post the film that mainstream society at large have accepted the fact that homosexual relationships do exist in closed compartments within the overwhelmingly heterosexual set ups! Art films, one must admit has lower visibility. It needed a Dostana to bring this into larger notice, and with that Kjo achieved that many so-called sensitive films of the world of parallel cinema could not. ‘Gay’ in popular cinema became more receptive because of him.
Kantaben phenomena or Dostana had an immense impact at large. People laughed with it. Not at it, but with it. There wasn’t anything derogatory in it but it seemed hilarious. With Dostana, the same got a little more overt and evident. And people laughed more. He validated homosexuality in the popular front and it is extremely demoralizing to see activists shunning him with such ease. I don’t appreciate shallow work either, but Karan Johar’s flimsy films have popularized Gay issues way more than realistic films. The power of popular stars and mainstream Bollywood cannot be undermined ever, and Johar harnessed it the best to get Gays popular, their issues notices, in the most unlikely ways possible.
And with that we at Koimoi wishes Karan Johar a very Happy Birthday. With candyfloss films, we deny the larger realism he created, be it a headstrong Rani cheating on the world’s best husband or getting Gays more pronounced acknowledgement from general public, Karan Johar has moved away from two dimensional flat view of realism and uniquely enmeshed it in Bollywood. Acknowledge it!
Think you know all about Karan Johar? Try out this awesome quiz of KJo.