Having looked at heroes, heroines and character actors of new films in this column, we change track this week and look at the producer. This is an easy thing to do since the producer is as articulate, good-looking and glamourous as some of the stars in Bollywood. And we look at just that… the times Karan Johar was in front of the camera instead of being behind it.
Karan Johar’s acting career started on television, in a series called Indradhanush. He used his chubby, goofy looks to great effect in a comic role among a bunch of teenagers. The TV series was a sci-fi story where a precocious youngster started out to build a computer and ended up with a time machine instead. Karan played a schoolboy who offered potato wafers when ‘chips’ were required for the computer and landed up in pre-independence India thanks to the time machine.
Karan Johar’s big-screen debut was not only auspicious but explosive. His name is part of the acting credits of the longest-running film in Bollywood history. Unofficially, he was also an assistant to the director Aditya Chopra in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge though he got noticed as SRK’s bumbling friend, Rocky. Wearing geek glasses and a mop of unruly hair, he did a fab job in that standard Bollywood role of ‘hero’s friend’. He did an even better job of convincing SRK to act in his directorial debut.
The ‘Karan Johar film’ has become the new touchstone of success in Bollywood and having been in one assures sure-shot stardom and regular presence in Page 3 parties.
Vivek Oberoi played a newspaper columnist-cum-screenwriter in Sujoy Ghosh’s Home Delivery (Aapko… Ghar Tak), who was trying to write a script for a Karan Johar film – a Holy Grail that would take him to success and – maybe – happiness.
As Vivek Oberoi juggled his many priorities and whooshing deadlines, Karan kept popping up at regular intervals enquiring about the script (or not).
It went one step better in Salaam-e-Ishq.
Here Priyanka Chopra played ‘item girl’ Kamini who was looking to hit big-time with a role in a Karan Johar film. To do it, she did what starlets in Bollywood keep on doing… created a fictional affair. She claimed to be madly in love with a fictional character called Rahul, hoping the furore over her affair would cause the director to notice her. What she hadn’t bargained for a real Rahul landing up at her doorstep and proposing to her at the exact moment when she received a call from Karan Johar.
You could say this entry is a bit of a cheating since K Jo never ‘appeared’ but was only heard on the phone.
As time went by, the star aspiring for a role in a Karan Johar film became bigger and bigger.
In Luck By Chance, Hrithik Roshan played Zafar Khan – the star who wanted to become a superstar with a K Jo film. To do the role, Zafar did a series of shady moves to wriggle out of a film he was committed to do – leaving a producer (Rishi Kapoor) in the lurch. Towards the end of the film, Karan Johar appeared as himself – as something like the voice of conscience – and told how his machinations had left the door open for a young competitor (Farhan Akhtar) to come in.
After being the aspirational director in so many films, Karan Johar appeared on-screen as his other popular avatar – the awards show host.
In Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om, he was the presenter at the Filmfare Awards ceremony and delivered a cool pun to kick off the proceedings: “Kehte hain heere ki kadar johri karta hai. Par hero ki kadar toh Johar hi karta hai.” As the laughter died away, he announced the nominees for the Best Actor category and then introduced Subhash Ghai and Rishi Kapoor to give away the prize. Just like real life.
And just like real life, his favourite actor won the prize!
It looks like his biggest role is going to be Anurag Kashyap’s Bombay Velvet. In this saga about how Bombay became Mumbai, Karan Johar is playing a Parsi tabloid editor said to be based on the flamboyant Rusi Karanjia of Blitz. The much-touted character supposedly has negative shades or is an out-and-out negative one, depending on which site you read about it. Having lost ten kilos and charged only eleven rupees for the role, Karan has completed one schedule of the film and fans are looking forward to the film’s December 2014 release.