Hate him all you want but if there’s one filmmaker who regularly dominates media (social, print and electronic), it’s Karan Johar. While Bollywood has innumerable talented directors and producers, the fact remains that Johar enjoys a level of popularity that is comparable to that of the top actors of the film industry. In fact, ever since a certain actress’ remarks on nepotism, the majority of India truly believes that Johar rules Bollywood and has the final say over everything. While that is absolutely not true, the K3G director is a Bollywood biggie who has been ruling the roost since two decades. Recently, we told you why Bollywood is a soft target – Johar featured many times in that article. Now, we tell you something that hardly anybody talks about i.e. his business acumen. Karan Johar may appear frivolous but he’s one of the cleverest people in the business.
When KJo took up Dharma Productions from his father Yash Johar, the production house had produced only six movies. It’s biggest hits had come from cult movies like Agneepath and Dostana. Today, Dharma Productions is undoubtedly the biggest production house in the country, surpassing even the noted Yash Raj Films. Today, Dharma has produced around 42 movies with over nine films currently in production. There’s an investment of over Rs 800 crore riding on the movies. Dharma’s biggest success came under KJo with Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani earning five crore rupees short of Rs 300 crores at the Box Office. When Johar took over Dharma, he was, as he says, untrained for business and completely useless until that point. All he had going for him were his two movies – Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. But that was enough because after all, they were not only massive commercial successes but also managed to bring back a fading Dharma Productions back to life.
Small screen showman
When other noted celebrities were still snobbish enough to dismiss television, Karan Johar went ahead with a talk show which has earned infamy and countless millions for everyone involved in it. Koffee With Karan is still one of the most successful Indian talk shows of all time.
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That’s not all. Oh, no. Due to his rising fame because of Koffee With Karan, KJo became a household name, leading brands to make a beeline to his door for endorsements. He has endorsed brands like Emami cosmetics, Nescafe, Star HD and Lloyd. A 2019 report alleged that Johar charges more than Rs 3 crores for brand endorsements. Besides these brand endorsements, his status as a household name allowed producers to approach him for other shows like Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa and India’s Next Superstars. What Johar does is that he manages to take TV (aimed at the 35 and above crowd) to the younger generation. When he was on India’s Got Talent, he started a “toodles” Instagram series with Malaika Arora Khan and Kirron Kher which were viral successes.
Godfather with benefits
Still thinking that Karan Johar only launches star kids? Over the last four decades, Dharma has groomed more than 20 directors but under Johar, 14 more directors have been added exclusively to the Dharma family. They include Collin D’Cunha, Sharan Sharma, Raj Mehta, Bhanu Pratap Singh, Paras Chakravarti, Vivek Soni, Amritpal Bindra, Anand Tiwari, Karan Singh Tyagi, Anubhuti Kashyap, Shazia Iqbal, Pushkar Ojha, Sagar Amre and Kayoze Irani. This is the first time that a production company has set its own coterie of directors.
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Despite all the flak he gains, why does Johar continue to launch so many newcomers? Well, a source tells us that Johar earns a commission for every project his star students undertake. What does this mean? It means that whenever his star pupils like Alia Bhatt, Sidharth Malhotra, Ananya Panday, Janhvi Kapoor and Varun Dhawan crack a deal, from international shows to movies, Johar gets a certain amount deposited in his bank account. Wowza!
Baahubali of the box-office
Nobody ever imagined the landslide success that Baahubali would gain in India. Nobody except Karan Johar, that is. Dharma Productions had got the distribution rights of Baahubali’s Hindi version on around 10% commission basis. Hence, when the film made Rs 478.3 crore, Dharma earned around Rs 220-230 crore.
Ally and more
You may have heard KJo refer to B-town biggies as uncle and aunty and other warm terms. There’s more to respect here – KJo has utilised his personal connection with Bollywood bosses to ensure that Dharma becomes an ally to all production houses, thus making films with all of them. “Karan is a very smart businessman. He knows that today the mantra in the film business is to either be a corporate or align with one. Co-productions help on numerous levels. They let him concentrate on the creative and technical bit of production, while the distribution and marketing is left to the co-producer,” trade analyst Komal Nahta had told Business Standard in 2014. Remember when we told you that Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani was Dharma’s biggest money spinner? It was co-produced with UTV Studios. Dharma has tied up with Red Chillies, Ritesh Batra, Anurag Kashyap, Nadiadwala and others to ensure that his company survives under the assault of newer corporate entities.
Dharma on digital
Under Johar, the company has launched two new arms – Dharma 2.0 and Dharmatic. Dharma 2.0 is Dharma Productions’ ad and content arm. “Yes, we have a new vertical now that has started internally. Punit (Malhotra) has always been making ads, so he suggested we should start an ad division because we have lots of in-house directors. They are doing good work in the world of advertising as well as feature films. So, we decided to add this new vertical to the company,” the director had told Hindustan Times at the time.
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Dharmatic Entertainment, on the other hand, is Dharma’s online content farm. Netflix India has announced a long-term partnership with Dharmatic to create universal stories from India. No other legacy production house has been this involved in OTT.
Big boss and mentor
Johar has also launched his very own talent agency with Bunty Sajdeh called Dharma Cornerstone Agency (DCA). DCA will handle stars from all industries – movies to sports. DCA now handles India’s biggest celebrity in the endorsement space, Virat Kohli. They have already announced a list of talents under the DCA banner and sources tell us that B-town biggies will soon move to DCA, leaving their respective talent agencies behind. This will only solidify his place in the movie pantheon.
One of the things about Johar that is most discussed in the media is his sense of style. Capitalising on his status as a trend setter, KJo also turned fashion designer at one point. His Vero Moda marquee collection was quite the hit. “Through the years, I have used my films as an outlet to showcase my own sense of fashion which is luxurious and grand, yet functional at the same time. This is my first attempt to recreate my own distinct style by putting together a collection for a women’s fashion brand. The fact that I get to do it for a brand like Vero Moda makes it very exciting for me,” Johar had said in a statement. Of course, Johar also frequently does costumes for his films.
Moolah and more
They say that if you’re good at something, you should never do it for free. Noted for his ability to turn even the most boring party around, Johar had also hosted pop icon Katy Perry when she’d come down to India for the OnePlus Musical Festival in 2019. The party was attended by the who’s who of Bollywood and we hear that Johar had even charged a hefty fee for hosting the bash which was sponsored by a mobile brand.
[Image Credit: Karan Johar]