In 1998, a young writer/director named Karan Johar made a big impact on the Bollywood scene with the release of the film Kuch Kuch Hota Hai - which celebrated 15 years in 2013 - is considered a classic Indian film.
15 years since #KuchKuchHotaHai..the day it all began for me..I can't thank the universe enough for blessing me with a place in the movies..— Karan Johar (@karanjohar) October 16, 2013
KKHH 15yrs of lov & friendship. Thanx Kajol,Rani,Karan & Tom Uncle for believing in ur son. Also Eid Mubarak...Prayers & Happiness for all— SHAH RUKH KHAN (@iamsrk) October 16, 2013
So much lovee even after #15YearsOfKKHH.. I must have done something right to be part of such a Fantabulous film :)) thank you everyone <3— Sana Saeed (@sanasaeed17) October 16, 2013
Karan Johar's approach to filmmaking has helped change the face of Bollywood. When you watch a Johar film you are watching modern-day characters share hopes and dreams that resonate with audiences worldwide. As they wrestle with personal struggles, trying to make the right choices, you watch friends and family break and heal, you see lovers separate then reunite, you witness personal loss and redemption. By the end of a Johar film, you have experienced an emotional roller-coaster ride - yet, you are always eager to take the ride again.
Shah Rukh Khan has starred in several of Karan Johar's films, and this has also contributed to their success. According to Digital Spy, Karan sees they have a strong working relationship:
"Shah Rukh and I have the best director-actor chemistry anyone can have. He knows it, I know it, we know it. Every time we come together, we will make a magical movie. He knows my beats as a filmmaker and I know his, as an actor. The way we understand each other, I don't think I will be able to have that tuning with any other actor."
Here are the 5 films both written and directed by Karan Johar (and the last three he also produced) that you should watch if you are new to Bollywood.
Description: Romantic comedy drama. Each year on her birthday Anjali Khanna (Sana Saeed) receives a letter from her mother (Rani Mukherjee), who passed away shortly after she was born. On her eighth birthday, her mother's letter tells the story of a long lost love of her father's. Young Anjali sets out to reunite her father, Rahul Khanna (Shah Rukh Khan) with his college friend Anjali Sharma (Kajol).
Stand Out Songs: This 1998 soundtrack was composed by Jatin-Lalit with lyrics by Sameer. While some of these songs may sound a bit dated by today's standards (after all, they are 15 years old!), they continue to entertain. Here are some of the highlights:
- "Yeh Ladka Hai Deewana" offers a look at the friendship of Rahul and Anjali in a high energy and amusing item number.
- The title song "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai" highlights the feelings of love that each of the characters experiences. This is a classic, frequently-referenced song in modern Bollywood films.
- "Koi Mil Gaya" ("I Found Someone") has our three leads singing and dancing together at a college event - a full song and dance performance.
- "Tujhe Yaad Na Meri Aayee" ("You Shouldn't Remember Me") is a sad cry from the heart for a love unfulfilled.
- "Saajanji Ghar Aaye" ("Your Suitor Has Come Home") is a well choreographed number celebrating a marriage engagement.
- The traditional "Raghupati Raghav" is given a new entertaining spin.
- "Ladki Badi Anjaani Hai" ("Girl is an Absolute Stranger") is a fun item number performed with children.
Why I Love This Film: I love this film for its heart and because it artfully tells a good portion of the story through the hopes and dreams of a child. An amazing directorial debut by Karan Johar that seems like it came more from a seasoned professional. It is made further entertaining by including Johnny Lever, Salman Khan, Anupam Kher and Farida Jalal in key supporting roles. This is a sweet film that packs an emotional punch, yet is almost didn't get made. In a Rediff interview, Johar said, "... frankly I was not even thinking of making a film. Till Aditya Chopra told me: Don't be silly, you must make this film. It is a lovely story. It will work. I was worried about the child aspect, whether Shah Rukh would be accepted as a father. But that seems to have worked in my favour. People have loved him in a different kind of role."
Recognition: The film swept all the major Filmfare Award categories and was the third film to win the four major awards (Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress).
Description: Drama. Yashvardhan Raichand (Amitabh Bachchan) lives a very wealthy lifestyle along with his wife, Nandini (Jaya Bachchan). They have two sons, Rohan (Hrithik Roshan) and his elder brother Rahul (Shah Rukh Khan) who was adopted by the Raichands. After young Rohan is sent away to boarding school. Yashvardhan has plans for Rahul to marry a socialite (Rani Mukherjee). Instead, Rahul marries Anjali Sharma (Kajol) - a middle-class, unsophisticated sweet shop owner. When he learns of the marriage, Yashvardhan disowns Rahul and Rahul and Anjali disappear from the Raichand world. Many years later, when Rohan returns home he learns the full story about Rahul and sets off to find his brother and reunite his broken family.
- The title track "Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham" permeates the whole film as a constant reminder of home, family and the importance of connection.
- Filmed near the Great Pyramids in Egypt, "Suraj Hua Maddham" is a gentle love song with a powerful heartbeat.
- "Yeh Ladka Hai Allah" is a playful love song sung by our hero as he courts his true love.
- "You Are My Soniya" is an energetic love song that encourages you to put on your dancing shoes.
- "Bole Chudiyan" starts off as a song about sweethearts, but turns into a song about family and the love that binds us all together.
Why I Love This Film: We are told "Its all about loving your parents" at the opening of the film. But that is just one aspect of this powerful story. Everyone in this film is lovable, but they let their prejudices, fears, and flaws break the hearts of those they love. Decisions are made and people are left with only their pride to cling to. Fortunately, Rohan - who has been shielded from the direct impact of Rahul's departure - is strong enough to step in and try to repair the damage. In a Rediff interview, Karan Johar said, "At a certain age, boys are very demonstrative about their love towards their fathers. They hug and kiss them. But after that, they withdraw, become less demonstrative. My film is about relationships, about sons going up to their fathers and saying they love them."
Recognition: Filmfare Awards: Best Actress (Kajol); Best Supporting Actress (Jaya Bachchan); Best Dialogue (Karan Johar); Best Art Direction (Sharmishtha Roy) Best Scene of the Year. International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards: Best Supporting Actress (Jaya Bachchan); Best Male Playback (Sonu Nigam, "Suraj Hua Maddham"); Best Dialogue (Karan Johar); Best Art Direction (Sharmishta Roy); Best Background Score (Babloo Chakravarty); Best Sound Recording (Anil Mathur & Nakul Kante); Best Costume Design (Manish Malhotra); Best Makeup( Mikey Contractor). Screen Awards: Best Actress (Kajol); Jodi No. 1 (Shah Rukh Khan & Kajol). Zee Cine Awards: Best Playback Singer – Male (Sonu Nigam, "Suraj Hua Maddham"); Special Award for Outstanding Performance – Female (Kajol).
Description: Romantic comedy drama. After an accident leaves rising football (soccer) player him handicapped, Dev Anand (Shah Rukh Khan) becomes a bitter man and his marriage with Rhea Saran (Preity Zinta) is strained. Dev and Rhea meet Rishi Talwar (Abhishek Bachchan) and his wife Maya (Rani Mukherjee). Maya is also unhappy in her marriage. In an attempt to save each of their marriages, Dev and Rani decide to provide friendship and support to each other. When they fall in love, they realize they must break off their relationship.
Stand Out Songs: The music and score was composed by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy with lyrics by Javed Akhtar. While the whole soundtrack is beautifully done, here are the especially notable musical item numbers from the film:
- "Rock N Roll Soniye" is a fun party item number with the added enjoyment of seeing the real-life father-son Bachchan team perform together. Kajol makes a cameo in this item number.
- "Mitwa" ("My Beloved") is an enchanting item number that highlights the growing love between Dev and Maya which they must keep hidden.
- The item number for the tender love song "Tumhi Dekho Naa" also offers a colorful feast for the eyes.
- John Abraham has a cameo in "Where's The Party Tonight" which juxtaposes the public and private experiences of our couples - both the innocent and the guilty.
- The bittersweet title song "Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna" is a background piece to a time of healing for the characters.
Why I Love This Film: Dev is self-destructive and this impacts everyone around him. Maya has trouble connecting with her husband. It is only when Dev and Maya pass through the most difficult parts of their relationships that they can begin to heal and become whole. This film deals with a difficult subject, but does so with respect; however, because of the subject matter it was shot in New York. In MatineeMix, Johar said, "That story could have easily happened in a city like Mumbai, Delhi or Pune but the problem is that an extra marital affair can’t go unnoticed in India. I wanted my characters to be lost in their own world and that was only possible if I shifted the story abroad." There are many heartbreaking moments in this film, but in the end love prevails.
Recognition: This film received positive reviews and numerous nominations and awards, including: Filmfare Awards Best Supporting Actor (Abhishek Bachchan); Global Indian Film Awards Best Supporting Actor (Abhishek Bachchan) and Best Female Playback for the song "Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna" (Alka Yagnik); IIFA Best Actress Award (Rani Mukherji); Stardust Award for Best Supporting Actor (Abhishek Bachchan); AIFA Awards Best Supporting Actress (Preity Zinta), Best Supporting Actor (Abhishek Bachchan), Best Lyricist for "Mitwa" (Javed Akhtar); Star Screen Award Jodi No. 1 (Shah Rukh Khan and Rani Mukerji).
Description: Drama. Muslim Rizvan Khan (Shah Rukh Khan) has Asberger's syndrome, a type of autism. When his mother dies, he moves from Mumbai to San Francisco to live with his brother and sister-in-law. He meets and marries Mandisa (Kajol), a Hindu, and the couple are happy until 9/11 and a family tragedy force Rizvan to take a cross country journey to meet the President of the United States.
Stand Out Songs: There are no item numbers in this film, but the soundtrack is worth having both for the music and for the CD packaging. Karan Johar describes the soundtrack as "gut-level world music" with a "sufiesque tone" and the result is a beautiful offering of music that resonates with the soul. The soundtrack features 5 songs from the film, including a beautiful instrumental "Khan's Theme". The rest of the soundtrack includes 5 songs from some of Shah Rukh Khan's other popular films.
Why I Love This Film: This film offers so much because it starts with a simple story about a simple man who offers a unique perspective on following one's heart. The film is a beautiful love story which includes a courageous journey and highlights the good and bad in all of us. It is a testament to the power of love, honor, and integrity. For Karan Johar, this was a film that forced him to step outside his comfort zone. In an interview in glamsham he explained, "In my other films I had incorporated unreal elements but in this film one will get to see real elements because this is the most real film of my career till date. I'd say that it is a different film because I had to externalize and also set out to analyze. It has been a journey of growing up for me as a filmmaker."
Recognition: Filmfare Awards: Best Director (Karan Johar); Best Actor (Shah Rukh Khan); Best Actress (Kajol). International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards: Best Director (Karan Johar); Best Lyricist (Niranjan Iyengar for "Sajda"); Best Background Score (Shankar Ehsaan Loy); Best Story (Shibani Bhattija); Best Actor (Shah Rukh Khan). Star Screen Awards: Best Actor (Popular Choice - Shah Rukh Khan); Best Music Director (Shankar Ehsan Loy); Ramnath Goenka Memorial Award (Shah Rukh Khan). Zee Cine Awards: Best Director (Karan Johar); Best Playback Singer – Female (Richa Sharma, "Sajda"); Best Story (Karan Johar & Shibani Bhatija); Best Sound Design (Dileep Subramaniam); Best Marketed Movie; Best Actor In a Leading Role - Male (Shah Rukh Khan).
Description: Coming of age romantic film. Students and friends from a variety of backgrounds participate in a school competition to win a university scholarship. Told via flashback as participating students gather ten years later at the hospital bed of the former dean. Warning: Lots of eye-candy.
- The song "Vele" shows our two lead male characters hanging out together and reminds us that boys will be boys ...
- "Radha" is your classic Bollywood song and dance number but with updated and youthful sensibilities. A really fun song.
- "Ishq Wala Love" is a gentle love song.
Why I Love This Film: This is a very different kind of Karan Johar film. The story is told to you in a series of flashbacks offered by different players in the drama, yet the story is a coherent whole. Friendships blossom among characters who genuinely care about each other. However, when youth overtakes reason and they begin playing games with each other's emotions and futures, life changes dramatically. Problems are created and left unresolved. We are fortunate enough to meet these characters 10 years later, after they have had a chance to gain some life experience and perspective. Aside from Rishi Kapoor, the actors were newcomers which was a challenge Johar was looking for. In Digital Spy, he explained, "I have worked with only movie stars up to this point ... I felt I needed to move from director to teacher and that journey could only happen if I was working with new talent.... Working with first time actors, nurturing them, making sure they present themselves as movie actors, was a far more challenging experience. I felt the need to challenge myself." The film launched the film careers of Sidharth Malhotra, Varun Dhawan, and Alia Bhatt.
Recognition: The film received numerous nominations. Stardust Awards: Best Male Debut (Sidharth Malhotra & Varun Dhawan). Zee Cine Awards: Song of the Year (Radha). Times of India Hotlist: Most Promising Newcomer-Female (Alia Bhatt, Ranked #1); Most Promising Newcomer-Male (Sidharth Malhotra, Ranked #3); Most Promising Newcomer-Male (Varun Dhawan, Ranked #1); Best Romantic Song ("Ishq Wala Love").
Don't know which film to watch first? The following playlist features trailers for each of these five films.
END NOTE: In 2007, the World Economic Forum named Karan Johar one of 250 Young Global Leaders chosen for their professional accomplishments, their commitment to society and their potential to contribute to shaping the future of the world.
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