MEMORIES OF A FATHER WHO WAS PROUD OF HIS SON BEFORE THE SON COULD GIVE HIM REASONS TO BE PROUD….
It was at the Mehboob Studios that I first met Yash Johar. He was known as one of the most efficient production controllers who took charge and care of everything to do with the making of a film.
He had worked in this capacity with the productions of Dev Anand, Sunil Dutt, Raj Khosla and he was so well-known for the kind of contribution he made to the making of a film that filmmakers and companies from Hollywood who came to shoot their films in India came looking for Yash Johar before they could start shooting their films. In fact, Yash Johar was so particular about every little detail that went into a film that it was Dev Anand who said some of his biggest films, including “Guide” would not have been made the way they were if it was not for Yash Johar. And Sunil Dutt called him the man with the magic wand who could make it possible to have anything a filmmaker needed, “from a pin to a piano”.
Yash Johar had his own business dealing in garments and I remember the time when he took me to his office and godown housed under the Mahalaxmi bridge. He was as good at dealing with garments as he was with films, he could work wonders in both fields.
It was in the eighties that Yash Johar took a bold decision to form his own filmmaking company, Dharma Productions and went on to produce some of the most ambitious films like “Duplicate”, “Duniya”, “Dostana”, “Agneepath”, “Muqaddar Ka Faisla” and “Gumrah”. It took him very little time to establish Dharma Productions as a leading filmmaking company and there were some of the biggest stars who were willing to work with films produced by him. He had the kind of goodwill very few individuals could have and he cared for everyone who came in close contact with him.
I remember how he made it his mission to make one of my senior colleagues, Mr. R.M Kumtakar, a very hard working, sincere and popular journalist of his times give up smoking as he was a chain-smoker who smoked some of the cheapest brands of cigarettes as they were the only brands he could afford at the salary he earned. Yash had been to Russia for shooting one of the films he was working for. He came back after a month and the first thing he did when he reached his office was to call Mr. Kumtakar for a drink in the evening. Kumtakar was a very simple man and never took advantage of his position as the man behind the bringing out of “Screen”, the number one film weekly of the country. He kept everyone happy without expecting anything in return. But that evening Yash Johar presented him with a special gift he had brought for him from Russia, a “filter” to help him smoke without the poisonous effects of nicotine reaching his lungs. Kumtakar who had been fighting a constant battle to cut down or give up smoking was moved by Yash Johar’s gesture and kept using the “filter” which finally helped him in giving up smoking and maybe living a longer life, thanks to the gesture shown by Yash Johar who was known as “Uncle” in the industry and who in turn called all his near and dear ones “Uncle”.
Yash Johar was shooting for one of his more ambitious films, “Dostana” at Mehboob Studios which was his favourite studio, “my favourite playing ground”, he called it. He who was always totally involved in the shooting of films, his or those made by others was in a hurry to finish work that day even though he had big and busy stars like Amitabh Bachchan, Shatrughan Sinha and Zeenat Aman shooting for him. One of his seniors made brave to ask him why he was so particular to complete the day’s work early that day and he said, “mere bête ka janamdin hai”. That “beta” is Karan Johar today, a one man institution who has set trends and broken rules to produce and direct films his own way.
Yash knew about the passion his son had for Hindi films and was sure that he would do something in films as a profession. Yash was a very good friend of the other Yash, Yash Chopra and his family. His son Karan was almost the same age as the other Yash’s son Aditya who was equally or even more crazy about Hindi films. So, it was only natural that when Aditya decided to direct his first film, “Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge”, Karan joined him as his lieutenant and also played a role in the film which went on to make history and is still a very glorious part of Indian film history.
Karan was a very quick learner and by the time “DDLJ” was completed, Karan had already completed work on his first major script. He wanted to have his friends Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol as the romantic leads in his film. Shah Rukh stood by him like a rock and when Yash talked about the casting of the film, Karan told him that he would have Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol or no one else. Yash was a little worried and wondered whether a superstar like Shah Rukh would work with Karan as his director. He was taken aback when Shah Rukh told him (Yash) that he would do his film only if Karan was given a chance to direct the film. Karan made “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai” which was a big hit and the rest like they say is history.
Karan made his second film while Yash was still alive and the bad times struck when the good, genial and genuine Yash Johar was diagnosed for Cancer and the killer disease finally claimed him. Karan was still very young, but he took over the responsibilities of running Dharma Productions and making it one of the leading filmmaking companies in the industry. It has been under his leadership that Dharma Productions has been making some major films and it is the enthusiasm of Karan that has made him give breaks to several young assistants who are major directors themselves now. Among the films made during the reign of Karan are “Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna”, “My Name Is Khan”, “Student of The Year”, “Bombay Talkies” and “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” which will be released a few months later.
Karan has not directed a film after he last made “Student Of The Year” and has been busy supervising the films being made under his banner and has also been busy with some reality shows on TV for which he seems to be having the same kind of passion that he has for directing films. But if one has to go by one of his asides during a function to celebrate the success of a reality show, it seems that he is missing the magic of directing films. He said he would love to soon go back to his first love- directing films, and that is a decision that will surely be welcomed by the industry and all those interested in the future of the industry.
Aditya Chopra and Karan Johar had come up as saviours of the industry when they made films like “DDLJ” and “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai”. Will they be the saviours of the industry now when there is so much gloom all over? Aditya is already busy directing “Befikre”. Will Karan strike back with one of his many favourite subjects that he has been waiting to make?
Yash Johar who was proud of his young son would have been a very happy father to see his only son Karan leading the industry and also being one of the leading lights of the industry who has made himself heard in high places and has represented the industry at various seminars, symposiums and leadership summits.
On this birthday, I know there will be any number of his admirers and well-wishers and all those who see hope in him for Indian cinema who will wish him a long, healthy and wealthy in every way life. He may not be in the city of his dreams but all the best wishes have the power to reach him, touch him and bless him wherever he is and wish him all the power and talent to take him and Dharma Productions to new heights of success.