Before Student Of The Year 2, ranking directors who made their debut with Karan Johar's Dharma Productions

Devansh Sharma

May 08, 2019 16:08:32 IST

Karan Johar first delegated his directorial duties to Nikkhil Advani for the 2003 romantic comedy Kal Ho Naa Ho, he admitted that it was difficult for the writer within him to let go of his script. But he also confessed that as a producer, he was always meant to encourage new talent behind the lens.

"I must say it's not easy to let go of your material. But because it was Nikkhil, I didn't feel like that. My nature was always to nurture talent and make sure it grows. I enjoy mentoring directors, actors and technicians. I feel like it's my responsibility as not only a filmmaker but also a human, to not be content with what you have but also look outward. As filmmakers, we get very self-absorbed. We become borderline megalomaniac. I think it's important to step out of yourself and energise your surroundings," said Johar, in an exclusive interview with Firstpost.

Before Student Of The Year 2, ranking directors who made their debut with Karan Johars Dharma Productions

(clockwise) Stills from Dhadak, Gori Tere Pyaar Mein, Kapoor & Sons and Wake Up Sid

Over the past 15 years, when he first took the backseat in the capacity of a producer, Karan has given a break to over half a dozen filmmakers and injected fresh blood into his banner of Dharma Productions. One of the first ones he introduced to the director's chair was Punit Malhotra, who helmed a subversion(?) of a Dharma template film in I Hate Luv Storys (2010). His next film, Student Of The Year 2, also seems like a detour (thanks to the action sequences Tiger Shroff has brought to the film) from Karan's 2012 directorial Student Of The Year.

"He (Punit) handles that generation really well. He is Manish Malhotra's nephew so he gets his colour and aesthetic right. He also has the necessary energy and vigour. I just thought he was the right fit," said Johar, in an exclusive interview to Firstpost, on passing the torch of the Student Of The Year franchise to the young filmmaker. Ahead of the release of Student Of The Year 2 this Friday on 10 May, we rank all the directors of the Dharma stable, who have helmed at least two films of the banner so far, on the basis of their contribution to Hindi cinema.

Ayan Mukerji

Ayan was the third filmmaker that Karan introduced who went on to rejig Johar's Dharma formula. While Advani and Tarun Mansukhani (Dostana, 2008) also tried to offer new wine in the good ol' Dharma bottle, Mukerji was the first to package his directorial debut in new colours. His 2009 film Wake Up Sid revolved around an aimless South Bombay brat (Ranbir Kapoor), who finds a new direction in his career when he meets Aisha (Konkona Sen Sharma), a struggling feature writer. With barely any traditional song-and-dance sequences, Wake Up Sid stood out by incorporating Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy's heartwarming music into a quieter narrative.

Anupam Kher and Ranbir Kapoor in a still from Wake Up Sid. YouTube

Anupam Kher and Ranbir Kapoor in a still from Wake Up Sid

His second film, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013), was more steeped in the Dharma hues, but it did manage to stir some freshness in the otherwise done-to-death rom-com genre. The narrative revolved around Bunny (Ranbir Kapoor), a travel junkie and aspiring globetrotter whose life mantra was raftaar (speed). His wanderlust was infectious to an extent that it also pushed Naina (Deepika Padukone), a bespectacled medical geek, to escape the confines of her room and explore the snow-clad hills of Manali with him. One has to admit, though, that Naina's rather drastic metamorphosis into a red sari-clad bombshell with crystal clear vision was not entirely convincing.

Ayan is currently directing the first part of supernatural trilogy Brahmastra, starring Ranbir, Alia Bhatt, Amitabh Bachchan, Mouni Roy, Nagarjuna and Dimple Kapadia. It is slated to release in the summer of 2020.

Shakun Batra

Shakun's directorial debut, Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu, certainly pales in comparison to his latest attempt, Kapoor & Sons. But it was an extremely interesting coming-of-age story that benefited from the director's feminine gaze in a male-dominated narrative. Though the story was centered on Rahul Kapoor's (Imran Khan) graph from a sophisticated momma's boy to a self-respecting individual, Riana's (Kareena Kapoor Khan) determined stance on her platonic relationship with Rahul made the film much more potent. The cliffhanger that Batra left the film on was more of a resolution in itself, than a teaser to a possible sequel. But the treatment of the film was inconsistent, which is probably why it could not work at the box office either.

Ratna Pathak Shah and Rajat Kapoor in a still from Kapoor & Sons

Ratna Pathak Shah and Rajat Kapoor in a still from Kapoor & Sons

His second film, Kapoor & Sons, ties with Wake Up Sid as the best non-Karan-Johar-directorial to come out of Dharma. The narrative revolved around a family reunion in a Punjabi household in Coonoor. While the 90-year-old patriarch (Rishi Kapoor) wants the family to pose for a portrait before he dies, the seemingly easy jobs highly unlikely because of the simmering differences between all four of them. Batra blended impeccable technical detailing with engaging character development to put forth a concoction that evoked rib-tickling laughter and incessant tears in equal measure.

Shakun was reportedly planning to direct the biopic of spiritual guru Osho, with Aamir Khan in the lead role and Alia Bhatt cast as Maa Sheela. However, there has been no official announcement of the same.

Shashank Khaitan

He would have been way down in this hierarchy had it not been for his latest film Dhadak. The 2018 film was panned in relation to the film it was a remake of, Nagraj Manjule's Marathi drama Sairat, but it did serve as a testimony to Khaitan's versatility. Prior to Dhadak, he had directed the Dulhania franchise (we have clubbed Badrinath Ki Dulhania and Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania for the sake of even grounds with other directors). The first instalment banked heavily on the chemistry of Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt against a rural backdrop (since their first film together, Student Of The Year, was an urban romance). His storytelling saw progression in Badrinath Ki Dulhania, which added a layer of toxic masculinity to the Dulhania template. And then he went on to extract the same degree of chemistry from newcomers, Ishaan Khatter and Janvhi Kapoor in Dhadak, while also slipping in social commentary in the film.

Ishaan Khatter and Janhvi Kapoor in a still from Dhadak

Ishaan Khatter and Janhvi Kapoor in a still from Dhadak

Shashank is currently developing a spy thriller, with Varun in the lead role. He has delayed Ranbhoomi, a period drama also starring Dhawan.

Abhishek Varman

I have a rather unpopular opinion on the two films Varman has helmed. While I did not like his 2014 romantic comedy 2 States as much the majority of its audience (Chetan Bhagat's book was intrinsically a Hindi movie script and needed a more faithful adaptation), I really enjoyed his latest box office disaster, period drama Kalank. I found the Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt-starrer to be a fairly layered drama though it did seem a bit convoluted in terms of screenplay.

Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan in a still from Kalank. YouTube

Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan in a still from Kalank

Karan Malhotra 

Karan Malhotra is undoubtedly the go-to guy in Dharma for gritty action dramas. His 2012 retelling of Mukul Anand's 1990 film Agneepath was a hardcore masala entertainer, with hard-hitting performances by Hrithik Roshan, Sanjay Dutt and Rishi Kapoor. While Rishi's Rauf Lala track was surely a brownie addition, the narrative could have been more well-rounded with more prominent female characters. His second film, sports drama Brothers, strategically cast Akshay Kumar as a disoriented boxer, and Sidharth Malhotra as his younger brother, but the film was torn between emotions and technique, and struggled to strike the right balance.

Hrithik Roshan in a still from Agneepath

Hrithik Roshan in a still from Agneepath

Karan is currently directing dacoit drama Shamshera for Yash Raj Films, starring Ranbir in the titular role, along with Dutt and Vani Kapoor.

Punit Malhotra

Punit's I Hate Luv Storys was an inventive attempt at depicting a philophobic, who ironically works as an Assistant Director to a Karan Johar-like filmmaker, gradually falling for the rom-com genre. But the confusion of the lead character (Imran Khan) crept into the narrative itself, and the film failed to be a convincing show. Punit's second directorial, Gori Tere Pyaar Mein (2013), came at a time when Imran had reached his saturation point as the leading man of candy floss romantic comedies. The angle of environment conservation, that Kareena's character brought to the film, tried to offer something new but it ultimately didn't work out.

Sonam Kapoor Ahuja and Imran Khan in a still from I Hate Luv Storys

Sonam Kapoor Ahuja and Imran Khan in a still from I Hate Luv Storys

Rensil D'Silva

I have to admit I did not really mind Kurbaan (2009). An engaging screenplay, arguably one of Kareena's career-best performances, and Saif Ali Khan's convincing turn as a terrorist worked in favour of the film. But Kabir Khan's New York, which had a similar storyline with better treatment, had the first movers' advantage as it released earlier that year. The only reason why Rensil ranks last in this list, however, is his 2014 vigilante crime drama Ungli. Despite roping in seasoned actors like Kangana Ranaut, Emraan Hashmi and Randeep Hooda, the no-holds-barred narrative of the film had nothing going for it.

Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan in a still from Kurbaan

Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan in a still from Kurbaan

Student Of The Year 2 has a lot at stake for Punit Malhotra, who could solidify his position as a promising filmmaker and place himself a little higher in this pecking order.

All images from Twitter.

Updated Date: May 08, 2019 16:33:39 IST

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