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Yash Johar's star teachers before Dharma Productions

Karan Johar's father learnt the ropes at two of India’s most prestigious production houses as he made his way up the ladder.

Sonal Pandya

Yash Johar started out in film production at the age of 23 and went on to work with some of Hindi cinema's biggest banners. His first training was under Sunil Dutt's company Ajanta Arts with Mujhe Jeene Do and Yeh Rastey Hain Pyar Ke, two films that released in 1963. From there, he moved on to Dev Anand's banner Navketan Films, where he learnt the ropes while working on some iconic films.

Johar was production controller and simultaneously handled the Hindi and English crews for the dual versions of Guide (1965), which was based on RK Laxman’s eponymous novel. The English version was troubled but the Hindi version of the film went on to become a landmark in Indian cinema.

Johar also took care of the daily problems on the sets. In one amusing incident, recounted by his filmmaker son Karan, on one of the outdoor shoots for Guide, the crew set up a song sequence at what they called Rohtang Pass. In actuality, the pass was a few kilometres away. But the crew was tired of hiking up the mountain trail and so decided to make it seem that the location they had set up was Rohtang.

Yash Johar stayed on for 11 years at Navketan, working on Jewel Thief (1967), Dev Anand’s directorial debut Prem Pujari (1970), and Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971).

Karan said that even after his father left the production house, he continued to have the utmost respect for Devsaab, as Anand was called by most in the industry. In an online interview, Karan Johar said, “The one thing I’ll never forget is that even if my dad was talking to Dev Anand on the phone, he’d shoot up and stand, he respected him so much. Never mind if Dev Anand couldn’t see him standing on the other end of the line!”

Though launched in 1976, Yash Johar’s Dharma Productions started its journey four years later with a hit, Dostana (1980), starring Amitabh Bachchan and Shatrughan Sinha. The next couple of films, Duniya (1984) and Muqaddar Ka Faisla (1987), failed to capitalize on this early success. But the company bounced back with Agneepath (1990), which won for Bachchan his first National award for Best Actor and has gone on to become a cult classic.

Of course, things changed dramatically for Dharma when Johar produced Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), which launched his son, Karan, as a filmmaker. They have never looked back since. Today, the production house has completed over 35 years in the industry and stands among the leaders in the business.