Seeking Immortality… | 12 September, 2019

By Surendra Bhatia

Karan Johar has taken the big step towards immortality. He has launched a new company, Dharmatic Entertainment, for producing digital content, and has signed a multi-year deal with Netflix to create and provide a wide range of new fiction and non-fiction series and films for the streaming giant. It is assumed that the output of Dharmatic Entertainment would be substantial, and the kind that would resonate with audiences across the globe… or, at least, the 93 countries in which Netflix is currently operative. This could well be the basis for immortality for Karan, and if he pulls it off (no reason why he shouldn’t be able to), he will soon become the world’s most influential, best known film personality from India… which he isn’t as yet.

What does the deal with Netflix mean for Karan? While it is too early to speculate on the creatives and commerce of a deal like this, an obvious assumption would be that Karan and his company would produce content that would be shown worldwide. And if they put out enough of it, it would not be long when series of shows and films from the Dharmatic stable would be playing in multiple countries at every given minute of the day and the night (somewhere in the near future).

This really is immortality. It doesn’t come easy. Very few individuals have attained it. Raj Kapoor is a huge Bollywood icon but he created only a small number of feature films which, though fabulous, get seen only sporadically and largely in just one country. Raj Kapoor’s idol, Charlie Chaplin, on the other hand, is switched on at every moment of day and night at some place or the other around the world… this can’t be measured but it doesn’t seem an exaggeration to assume that not a single moment passes by in our times when at least one person across the globe is not tuned into a Charlie Chaplin creation, in cinemas and on television and the Internet and smart phones. If life for an actor or filmmaker is the content that he has created, Charlie Chaplin never died. He is immortal. 

It’s much easier for companies, obviously. Disney, Fox Studios, Universal, all Hollywood biggies, have so many thousands of films, TV shows, serials, shorts, documentaries and other content flashing their names in the credit titles that they can be considered immortal… among Indians and Bollywood particularly, none falls in this category, not even Raj Kapoor, one of the greatest filmmakers born in India, and certainly not his R.K. Films, which lies under plinth that will soon be dug at his famed former studio at Chembur in Bombay.

It is churlish of some to use Dharma and Karan’s escapist fare like the Student Of The Year films to damn him, to jump to conclusions that the millennials, avowed enthusiasts of streaming sites, would now be distressfully inundated with Karan’s Bollywood diet. This is such utter nonsense. Just for the record, Karan has also produced Lust Stories, which was not Bollywood fare, and he has also hosted shows like Koffee With Karan, which cut through all the TV clutter and stood out as importantly in media programming as a lighthouse to sailors, despite its Bollywood tilt. It is rather naïve to think that Karan is naïve and won’t be able to tell the difference between the film audience that needs to be seduced with escapist fare, and the captive web audience that needs to be startled and shaken out of its potato-couch stupor. It’s fairly certain that Dharmatic’s fare will be edgy, bold and will cater to world audiences rather than a manipulative Hindi Kal Ho Naa Ho that he makes for ticket-buying film audiences.

On the probability that Karan has the sensibilities to cater to world audiences lies his next game, with Netflix and Dharmatic Entertainment, though not with Dharma Productions. It ought not to be a long shot. There’s a good chance that Karan might make so many projects that he would soon enough reach out to immortality, provided he goes about it with the same diligence that he displays in selecting his wardrobe. This is his big opportunity; or, as some hyperbolic individuals may want to put it, his chance of a lifetime. Will he be able to achieve it? Of course, he will! After all, he’s God’s chosen child.