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Yash Johar, The Man Who Made ‘Agneepath’ & became SRK’s Tom Uncle

A birthday tribute to one of the most legendary producers in Bollywood.

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Yash Johar, The Man Who Made ‘Agneepath’ & became SRK’s Tom Uncle
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Yash Johar was one of Bollywood’s most prominent film producers, who gave the industry many memorable films. His legacy of storytelling continues with his son, director-producer-actor Karan Johar. In Yash saab’s memory, on his birth anniversary, we revisit his contributions to cinema, those that still keep him alive.

Yash Johar with his son Karan and wife Hiroo Johar.
(Photo: Twitter/@karanjohar)
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Dostana (1980)

Film Poster: Dostana (1980)

The first film ever to be produced by Dharma Productions was Dostana (1980) and it was a huge box office success. The film starring Amitabh Bachchan, Shatrughan Sinha and Zeenat Aman was directed by Raj Khosla. This film was the beginning of a deep friendship between Amitabh Bachchan and Yash Johar.

“Yash Johar was just the ideal producer for an artist. His care and concern for them; his efficient and systematic management systems during and after their association with the film; his personalised attention to the entire unit, are now legendary. Many of the production systems he introduced in his unit were ahead of time, thoughtful and most professional. A soft spoken, gentle and concerned human, with the most subtle sense of humour, even in the most adverse circumstances.”
Amitabh Bachchan
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Agneepath (1990)

Film Poster: Agneepath (1990) starring Amitabh Bachchan

Then came Agneepath (1990). The greatness of this film was realised only decades after its release. Yash Johar’s Agneepath (1990) was a major flop in its time. But 22 years later when Karan Johar produced a remake, it was a smashing hit!

Amitabh Bachchan with Yash Johar and other Bollywood celebrities.
(Photo: Twitter/@karanjohar)

"I was 18 years old then, studying in college. I remember dad had a trial show for all his close friends, including Yash Chopra and Javed Akhtar. Farhan and Zoya Akhtar, Hrithik Roshan, Aditya Chopra and I sat on the floor of Ajanta theatre watching it with mom and dad. All the boys loved the film. Adi told me that dad had produced a superb film," said Karan Johar.

When I expressed my apprehensions about it doing well, Adi told me not to worry about that. he said, ‘Yash uncle has produced a great film and you should be happy about that.’ My father was very proud. At all the screenings, the audience would stand up and applaud. I remember his face being full of joy and pride at the compliments. He was like a proud parent, so when the commercial success didn’t live up to that, a part of him just broke.
Karan Johar, Filmmaker
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Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998)

Film Poster: Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998)

Kuch Kuch Hota Hai brought back the lost the dignity and honour for the Johars of Dharma Productions. After Dostana, this was Dharma’s long-awaited hit. KKHH  was also Karan Johar’s directorial debut and there’s been no looking back for Dharma ever since.

Shah Rukh and Karan Johar on sets of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai

After Yash Johar and Amitabh Bachchan, it is SRK and Karan’s friendship that Bollywood swears by.

Shah Rukh and Karan Johar on sets of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (Photo: Twitter/@karanjohar)
He was my ‘Tom Uncle’. I gave him that name after the popular American classic Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Uncle Tom lived life to the fullest. He was a great helper. Irrespective of whether he knew the person or not, Yash Uncle was always there when somebody needed him. Yash uncle was famous for attending the maximum number of funerals. We would tease him a lot. He didn’t care whether it was dawn or midnight, he would just land up to mourn with the aggrieved.
Shah Rukh Khan, Actor
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Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham (2001)

Film Poster: Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham (2001)

After the stupendous success of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Karan came to his father with a new idea, and this time he did’nt want just one or two stars but six super duper stars- Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, Hrithik Roshan and Kareena Kapoor. Yash saab was not sure about the ambitious project but supported his son’s vision. And as they say, the rest is history.

It was my father Yash Johar’s most favourite film. He liked K3G even more than my first film Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. That alone makes K3G more special for me.

– Karan Johar, Film Director-Producer

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Kal Ho Na Ho (2003)

Film Poster: Kal Ho Na Ho produced by Karan Johar

The situation on the sets was in tune with the film’s title. Yash Johar was diagnosed with cancer while he was shooting this film. He was in tremendous pain throughout the filming in New York but didn’t give up on the film.

"Everyone went into depression. But my father continued to function normally. Not once, even for a day, did he let us feel his pain. Keeping the film on schedule was more important to him than his health," Karan said.

(This story is from The Quint’s archives and was first published on 6 September 2015. It’s been republished to mark Yash Johar’s birth anniversary.)

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