Karan Johar recently announced that his talent agency Dharma Cornerstone has signed up Sanjay Kapoor’s daughter Shanaya Kapoor, who will be making her Bollywood debut with a film starring Gurfateh Pirzada and another debutante, Lakshya Lalwani. While the newly launched agency has formalized the filmmaker’s penchant for introducing new talents, Karan has been encouraging aspiring actors from film families around him for years. Here’s a list of starkids Karan has given a platform in Bollywood in the past.
1. Alia Bhatt: Probably Karan Johar’s biggest launch success story, Alia debuted under the Dharma banner instead of her own family’s production house. She began her Bollywood career with Student of the Year (2012), alongside another starkid, Varun Dhawan. Despite proving her talents in films made under several other banners, Dharma has been a home for Alia who has returned to the banner time and again for films like 2 States, Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania, Kapoor & Sons, Dear Zindagi and Kalank. Karan has said in as many words that Alia is like a child to him and he will always have her back.
2. Varun Dhawan: Another starkid with a filmmaker father, Varun debuted with Karan Johar’s film before working with his dad David Dhawan. It was definitely the right launchpad for Varun as Student of the Year was a huge hit. He then returned to Dharma to star in Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania (2014), Badrinath Ki Dulhania (2017) and Kalank (2019), besides proving his mettle with October and Badlapur under other production houses.
3. Ananya Panday: She joined the next batch of students, debuting with Student of the Year 2 in 2019. The movie generated a lot of buzz for Ananya, setting her off in her Bollywood journey. She went on to do movies like Pati Patni Aur Woh and Khaali Peeli. She will next be seen in some interesting projects like the pan-India movie Liger opposite Vijay Deverakonda, and Shakun Batra’s untitled film co-starring Deepika Padukone and Siddhant Chaturvedi.
4. Janhvi Kapoor: Yet another name from a film family that is full of actors and producers, but Janhvi chose Karan Johar as her launchpad. Her father Boney Kapoor has been producing films for decades, while cousin Rhea Kapoor is one of the young successful producers in Bollywood right now. Sridevi’s older daughter began her film career with Dhadak, the remake of Marathi film Sairat. Janhvi is continuing her Dharma stint, having starred in Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl and signing Dostana 2 under the banner.
5. Ishaan Khatter: While Ishaan made his movie debut with Majid Majidi’s Beyond the Clouds (2017), his big Bollywood break was Dhadak alongside Janhvi Kapoor. Shahid Kapoor’s brother and Neelima Azeem’s son got to show his full range of talent with Dhadak, which had a hit formula in place alongwith all the masala that a mainstream movie needs. He has since starred in the Netflix mini series A Suitable Boy, Khaali Peeli with Ananya Panday and will soon be seen in Phone Bhoot with Katrina Kaif.
6. Ayan Mukerji: Karan Johar has also brought in a number of new directors to Bollywood, some of who belong to film families. Ayan Mukerji, who hails from the prominent Mukherjee-Samarth family, made his directorial debut at the age of 26 with the coming-of-age comedy Wake Up Sid (2009), produced by Karan Johar. Before his debut, he worked as an assistant director on Dharma films, including My Name Is Khan. His second directorial Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani was also under Johar’s banner Dharma Productions.
7. Punit Malhotra: He is another name who worked as an assistant director on several Dharma films like Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham and Dostana before making his directorial debut with I Hate Luv Storys (2010) produced by Karan Johar. He has several familial links to Bollywood – maternal grandfather Ram Dayal Sabarwal was a producer who launched Rekha, his first cousins are filmmakers Suneel and Dharmesh Darshan. David Dhawan is his father’s first cousin, and designer Manish Malhotra is his paternal uncle.