Karan made his directorial debut on a grand scale with Kuch Kuch Hota Hai starring Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol. The movie also featuring Rani Mukerji in the supporting role was a blockbuster hit. The romantic drama film, which later achieved a cult status in India went on to win several awards including the National Film Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment. Karan won the Best Director Filmfare Awards.
The stalwart director’s second directorial ventured was titled Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. The movie, that featured an ensemble cast including Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Kajol, Jaya Bachchan, Kareena Kapoor, and Hrithik Roshan released in 2001. The modern family-centered drama struck the right chords with the audience and alike his previous movie, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham went on to be another major blockbuster. Critic Taran Adarsh commented that “Johar confirms the fact that he is the brightest in film firmament. The premise [of the film] is simple, but it is the storytelling that deserves the highest marks.” He next produced the movie Kal Ho Na Ho (2003) starring Shahrukh Khan, Preity Zinta, and Kajol in lead roles. Giving a chance to the debutant director Nikhil Advani, Karan Johar wrote the screenplay of the movie. The incredible success of Kal Ho Naa Ho meant a hat-trick of blockbusters for the Karan Johar-Shah Rukh Khan pair.
Continuing his obsession with the word ‘K’, Karan Johar titled his next movie, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (2006). The movie stars Shahrukh Khan, Preity Zinta, Rani Mukerji, Amitabh Bachchan, and Abhishek Bachchan in lead roles and revolves around the subject of marital infidelity. The film turned out to be another success for Karan and it received much appreciation overseas markets. Noted film critic, Rajeev Masand wrote – “Few writers have such solid control over their screenplay as Karan Johar does. Few understand the intricacies of narrative as well as he does. Johar goes from highs to lows, from plateaus to peaks with the ease of a pro. He knows exactly how to turn a seemingly ordinary scene into something special with just that one line of dialogue, or that hint of background music.”
In 2010 Karan directed the movie My Name Is Khan; his first directorial project that does not begin with the letter ‘K’. The movie, which is based on the concept of counter-terrorism showcases how a couple is subject to religious prejudice post the 9/11 attacks in the US. The movie featuring the hit pair of Bollywood, Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol in the lead roles, received rave reviews in India and international markets. for his stellar work, Karan won his second Filmfare Award for Best Director. For his next movie, Student Of The Year that released in October 2012, Karan broke his norm of working with established actors and instead cast three debutant actors viz. Alia Bhatt, daughter of acclaimed director Mahesh Bhatt, Sidharth Malhotra, and Varun Dhawan, son of the popular director David Dhawan. The movie received mixed reviews at the box office and was Karan’s first movie that could not match the success of his previous films.
Karan next directed a part in the anthology Bombay Talkies (2013), which was released to celebrate the centenary year of Hindi cinema. His 2016 releases include Ae Dil Hai Mushkil starring Ranbir Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, and Anushka Sharma.