Karan Johar is not just a filmmaker but a media personality who has changed the face of cinema with his gigantic flicks and TV show Koffee With Karan. However, there is a very private side of the maverick movie mogul that people don’t know much about and he gives us glimpses of that personal journey in his autobiography An Unsuitable Boy. Co-authored with Poonam Saxena, this book is worth reading as it takes you into the world of Karan Johar, the boy who was obsessed with Enid Blyton, who was shy and reclusive and ran away from a boarding house, eventually into filmmaking and fame. He talks about writing the iconic climax of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and took a small idea into Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, just because Shah Rukh Khan wanted him to direct a film!
This autobiography has been written in Koffee With Karan format (if you know what I mean!) and sums up the life and times of Karan Johar chronologically. It shares details of how a child from South Bombay went on to become the king of Bollywood and who were the people who helped him steer his career in the right direction. Johar could have hidden the part where he mentions his failures in school but then, his success wouldn’t have mattered as much if he hadn’t been honest. This is a very heartfelt and personal journey that tracks through failures, insecurities, betrayals as much as it does through love, bonds and eventual success.
This book tells you all there is to know about the filmmaker who has launched the careers of many directors, his friends – Adi (Aditya) Chopra and Shah Rukh Khan – and his heartaches when he was young. He talks about being an overweight and shy boy, spoilt as an only child and cornered for being privileged. He talks about famous episodes in his life, like his friendship with Twinkle Khanna, how she encouraged him to escape from boarding school and how he originally wanted to cast her as Tina in KKHH. He does not talk about his sexuality openly (the risks are just as high in India as they are in Pakistan) but there are enough sensitive references, if you read between the lines.
And then there are the controversies bigger than his sexuality – Johar closes a chapter on his lifelong friend Kajol for believing that he had bribed people to make things difficult for her husband (whose film Shivaay was releasing alongside Ae Dil Hai Mushkil). He also talks about the issues Rishi Kapoor had with the episode where leading ladies made fun of Ranbir, about his temporary ‘cold war’ with SRK and his decision to make Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna where everyone had issues with the script! However, as an admirer of his work, I would have appreciated an admission of the Hollywood classics that had inspired his films.
This book however clarifies many things about Karan Johar, who generally comes out as a rich spoilt brat – the director didn’t like Shah Rukh Khan in Deewana and was more of a follower of Aamir Khan. He doesn’t consider animation or horror as something worth his time and rates Yash Chopra and Raj Kapoor as the best directors in India. He also discloses that he left a possible future in Paris for filmmaking and was helped by his father in avoiding the trip to France – one that changed his life. There is something about the manner in which he selected the ensemble cast in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Ghum and the fallout with Kareena Kapoor who wanted to be paid as much as SRK in Kal Ho Na Ho.
The most emotional of chapters is the one where he talks about his father’s death; those who have experienced the pain will understand his words which are personal and sensitive. He discusses the changes in his life after that incident, how he was helped by his father’s trusted friends in running the company and why he chose Apoorva Mehta – his best friend – to become CEO of Dharma Productions. Disappointingly, Johar completes avoids mentioning Fawad Khan or the entire aftermath of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil but then, maybe the risks of writing those would be as damaging as making sexual declarations. Yes, the book has its shortcomings like any Karan Johar film but it’s just as good a read.
Omair Alavi is a freelance broadcast journalist and can be contacted at email@example.com
5 Things You Didn’t Know About K Jo
Meeting his mentor: Karan Johar met Aditya Chopra during an elocution contest when they were in school. They have been best friends ever since.
Voice Training: Karan Johar’s style of speaking doesn’t come naturally to him; he took voice training classes without telling his parents or friends.
Super Transition: He joined the crew of DDLJ as Assistant Director but became Costume Designer after he came up with a cool jacket for SRK!
Best Film, ever! After previewing KKHH, Yash Johar told his son that he had made the best film in the world, before breaking down tears.
Uncle of the Year: Karan Johar writes that he was the oldest man in the crew of Student of the Year and terms the feeling as being the “uncle on the set”.