Book Mark Review: Karan Johar’s ‘An Unsuitable Boy’

When I asked self-confessed bibliophile, Nandini Arora, to share her thoughts on a book that’s being talked about all the time, she agreed instantly. Avid reader, film viewer and writer, this GHP member shares her opinion of Karan Johar’s autobiography candidly. I suggest you follow her lead and read the book. I have already.                                                                                                                                                                                                                — Anushree


I begin with a confession. I do not like the films Karan Johar makes. Except for Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna which I strangely loved! I don’t care for Koffee with Karan either, unless there’s Shahrukh Khan dimpling away on the couch.

However, a column that Johar wrote online blew my mind away. I had never ever seen a celebrity – an idol for millions of youngsters – be so refreshingly honest and heart touchingly vulnerable, in public. I wanted more of that. As soon as he announced his autobiography I was as excited as fans were about new Harry Potter releases! The autobiography of this film maker kept seeing delays, to my utter dismay.

I’d say this straightaway, it was worth the wait! Well, An Unsuitable Boy was finally in my hands and all it took was one night to finish it breathlessly!

Before I gush more about it, I’d like to share some obvious shortcomings. I have always believed that autobiographies are a genre that need straight-from-the-heart content but need firm and objective editing. This is missing from the book. Karan Johar repeats the same things throughout – sometimes in the same paragraph! The sentences seem choppy and disjointed; there’s a lot of meandering too.

However, I also believe that content is king and makes for every good tale so maybe inadequate expression can be largely ignored. Johar really does write and therefore talk to the reader with no holds barred: directly from his heart. From the feeling of never quite fitting in with other kids as he grew up; subsequent loneliness; the huge gap in the relation with his father; to his mother’s strictness and growing up being overweight. Johar reveals about his “emotional eating” and being obsessed with mainstream Hindi films but suppressing it because his friends had other interests. Hence, “unsuitable”.

And, of course, the fascinating career! An Unsuitable Boy narrates the tale of chance that led Johar to become an assistant director for the legendary film Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge, which was a rather touch-and- go sort of situation. He was to leave the country the very same night when director Aditya Chopra requested him to stay back and assist him. Then the story of how Johar caught the attention and earned the respect of Shahrukh Khan, who with Chopra, encouraged him to make his own film. And the tale of his father who, after a series of massive failures as a producer, invested a huge amount of money and all of his heart in son’s rather risky dream. And then how all the other films followed.

As any autobiography would, so does Karan Johar’s hold all the heart-wrenching life stories – losing his father, a hurtful fallout with colleague Kajol (whom he was very close to) and never ever being able to form a long, meaningful relationship. He also writes about his sexual preferences and about being gay though without ever saying the three words and that really is our cue to hang our heads in shame. A man works hard, realises a successful career by all the feel-good depictions of true love and of happy families to us but our silence and lack of support does not allow him to be what he is, openly. Our silence, criticism and prejudice deny him the dream of someday having a family with the one he loves. Yet, Johar chooses to move on – with life, work and all that comes in between.

So, with a mix of filmy anecdotes and a person who finally found himself, An Unsuitable Boy the book is both an entertaining and moving read, with some profound heart-to-heart connections shared with readers. I highly recommend it.

– Nandini Arora

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