An Unsuitable Boy – Karan Johar

Worth a read

Karan Johar is always in the eye of a storm. Everything he does, or doesn’t do, somehow becomes news. Controversies seem to follow him like the kids following the Pied Piper of Hamelin. An Unsuitable Boy is Karan’s way of setting the record straight. His image on Koffee with Karan  as the gossipy chat show host willing to stir up trouble for ratings, who doesn’t care (much) about his friends and industry insiders, doesn’t do him justice.

Co-written with Poonam Saxena, An Unsuitable Boy is immensely readable and flows smoothly.  Though not written chronologically, it is about different chapters in his life, which work as a timeline without being obvious about it.

Having grown up on his movies, I was curious to know who the man behind the larger-than-life public persona is. For me it was like a love affair gone wrong – from liking his movies, to plain indifference, to being vicious about his choices.

Though not a recluse by any means, the book shows that he has a private life. We see the circumstances that shaped him and made him what he’s today. It was interesting to know how he functions and the reasoning behind his business decisions. There weren’t as many insights as I had hoped for, but enough to keep me turning the pages.

As an only child, he was close to his parents and his mother continues to live with him. The Death of My Father is one of the most emotional chapters in the book, and I felt myself getting teary eyed. Work is a large part of his life and he likes it that way. He is proud of carrying forward the legacy of his father (Dharma Productions) and reaching new heights. He doesn’t claim to be an intellectual, and has no qualms in admitting that for him it’s the box-office numbers that count. With his father’s films not doing well and the stress it put on the family, he knew the importance of  box-office success early on.

The chapters where he talks about his equations with Aditya Chopra and Shah Rukh Khan, who practically gave him a start and pushed him on the path he was meant to be walking on, were superb. The way he talks about them shows that he doesn’t shy away from giving credit where it is due, that he has his heart in the right place.

He’s insecure and an incorrigible gossip. He is also a loyal friend and a good son. Like all of us, he has many sides to his personality.

A surprisingly candid window into the life of Karan Johar, but far from a tell-all autobiography. An Unsuitable Boy felt  more like a memoir than an autobiography as it wasn’t all-encompassing and he still has many experiences ahead of him. Moments of aching vulnerability and the personal admissions interspersed with his sense of humour, make the book a compelling read.

+ + +

  1. I liked that he was himself, the facade more or less falling away.  To show who he truly was to the world couldn’t have been easy when every move he makes is a point of discussion and debate.
  2. He reveals his insecurities and vulnerabilities. He isn’t ashamed to mention that he was seeing a psychologist and it was the only thing that helped his anxiety.
  3. I had many preconceived notions about him, but An Unsuitable Boy changed my perception and I was forced to let go of my biases.

– – –

  1. It was an eye-opener to read everything in his own words, but I could have done with more information about his movies.
  2. In the book he talks about his yearning to become a parent. Although he became a father soon after the book was published, no light was shed on it. 

. . .

  1. Isn’t it too early for Karan Johar to bring out his autobiography as he’s in his 40s? Is 40 the new 80 then?
  2. I wonder  in what way co-writer Poonam Saxena contributed to the book. Did she take down the dictation while Karan narrated his life story? (We know from the book that Karan can’t put pen to paper, literally. His film scripts are fully formed in his head and somebody writes it down.)

! ! !

  1. He didn’t talk about the controversy surrounding Ae Dil Hai Mushkil  that released in 2016. He should have tried to clear the air. Not talking about the issue makes it look like he was indeed afraid.
  2. I liked how candid he was about his sexuality, but at the same time he made it clear that he does not wish to be a spokesperson for the gay community. Nevertheless, I applaud his bravery in coming out and stating things as they are. It is rare for an Indian celebrity to admit his sexual orientation publicly in a country like ours, where homosexuality is punishable under section 377.

An autobiography to remember!

Book Details:

Title An Unsuitable Boy
Amazon Paperback
Amazon Kindle Edition
Editor(s)/Author(s)/Illustrator(s)/Translator(s) Karan Johar, Poonam Saxena
Publisher Penguin Random House India

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