Talking to his biographer Poonam Saxena for An Unsuitable Boy, was cathartic, filmmaker Karan Johar told a packed audience at the Jaipur Literature Festival. “It was like she had become my unofficial therapist,” he said in response to a question from moderator Shobhaa De.
“People assume that being the son of Yash Johar I led a cushy, nepotistic life but people have different kinds of struggles. There is so much conjecture about your orientation, your sexuality. As a person, I internalized a lot of my fears, and sometimes it takes a book to know who you really are. For me, it was an extremely liberating experience,” said Johar who spoke at length about being an effeminate and overweight child.
Still, it wasn’t an unhappy time. “If you have a Punjabi father and a Sindhi mother, you should not believe them. Even when I weighed 150 kilos, my mother said I was the best looking child in the world and my father told me that once I lost a little puppy fat, I stood a chance as hero in Hindi films!”
Johar also spoke about the Hindi film industry’s cut-throat ways. “Failure is not a welcome guest in Bollywood. When my father had five flop films, like in a Hindi film, we had to sell our jewellery and house. Friends of my father suddenly stopped inviting him to their launch parties and there were times when I saw him break down and shed a tear. It was heart-breaking,” he said.
Johar’s passion for movies helped him overcome his childhood fears. The success of his first film Kuch Kuch Hota Hai was one of the most joyous, emotional parts of the book, said Saxena. But Johar almost didn’t get to attend its premiere in 1998. “The year Kuch Kuch Hota Hai came out, there was a long shadow of underworld on the industry and that very night I flew out of Bombay to London for three weeks. So, when I called up Aditya Chopra from a pay booth in London and he told me my film was a blockbuster, I had tears in my eyes.”
Johar says he has put his differences with filmmakers Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Ram Gopal Verma behind him. “I don’t have children, I don’t have any extramarital relationships, so I am looking for new directors to fight with,” he said.
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