Bollywood filmmaker, producer and celebrity talk show host Karan Johar may be one of the most successful and respected people in the film industry, but his biography An Unsuitable Boy proves he is just as human and vulnerable as any of us. The biography is written by Karan Johar and Poonam Saxena, the book sees Johar open up about his sexual orientation and the fears and confusion which bogged him down him as in his childhood and youth.
While Johar has never openly owned his sexual orientation, the common knowledge (conjecture?) about him being gay makes him the butt of many jokes and puns and an excerpt from An Unsuitable Boy published in Times of India quotes Johar as saying that everyone knows it already and he doesn’t need to scream it.
“If I need to spell it out, I won’t only because I live in a country where I could possibly be jailed for saying this. Which is why I Karan Johar will not say the three words that possibly everybody knows about me,” Johar says.
On matters of insecurities and relationships, the biography reveals how Johar too struggled with confusion about sex and body image through his childhood: “The thought of sex made me awkward; it almost rattled me. I thought, am I asexual? Why am I not feeling this? Why am I not doing anything? There was a lot of turbulence in my head. For me to address it, talk about it, discuss it, was a big no-no.” However, he adds that he brushed these issues under the carpet while making Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. “I was also very large and was grappling with my weight issues. I felt physically undesirable,” he writes.
It was after Kuch Kuch Hota Hai that Johar began grooming himself, lost weight and began feeling more confident about himself. This is when his “first encounter” happened in New York. At the age of 26, he lost his virginity, although Johar says that he isn’t very proud of it. While Johar is hardly seen taking puns and jokes about his sexuality head on, he writes that he was “traumatised” by rumours of him being linked with Shah Rukh Khan. Johar says that he has always seen Shah Rukh has a “father figure” and “older brother” and when a TV show host asked him about their purported sexual relationship, it really stung.
These experiences, Johar says, have made him wary of being seen with single men because the society may think they are sleeping together. He also says that contrary to the belief that he has “all the possible avenues to have all the sex in the world”, it is not who he is. “To me, sex is a very, very personal and a very intimate feeling. It’s not something that I can do casually, with just about anyone. I have to invest in it,” he says. He also makes a strong case for his privacy in saying that his sexual orientation is his concern. “I refuse to talk about it…I have not been brought up to talk about my sex life,” he says. “I have become like the poster boy of homosexuality in this country. But honestly, I have no problem with people saying what they want about me,” he adds.
Johar also says he receives plenty of hate messages, especially on Twitter. Sometimes, up to 200 a day, but has now learnt to laugh them off. Referring to his appearance at the controversial AIB roast, he says that he told his mother, who was seated in the front row, to also laugh at the jokes instead of being uncomfortable or embarrassed because he isn’t ashamed of who he is. “I’m not apologetic. I’m embarrassed about the country I live in vis-a-vis where I come from in terms of my orientation,” he says, adding that homophobia is “disheartening and upsetting”.When asked why he doesn’t speak about his sexuality when he could be an icon if he did, Johar says: “But I don’t want to be iconic anywhere. I want to live my life.”
He argues further that he doesn’t speak about it out loud because he doesn’t want to deal with the FIRs or spend time making rounds of courts when he is answerable to over a hundred people who work for him and his company. “I’ve reached a point in my life where I am not going to conform to what people think I should be saying or doing…So if you have an opinion about my sexuality, then screw you. I don’t care,” he says.
Interview: Times Of India | January 2017
While we’ve seen a lot more of his glamorous persona onscreen like on his talk show, ‘Koffee With Karan’, the director bares the rarely seen emotional side of himself. He talks about topics which are quite personal to him and is bravely unapologetic about it all. The struggles that he has inscribed into the pages of his biography shall serve as a brilliant inspiration to us all. Karan Johar deserves our utmost respect!