Finally, that time of the year is here and book lovers couldn’t be more rejoiced! Jaipur Literature Festival is back with its 2016 edition and it’s bigger, better and merrier! We met with an enthusiastic crowd of readers on the very first day of the Fest. And even though it was a weekday, Diggi Palace was JAM PACKED! Kudos to lit lovers!
Skimming through the hustle bustle of the fest, we reached the Front Lawns where we were to attend a session ‘The Unsuitable Boy’ with a panel which was nowhere near to being unsuitable.
After much anticipation, the crowd went into a frenzy as it welcomed the acclaimed writers Shobhaa De and Poonam Saxena, followed by the ever loved and one of the most celebrated Bollywood directors – Karan Johar.
Known for his witty disposition, Johar was at his spontaneous best at the session and began by stating “You can ask me anything!” Quickly adding “Who better than Shobhaa De to ask me anything,” making the audiences roll in laughter. Coming back to the agenda of the gathering, Shobhaa De informed the listeners about ‘The Unsuitable Boy’ “which is nothing else but his (Johar’s) life story. De began by saying that what makes her really happy is that “how spontaneously Karan agreed to do this book.” When the idea of writing a book on his life, was proposed to Karan, he got quite excited and agreed to it readily!”
Continuing her point, De said “we have very limited books on Bollywood, even though it’s the highest producer of films around the globe. Had Karan been in Hollywood, at least, 5 books would have been written on him by this time.”
Taking the conversation further, Shobhaa De asked Karan about the one word that particularly scarred him in his growing years, which was ‘pansy,’ to which he replied that he grew up in one of the “snooty” neighbourhoods in south Bombay where saying that his father worked in films was not really a cool thing, “So I would bite the bait and tell everyone that my father was a businessman.” Adding to this, he said that this wasn’t much of issue as much as him being an effeminate child was. “It was just the way I was. I don’t regret who I was, and I never will, but that word used to scar me and made me feel that I am different from other boys… Of course, later on, in life I realized it meant nothing. I had to be who I was. So, there was no looking away from that.” His words garnered a great round of applause.
Also, since he was an overweight child, his peers teased him by the name of ‘fatty’, and that upset him. “It was stupid,” Karan added. If you are fat and someone called you fat it shouldn’t have been a problem. Coming from a family of a combination Punjabi and Sindhi parents, he said you should not believe them in the matters of weight. His parents thought that what he had was puppy weight and would go away as he would grow up, and believed that he was the most beautiful child!
Coming back to the point of writing the book with Poonam Saxena, Karan shared that his sessions with Saxena were quite uplifting. He shared some aspects of his life which were not shared previously.
“The idea was to make Karan sit and reflect, remember and recall his life in a very unsparing sort of manner. While we were talking I could see that things are coming back for him. It was very intense,” said Poonam.
To this Poonam Saxena added that the experience of reliving the moments of Karan’s life left them drained and tired as the whole experience of Karan reflecting back on his life was quite emotional. “You have to sometimes push a little and hit a raw nerve.” She recalled that there was never a moment when Karan tried to brush things aside.
“Poonam became my unofficial therapist, because when you talk about your childhood, your trials, your tribulations, you do touch many raw nerves.” Karan shared, adding “It’s very easy for the outside people to think that you have had a very cushy, nepotistic existence.. what struggle could there have been. But there are personal struggles, you know?”
Diverting the subject to the film industry, De asked Karan what is the one thing that he doesn’t like about the industry now. “Delusions,” said Karan, “sometimes I feel like writing an email to actors saying you are not that a big star that you think you are.”
“There is a lot of artificiality now. The warmth is missing,” Karan told De.
When asked about the multiple tiffs that Johar have had with other directors in past, Karan said “I am looking for a new director to fight with. It keeps the energy going!” (winks)
It’s not escaped anyone that Karan is a dear darling of controversies. He jokingly remarked “I am looking for scandals. If scandals don’t find me, I go and knock at its door.”
Karan Johar’s book ‘The Unsuitable Boy’ will be out in May.