Saturday, 11 February 2017

Book Review: An Unsuitable Boy by Karan Johar

Book: An Unsuitable Boy

Author: Karan Johar (with Poonam Saxena)

Pages: 352

Read on: Kindle 

Read in: 3 hours 

Plot Summary: Karan Johar is synonymous with success, panache, quick wit, and outspokenness, which sometimes inadvertently creates controversy and makes headlines. 

KJo, as he is popularly called, has been a much-loved Bollywood film director, producer, actor, and discoverer of new talent. With his flagship Dharma Production, he has constantly challenged the norms, written and rewritten rules, and set trends. But who is the man behind the icon that we all know? 

Baring all for the first time in his autobiography, An Unsuitable Boy, KJo reminisces about his childhood, the influence of his Sindhi mother and Punjabi father, obsession with Bollywood, foray into films, friendships with Aditya Chopra, SRK and Kajol, his love life, the AIB Roast, and much more. In his trademark frank style, he talks about the ever-changing face of Indian cinema, challenges and learnings, as well as friendships and rivalries in the industry. 

Honest, heart-warming and insightful, An Unsuitable Boy is both the story of the life of an exceptional film-maker at the peak of his powers and of an equally extraordinary human being who shows you how to survive and succeed in life.

Things I Like: 

1. The book has lots of little stories about the process of making Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge- a movie that was a big part of my childhood and childhood adventures! I remember, we had to wait for MONTHS before we could get tickets to watch the movie! So, reading about how the movie came to be and little snippets of behind-the-scenes action was very fun. There is a fun anecdote about how SRK's famous red-and-white sweater (you know the one I am talking about if you've seen the movie) came to be in the movie and, spoiler alert, KJo was the one who put that look together. 

2. The book also has several candid (well, as candid as people are in autobiographies) glimpses into Karan Johar's childhood. We see him as a shy, overweight, slightly under-confident only child, who struggled to fit in for most of his childhood. I think his childhood explains a lot- he was very close to his parents, pampered by his father and had trouble making friends. I think a lot of his issues now seem to stem from his childhood. 

3. The chapter about his father's death was very moving. Karan Johar was, clearly, close to his father, who sounds like a lovely man, and his struggles with cancer and death and its impact on Karan were very moving. One can tell that that chapter came from a deeply personal and emotional place and the authenticity of his emotions came through loud and clear. 

Things I Didn't Like: 

1. This is such a self-indulgent book. To be fair, I guess all autobiographies are, but this book seems like it is a cross between an almost-coming out confessional and a poor-little-rich-boy-me kind of a book in its tonality. I don't care about Johar's sexuality or anyone else's for that matter. He doesn't really openly say what his sexuality is, which is fine. What I don't get is why does there need to be a whole, drawling, pointless chapter about his sex life?! No one wants or needs to know how many times he has had sex or whether he paid for said sex or not.. I pretty much sped-read through that chapter and it left me feeling quite annoyed. Those are some 20-odd pages that we could do without! 

2. I really dislike vague-posting! If you can't say what it is that upset you or what it is that you are fighting with someone about, then don't talk about it. There is a whole chapter about Johar's falling out with Kajol and Ajay Devgn. KJo doesn't say what it is that they fought over because "I know it, Kajol knows it, her husband knows it" and "I want to keep it like that" he says. Um, then, dude, why are you bothering to drone on and on and on about how little Kajol matters to you.. how she didn't care about your 25 year-old close friendship etc. 

3. The book could have done with some better editing! There are so many repetitions throughout the book. He talks about his equation with SRK multiple times. We get it! You told us once. No need to tell us five different times. Similarly, he talks about Aditya Chopra multiple times and says the same thing each time. We get it. You are super-close, you owe your career to him. No need to say it 10 times! This book could've easily been a 200-page tome, but instead it ambles along pointlessly for a 100 more pages. 

4. Johar is pretty self-congratulatory, which is understandable given this is his book and he can pat himself on the back, but he seems like he has to make the point of how successful Dharma Productions is multiple times. He took the credit for making Bahubali a pan-India success because his company distributed it. Um, sorry brah, but Bahubali would've been the sensation it is even if it was ever only shown dubbed on TV! It is such a great movie that it does not need your "marketing" and "branding" skills. 

Rating: 3/5 

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