Thursday 4 October 2018


The unsuitable boy, with some chapters more engaging than others, is about coming of age and ‘coming out’. The chapter on where it is mentioned about Johar’s childhood will have strong resonances for those who are labeled with the tag of “effeminacy”. As a plump and non-masculine schoolboy, Johar is vexed but resilient while his parents are liberal, accepting and unconditionally loving. But the ‘normal’ world around him is persistently judgemental about any deviation from gender normativity.

In order to ‘pass’ better, the collegiate Johar secretly attends voice-training classes where he is taught to develop a baritone and speak without feminine gesticulations. “Imagine that you’re living in a box” the instructors would say, “now make sure that your hands don’t get out of the box”. They taught him social skills, of which being masculine was one? For non-normative people, embodying the ‘normal’ and ‘natural’ is the hardest precisely because it does not come naturally.

Johar had finished his college and was about to go to France for an internship linked to his father’s export business when, three days before he was to board the flight, his close friend Chopra persuaded him to stay back and help with the making of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. Chopra told him: “Why the hell don’t you realize that you were born to be in the movies? You’re overdramatic, you’re melodramatic, you’re funny. The only thing you don’t have is an interval because you have this non-stop mad energy. You’re meant for the movies…. You’ll be a filmmaker one day.” Chopra’s prediction came true and Johar went onto make urban romantic melodramas that defined the contours of the Bollywood moment in the 1990s.

Johar’s debut film Kuch Kuch Hota Hai was a sensational hit that revived the fortunes of both his family and his father’s company Dharma Productions. But his second film Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham opened to a less enthusiastic response. Critics slammed the extravagant multi-starter for its showy over the top-ness, cheesy jingoism and, if I may add, an audacious sense of cinematic geography where Chandni Chowk stood in close proximity to bucolic British estates.

To a despairing Johar, it felt as though the gains of his first film would stand reversed but the film picked up gradually and ended up creating box office history while overtaking the collections of that year’s most feted film Lagaan. Over the years, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham has been Dharma’s most successful film. It became, in the words of Johar, the “go-to Bollywood film” enjoying its “biggest brand value” in Germany, France, and Ireland. Johar is refreshingly clear-eyed about his repertoire. With wit, self-deprecating humor and the keen sensibility of a cinephile, Johar cheerfully performs autopsies of his own films.

Now my Positive viewpoints:

The positives of the story are the characters easily identifiable. Even though the narration is again easy to read and allows us to easily go through the entire story, the tale is spread over long years, but the novelist has chosen present tense all through, and the story is intertwined in the past and the present. This style provides a simultaneous telling of many stories happened at different times together. The reader is immersed between the layers of the internal as well as the external upheavals of various characters. There are many episodes that remain with you long after you keep the book back on the shelf.

Some suggestive points:

The book is clearly meant for Bollywood buffs because phonetically reproduced Hindi lines are often left untranslated and plot points are discussed without any reference to their context in the film. The downside of addressing this ‘knowing audience’ is that much of the book’s content is likely to be known to them. Yet, there is something here for everyone. In the age of proliferating digital media, celebrity biographies get written as life is lived. In adopting two children – a desire expressed in the last chapter of his book – and talking about it extensively to the media, Johar has already started authoring the sequel.

Final words:

Overall if asked I would say this is a good job done by the author, the book is interesting and a good read. The writer makes a storyline interesting with her narration abilities. I would give 4 stars to this book.