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Book Review: An Unsuitable Boy

Saguna Shah Friday, May 05, 2017 6921 reads

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File Photo: The Indian Express.

Pople with success, panache, brash attitude and uncanny outspokenness often hog the limelight way too soon. But these very qualities inadvertently create controversies for the way they are and in challenging the norms, for going against the tide. Success, name, d fame do have a price to pay and life that looks as good as a fairytale romance does have its own hardships to struggle and cope with. After all of us have more or less similar experiences in our own ways regardless of who we are.Otherwise, a very rooted and realistic person who loves dark, raw, grim, plotlines and earthy regular characters with not much of a fanfare, I must say my heart skips a beat every time I watch a promo under Yash Raj banner or Dharma Production. Be it the bevy of relatives and the family saga with a wedding song, a heroine clad in chiffon crooning over a Switzerland hilltop, or the smell of the earth with yellow mustard fields, makke di roti and sarson da saag, a hardcore romantic like me rushes to the theater to watch even the crappiest of movies. 




My introduction to the Bollywood world through books began with reading about the underworld with S.Hussain Zaidi’s Black Friday, From Dongri to Dubai, Mafia Queens of Mumbai and My name is Abu Salem. Needless to say, I am fascinated by the real lives beyond the reel. The memoir of the controversial and audacious Protima Bedi who ran nude in the Juhu Beach in the 70’s  Timepass and  the  Ashiqui girl Anu Agrawal’s  Anusual : Memoir of a Girl who came Back from Dead, a fascinating tale of a woman’s journey from a dusky gawky teenager to overnight stardom, near to death experience and recovery told candidly have left a lasting impression on me as a reader and a woman alike. Their journey of self- awakening, ‘living’ not just existing in multiple ways were fascinating and courageous. So when it came to Karan Johar, the Captain of his flagship Dharma Production, I could not lay my hands on The Unsuitable Boy.


In the prolog, KJo writes:


"Today I feel totally liberated. I feel like I can take on anyone or anything. I don’t want to be this person who is bound by principles, morality or reality, someone who has to confirm to any kind of societal rules. The only time I’m tight lipped is when I am asked about my sexuality because it’s my personal business and I don’t want to talk about it. When I’m ready, I will. Right now I don’t wish to. It’s the only part of me I’ve caged. But otherwise, I, eel alive. I am forty- four and I'm ready for new challenges, new people. I’m ready to remove a lot of clutter from my life.’'  


This was the kick start for me not as a reader but as a person who deeply resonated with each word and saw a reflection of myself in them. Writing memoirs can be an intriguing yet daunting task as it gives people the freedom to peer into your world. Despite being a celebrity one still has a private life so how much to tell, what to tell, how truthful one needs to be--does matter. It is human tendency to talk about everything under the sun but talking about oneself needs courage, a lot of it especially when there is a dark side you yourself are coming to terms with. And those very facets of life Childhood , School and College, Bonding with Parents, Obsession with Bollywood and Foray into Films, The Karma and Dharma, Friends and Fallouts, Love and Sex, Koffee with Karan, AIB and Roast , Midlife Angst and much more is what this honest, heartwarming and candidly told memoir An Unsuitable Boy is all about. It is the story of an exceptional filmmaker and an ‘ordinary being’ behind the extraordinary lifestyle the world sees. The world isn’t just what you see outside of your window, from your zone, from your understanding, from your space. It is so much larger, it is so much grander. It has so much to take and so much to offer and you are only but a tiny speck of dust in this grand scheme of things. And this is what I, as a reader could figure out from the life that KJo shares.


This book is all about struggle, love, passion, friendship and relationship not only with people but with life with one’s dreams. And when one has a name and fame to carry along life can be exhausting personally and professionally at so many levels. When you are nobody and have no baggage to carry, friendships are the strongest bonds people have but in course of time with the process of becoming somebody, the beauty of little things start slipping away one by one without any realization until you stand strong in your own shoes aloof and alone. In such transitoriness, the people who see you grow observe you from their eyes and might not exactly be able to see that your priorities bound to your duties might have changed but at the heart, you are the same person. The value of a relationship is predominant in almost all the chapters.However, KJo finds unconditional love only in few relations- his mother, father, director Aditya Chopra and Shahrukh Khan who love him in all his imperfections, who are always there to hold his hands without any reserve, without respite. In his journey from overcoming his childhood insecurities and awkward feminineness, obsession for movies, taking charge of his father’s dreams to growing as a stronger individual we find tremendous growth in him. As a filmmaker readers find him not very experimental at the onset of changing times of Indian cinema but definitely with the content it offered. The most endearing part of the book, however, is his relation with his father and coming to terms with his sexuality apart from the movies that are there from the begin to the end. Unlike what he has said in the begin, KJo despite not uttering the three lettered word GAY does insinuate it which makes the readers wonder if it is so difficult for someone like him to admit homosexuality, then what about the laymen?


An Unsuitable Boy is worth a read for several reasons. I picked this book as a light-hearted read with a little inkling that it would move me to the core leaving me heavy hearted at many places. The language is fluid and it feels like you aren’t actually reading the book but sitting in front of KJo talking to him.


Saguna Shah is an educator, avid reader and founder of Bookaholics.

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