From talking about his childhood, to being his unapologetic self, Karan Johar opens up about his life beyond films.
From the other side of the screen, looking at all the glitz and glam, it creates an illusion of a sorted life. But after the curtains fall, the real life of a celebrity is vastly different from what we believe. Bollywood’s most popular producer-director, Karan Johar opened up and spoke about the Myth of Masculinity at the recently concluded edition of We The Women.
He begins the talk with touching stories from his childhood and how he was scrutinised for dancing like a girl. He says, “I went and saw this film Sargam when I was eight-years-old and I became obsessed with that song dafliwale. I would come back home and play it on my Akai player but I kept doing Jaya Prada’s steps and not Rishi Kapoor’s,” recalls Karan. However, home was a much safer space for Karan, as neither his mother nor his father found anything weird. “It was when I went down to the compound of my building or in front of the seniors at school or when I went for any inter-school competition, other kids who are not from your domain would make fun of me. Suddenly I started developing an aversion to the word ‘pansy’, it was the word used predominantly in the 80’s. To an extent, I would say it scarred me.”
Being teased about his everyday mannerisms, like the way he ran or the way he talked, had a major effect on his mental health. Karan also confessed about seeing a speech therapist for three years to get rid of his squeaky voice. He says, “I was 15, and I was at that awkward age where my voice was squeaky. And everybody said ‘you sound like a girl on the phone,’ I heard that a million times so I went to the therapist and told him ‘can you make me sound like a boy?’ and it was not fun. I did it for three years and I used to tell my dad that I’m going for computer class, because I didn’t wanted to tell him I’m going to become a man.” Although he doesn’t regret going to the therapist, he believes, “I should not have been put through that, if I was sounding that way and if I continued to sound that way, it was okay. I have no problem.”
Moving the conversation from his personal life to his professional life, he talks about being accused of stereotypically representing homosexuals in his film Dostana. “I think that is true, there was a stereotypical depiction and I cannot deny that, but my motive to make that film was actually to bring about that conversation, to tell the mainstream world or to people who aren’t aware what homosexuality is, it’s a phenomenon that exist, it’s a choice they make and it is who they are.” The film that released in 2008 was the first mainstream film in Bollywood to have homosexuality, as it’s main plot.
Films sometimes draw parallels to real life, and when the conversation is around homosexuality the historic verdict of Section 377 is bound to come up. Talking about his own unexpected reaction, Karan says, “I was following everything up to that verdict, and I knew when the day was and what was happening. I was reading articles and blogs and hoping that it would go the right way. And when it happened I didn’t realise that how much it even moved me, I sat on my bed read about it and wept. I cried with an open heart and now with a free heart.”
The filmmaker’s life took a 360-degree turn in 2017 after the birth of his twins Yash and Roohie. Sheding light on his decision to become a parent, Karan says, “I was a born parent, in my head I was always nurturing. Twenty years of my life before I started working, I wanted a sibling because I just wanted to express that love and give that love. I have abundant love to give and finally it is exploding on them and it is exploding a little too much,” he smiles. Talking about the difficulties of being a single dad, Karan says, “It’s difficult because you know there is a collaboration of two forces when raising a child, there is sometimes a clash of two emotions, in this case there is just one thought, one feeling, one decision and one emotion. I’m co- parenting with my mother now. But, there will come a time when lot of those decisions are going to be mine and that is daunting. I won’t be able to share that with anybody else, because parenting is sharing the life decisions of your child. I have to be more than sure about my decision and it is that which I fear the most. And I hope I make the right choice because there won’t be a second voice that would either disagree with me or resonate with me.”
After a long journey, Karan has finally come to accepting himself as he is, and despite being scrutinised at every step; he is not scared to speak his mind, or wear shiny shoes. “I’m never worried about how I am perceived, because right now, very happily at 46, I’m proud of who I am. If I am this person I am who I am, I’m never gonna make any apologies for my existence, my thoughts, my demeanour, my shoes. If I wear shiny shoes I wear shiny shoes! I love my industry, I love dressing up for a red carpet, I love being in the limelight, and I love being famous!”