Book Review – How Suitable Is ‘An Unsuitable Boy’ !


When I picked up ‘An Unsuitable Boy’ a couple of days back, I didn’t know where I was heading. I scanned through the book, picked up excerpts randomly, flipped through the pictures and kept it back. What I noticed- a lot of rant, a trip to 90s flicks, SRK, Adi Chopra, Mom, Dad, London, NewYork….and yeah Kajol. There was a lot of judgment and prejudices about the book, and I am not surprised about that at all. Karan Johar himself has been a character who has already garnered quite a lot of incisiveness from his 20 years in the film industry. He has been a ‘subject’ several times and on several occasions. Whether it is his films, his personal life, his talk show, his friendships, AIB Roast or his much talked about sexual orientation, Karan Johar has quite literally experienced several shades of grey in his speck of life. In short, this book is all about that narcissistic rhetoric, that comes duly sprinkled with fun, ecstasy, curiosity, monotony, and calculable acquaintances.

First few pages of the book, and I hit on my first impression- this book talks to you, Karan Johar talks to you. The diction, tone, timber and choice of expression is an extended written version of ‘Talking with Karan’. To me, it worked well. It was as if you are actually listening him speak- simple, witty, vivacious, unclouded and brutally honest. The author didn’t mince words and may be he had never been more open before. His ‘in your face honesty’ strikes, actually baffles you at times !

The first half of the book is rather interesting. If you are someone who has grown up watching his movies and enjoyed fun expeditions with ‘Koffee With Karan’, these pages will offer you a feeling of  deja vu !! His early life, parents, friends, days in school, how the debates in school gave him the much needed confidence, DDLJ, how he came close to SRK, Kajol and finally the story behind his debut ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’, is quite a read. Reading through these lines is nothing but fun and actually takes you on a trip down the memory lane. It does bring smile on your face ! The behind the scenes stories are always a good read, and in his limited opportunity Karan Johar has managed to bring about all the pieces together that he felt is worth a mention. Interestingly, he has been quite vivid, animated and unabashed about his vulnerabilities, insecurities and in-capabilities as a filmmaker. It would not be wrong to say that Karan Johar actually chose to stand bare and let people count his bones.

However, it is the second half of the book, which left me slightly disgruntled. By this time, I was expecting Mr. Johar to deliver a rather mature and deliberate content. Sadly, that didn’t happen. It was more of self indulgent attempt with plenty of ‘I’, ‘Me’  and ‘Myself’ saga. Karan Johar again stepped upon the mathematics of his relationship with SRK, his fallout with Kajol, his friendship with Aditya Chopra, his mom and his equations with people close in his life. Predictable and flows from the first half effortlessly, giving us an uninteresting overdose of melodrama. In one chapter he also became the harbinger of Bollywood predicting the days ahead. And, last of all, his tale on ‘Love’, ‘Sex’ and ‘Dhoka’. This section was an average read by all means, nothing new and appealing. It was as if he was again playing to the gallery, and expecting an ovation for putting everything into the paper, which I was sincerely not expecting from a man who have considerable credentials as a filmmaker.

Two whole chapters KJO dedicated to SRK and his irredeemable relationship with Kajol.   “I don’t have any relationship with Kajol any more. We’ve had a fallout.”  For once, I was assuming that it was a vent out, a rather public vent out. But then how important that was to engulf a whole chapter, well I have all my doubts. Again, understandably SRK plays a pivotal role in his life, but then a whole chapter ? On the contrary I would have loved to read some fleeting moments of their camaraderie well blended with some anecdotes of this time during film making, which would have given the readers some moments of copious emotions. I simply had a feel of “fir wahi baat (again the same thing)”, time and again.

Coming to the edits. I believe editing is one room in the book that didn’t get enough light. And, I would not shy away from saying that it is perhaps one of the aspects that is responsible for this debilitating narration. The editing ought have been more tight and that would have salvaged the narrative from becoming over dramatic, repetitive and monotonous, not once but in several outings.

If I get a chance to ask two questions to Karan Johar about this book, it would be:

  1. What was the hurry to float an autobiography so early….??
  2. Why the title ‘An Unsuitable Boy’?

I am yet to figure out answers to both of these. I personally feel there was no need for this hurry. Karan Johar has a voice and he must have used it in a better way than putting across stories about his own life, which I feel will lie inconsequential. It will fade away, it will not stay, not linger around and will reside in oblivion in days to come. Wonder what was the point ! It was as if he was seeking validation from the people about his life, work and mostly about his sexuality. No ? Then what, I wonder.

Furthermore, why ‘An Unsuitable boy’ ? I didn’t find anything unsuitable about his life. On the contrary, I  guess on a larger note Mr. Johar is a nice person and has a wonderful life. But, if this title stems from his sexual orientation, then it is utterly ignominious, to say the least. If he is uncomfortable with his own skin and finds it unsuitable, I am left guessing what does he expects the people around him to do with it. “I have never talked about my sexual orientation or sexuality because whether I am heterosexual, homosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual, it is my concern. I refuse to talk about it.” Why Mr. Johar, have balls and speak up !! Sadly, you do everything under the sun to showcase your sexuality than speak up. Stop hiding under the garb of being a law abiding citizen and apolitical. Well, the very word ‘unsuitable’ is rather unsuitable and cringe worthy. It works as an endorsement to the fact that may be he himself is unsure, shaky and insecure about his sexuality. Oh Jesus !!

However, it would be tad unfair to dismiss this book completely touting it to be one of those fancy and frivolous attempts by a filmmaker to tell his story. His inner demons did resonate at times. “I want to have a child because I am afraid of growing old alone.” Debatable stance but humane and honest. As I said before, if there is anything in this book that stands tall, it is his honesty to touch upon and dissect some of the innate and vulnerable facts with absolutely no remorse. Will give it to him for that !!

‘An Unsuitable Boy’ is no classic. And, I hope Mr. Johar didn’t attempt to make it one. If he had (which I want to believe he hasn’t), he has failed miserably. But, if you are in one of those moods to gift yourself a light unassuming piece, and also someone who loves dancing to ‘bole chudiya…bole kangana…” and wouldn’t mind visiting those bygone lanes of  90s even now, this book is quite suitable. Go grab it and enjoy over a lazy weekend ! But if you don’t enjoy this genre, please don’t waste your time and money. You will not have an iota of regret, trust me !! As far as I am concerned, I am glad I didn’t have to croon half way through…. “Ae Book Hai Mushkil” 🙂


#Anunsuitableboy #KaranJohar #Bookreviewanunsuitableboy




  1. The title unsuitable boy seems like a parody of literary work the suitable boy by Vikram Seth. As honest Vikram is about his orientation, similarly honest he is in his lucid stories. Here both are missing.
    Loved reading your succinct round up.

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  3. Karan Johar is a priviledged boy. Lets accept this. Anyone would be willing to give everything to get into the shoes of Karan Johar – irrespective of his sexual orientation (which isnt a big deal anyways. Not sure why people discuss it even now). His life has been extraordinary – in terms of people he has worked with, in terms of experiences he has had, in terms of friendships and relationships he has been in. And he knows way too much of the glitzy, starry, dirty yet beautiful place Bollywood is.

    Yet, the entire book was extremely shallow and completely lacked the depth and soul of a good narrative. It was only about – ME ME ME. It was anticipated that he might pour his heart and soul and share the various facets and anecdotes of his fraternity which outsiders do not have an access to. Plus, i thought he would share the wisdom and knowledge he has consumed working with the likes of Amitabh Bachhan, Jaya Bacchan, Shah Rukh and all.

    Yet, like you mentioned, it felt just like Karan Johar talking. Of course, we love Karan talking, but he could have kept that talking to Koffee with Karan. Any book, specially an autobiography is a space for self-exploration, introspection, the profundity of your thoughts and of course a lot of sharing. And sadly, Mr Johar did none precisely – except some part of sharing. Whatever is there in the book, 90 percent of it is already known – thanks to Koffee with Karan, Rendezvous with Simi Garewal, India’s most desirable and various other print interviews. So what extra did Karan Johar achieve writing a book ??

    But, I feel, its not Karan Johar’s fault. The times are like that. No one is ready to open up, no one wants to tear their heart, get wounded, feel the pain and yet be a fighter. No one wants to show their vulnerable side to the society. In all the recent biographies or autobiographies I have read it’s the same. Be it – And then one day – By Naseeruddin Shah, Echoes and Eloquences – About Gulzar, Rekha, the untold story or Unsuitable Boy – all are just expressing, sharing only a little more than what’s already known. No one wants to reveal some deeper, quieter and more meaningful side of their personalities. Or am I expecting too much ??? May be these people don’t have that side – they are that superficial what appears.

    You know, many years ago, I read the autobiography of Shobha De – Selective Memories – that is one book I swear by – deep, poignant, revealing, honest and brutal. I can still remember some of the lines. I can still remember some of the revelations. Everyone should take a leaf from it I guess.

    • What you just wrote is so true…. It takes guts to speak unbiased about your own self. Someone recently told me this book is fiction. It is not Karan Johar talking. Well… That’s what with biographies. I would suggest read Meena Kumari by Vinod Mehta, by far the best I read. And of course thanks so much for reading this 😊😊

  4. A fascinating discussion is definitely worth comment.
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  5. I do like the manner in which you have presented this problem and it does indeed provide me some fodder for consideration. On the other hand, coming from what precisely I have observed, I just wish as the actual reviews pack on that people remain on issue and in no way start on a tirade of some other news du jour. Still, thank you for this excellent piece and even though I can not really go along with it in totality, I regard your point of view.

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