Sunday, January 22, 2017

179: First Impressions: An Unsuitable Boy by Karan Johar

I read this one really quickly. Actually bought this for mum and started flipping through it. Liked what I read, continued, and before I knew it, the book was over.

What struck me was that the most coherent, moving pieces of the book is when Johar is talking about his work. In fact, I think, wherever he has used his work as the prism and explained his world, he is really solid. Where he is simply talking about a person or a certain episode - like the tension with Shah Rukh or the rift with Kajol - it tends to get boring. (Okay, so you had a great friend and she let you down and now you're not friends with her. Or your very best friend got upset because you made new pals and didn't have time for him but you're back stronger now. It's not all that devastating or dramatic, really.) What is fascinating is Johar's description of the Bombay of the 80s and the cinemascape of when he became a director. 

I particularly liked the portions where he first finds his groove as the star of elocution competitions after giving his mother panic attacks. Or when he describes how close he was to his father. But the portions where he talks about how he found his calling, how Dilwale got made, and how he took over Dharma - that is really fine writing. He is straightfoward and articulate. You will always be closer to people who will set up your first work experience for you. Whether it was Adi who told him to stay back (Karan was about to leave for Paris at the time) and assist in his debut film or Shah Rukh who gave him a deadline to complete his first script and start shooting - one can imagine why the fondness is stronger there. I mean, yes, we all seek and perhaps get emotional support from our pals - but those friends who can show you what you are capable of - you just see them differently. 

I grew up in Bandra and have seen lives of film people, if not very closely, then in rather close quarters. At the time, what those people did, who they hung out with, what skills they had - you never really knew. But I knew men and women who would struggle to explain that what they did was also work - and hard work, at that. 

I think, in some ways, this book is a nod to that. That films, as an industry, has seen shifts that have caused the collapse of several mighty players. Not because the business itself is capricious and some hotbed of debauchery, etc. It got the patronage of the underworld at one point, it's facing competition from stronger international arenas - and in all that, people wake up and go to work. For me, the book scored the highest there.

He does talk about his mother's ill health, his worry of growing old alone, his dream of adopting a child, etc. Regular things. But you get the sense that he'll be okay because he's figured out what to do with his life. And that simple thing is a special blessing.

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