Karan Johar lauded as 'the man who let India out of the closet' by the New York Times
For columnist Aatish Taseer, Karan Johar is a gay icon in India.
Karan Johar's autobiography, An Unsuitable Boy was an honest and unapologetic look in the life of one of Bollywood's most famous directors. A lot has been written about his book, with the LGBTQ community applauding and censuring him in equal measure, for addressing the question of his sexuality, and yet not saying the three words: "I am gay".
Now an opinion piece by the New York Times columnist Aatish Taseer has lauded Johar for being a gay icon and making discussions about homosexuality more mainstream in India. British-born Taseer himself is the author of four books, the most recent being the 2014's The Way Things Were.
In his opinion piece in the NY Times titled 'The Man Who Let India Out of the Closet', he writes, "An ocean of innuendo has always surrounded Mr Johar’s sexuality. He has done more than anybody to introduce the idea of homosexuality into the Indian home. It would seem no closet door was better primed to spring open than his. And yet when he tries the latch, he finds it sticks."
Taseer also goes on to applaud Johar's resistance to section 377 in his films. The writer recounts a time when he met Johar over lunch and they discussed the casting in his film Kapoor & Sons in which the main protagonist is gay. No major actor was willing to play the role and Johar went to eight or nine stars all of whom said that 'if the character is gay in the end, then no.' Finally he found Fawad Khan, a Pakistani actor, who gave a magnificent performance.
Taseer concludes the piece by saying, "Mr Johar may not have uttered the three magic words, but his life and his work are a portrait in courage. Watching him play the host that night, I couldn’t help thinking that, for all his contradictions, he is a man who has done more than anyone to make India safe for love. One wants him not merely to be brave, but happy — and, needless to say, gay."
Karan had written in An Unsuitable Boy:
"Everybody knows what my sexual orientation is. I don’t need to scream it out. I can say it in this book — everybody knows where I come from. And if I need to spell it out, I won’t only because I live in a country where I could possibly be jailed for saying this. Which is why I will not say the three words that possibly everybody knows about me in any case."