Karan flexes biceps
After overcoming the fear of social or familial censure, which he did gradually and neatly over the years, the only factor that had stopped Karan Johar (and many others) from officially accepting his sexual preferences was Section 377. In the last few years, mother Hiroo had not just accepted it gracefully (she stopped trying to fix him up with "a nice girl") but was also his staunchest supporter.
The Supreme Court ruling on Thursday decriminalising homosexuality will, therefore, make a huge difference everywhere. When the generally law-abiding Karan gave numerous hints of which way he was inclined but never came out and said the three little words (Yes, I'm gay) even in his autobiography, his explanation was, "You never know when the law will be thrown at you and you'll be made an example of." You are a little more vulnerable when you're a celebrity. On the other hand, thanks to his social status and the fact that he's a hugely successful man, his coming out (whenever that is) will urge many in the closet to accept who they are.
Today, I can reveal a personal conversation I had years ago with filmmaker Dharmesh Darshan (who directed two big hits, Raja Hindustani with Aamir Khan and Dhadkan with Akshay Kumar) over a piece I had done on his sexuality and the breakup of his marriage, without mentioning his name. It was one of those ghost pieces that would pique everybody's curiosity. But Toy, as we have always called Dharmesh, was not amused. "Going by the many hints you gave in the article, you may as well have named me," he groused. But off-the-record, he had spent the better part of the evening telling me that he was as "queer" as anybody could be. We'd even discussed doing a book on it when the time was right.
And, when I texted a congratulatory message to Karan, he sent a set of emojis that said it all. A thumbs up, a namaste and three bicep-flexing arms to show they were finally empowered today.
It has been a very hectic week. Especially for Abhishek Bachchan, who had to make the tough call of saying "No" to mentor and father-like figure J.P. Dutta. After a trio of box-office "letdowns" with JP - Refugee, LOC and Umrao Jaan - would Paltan have been the right choice for him to come back with, following a three-year break? At some stage an actor has to watch out for himself - if blind loyalty is harming his career.
Abhishek is looking fit (15 kilos lighter) and is rightly upbeat about Anurag Kashyap's Manmarziyan, which has a really great buzz around it.
The promotions of the film have kept him on his toes and away from home for so long that he said, poker-faced, "I'll be going home now to introduce myself to my daughter. Tell her, hello, I'm your papa." He's also headed for the Toronto International Film Festival, where the film is premiering. Even as he spoke about Aaradhya, Abhishek pulled out his phone to show the latest pictures of his wife and daughter. There's a little tale behind Aaradhya's beaming smile in every picture.
When a battery of photographers descended on her as an infant, instead of fighting them or trying to hide Aaradhya from view, Aishwarya sensibly said to Abhishek, "They're going nowhere," the photographers are always going to be around. "So we have to teach Aardhya to handle it." That's when the little girl learnt to say "Namaste" and wave out and smile like she does when she sees a camera. She got so used to it that, hilariously, when Dadaji (as in Amitabh Bachchan) once took her with him to stand on the little podium erected in their house for the superstar to greet his Sunday audience, Aaradhya chirpily waved out to the swelling crowds. She didn't stop there. She urged Dadaji to do the same, saying, it's okay, you can wave out to them. "We tried telling her that the crowds had come for him, not her," Abhishek dryly narrated and shook his head like the besotted dad he is.
Bharathi S. Pradhan is a senior journalist and author