5 highlights from Karan Johar's interview about his 'dark days'

The director of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil opened up to NDTV's Barkha Dutt about his tryst with depression, a difficult childhood, and the struggles with identity in a fascinating interview. Here are 5 inspiring things to learn from the filmmaker's courageous confessions.

Shriram Iyengar

Being Karan Johar is not easy. Attractive as the position may sound, it comes with serious problems attached. A director who has helmed some iconic films in his time, Johar has also secretly battled discrimination, depression and anxiety.

Speaking to NDTV's Barkha Dutt, Karan Johar opened up on a number of issues, including his 'dark days' of depression and loneliness. Here are five pertinent points to take away from this sincere confession by the filmmaker.

1. Even the stars get lonely

One aspect that came out in the interview was the loneliness Karan Johar has felt. The director confessed that as an introverted child, it was the stage that allowed him to speak out. However, it also meant giving rise to an 'alter personality' to keep up appearances.

The most startling confession was his statement that sometimes relationships in the industry are not what they seem. "Lines in the industry are very blurred," he said. "We are insular people. Then, you build relationships, you build emotions. You don't know if those emotions are for the film, or will you take those even when you don't work together. So, you end up wondering about every equation you make."

In addition, the director has battled loneliness and the judgment of people. He added, "At 44, when you are lonely, you are not in a relationship, you wonder what your life is going to be. All the success you might get, all the love and attention you get, where does all that go? If you don't have that love to share with somebody, it gets you worried."

2. Depression is not easy to battle

Johar's confession about his battle with depression makes him the second Hindi film celebrity to bring the problem to light. Deepika Padukone had previously spoken up about battling the same problem. Johar said of his own battle that it began with an 'anxiety attack' which was the product of depression. He said, "My psychologist told me I was going through depression, and as a result of that depression you have anxiety. There is no particular reason for it. I went through a series of medication for it. Only you know when you are going through it, what you feel."

Johar admitted that the depression left him sleepless, and directionless. He also said that many people think being rich and privileged makes you immune to the problem, but it is not so. "You can be in a marriage, all sorted with your kids, and you could find yourself depressed," he said. "Deepika was very brave to speak about depression. She's gorgeous. She's stunning. She's successful. Why is she depressed? When I went through it, it was the most dark period of my life. I can't explain to you the pain and anxiety that I went through." 

3. He had a difficult childhood... and is not shy of admitting it

One of the shining moments of the interview had Karan Johar admitting that he was an 'extremely effeminate child'. A statement that could bring equal amounts of scorn and praise, it also displayed the growing confidence and maturity in Johar as an individual and a filmmaker. He spoke of having a difficult childhood because he never fit the definition of a 'boy'. He said, "Boys played cricket, I didn't. I hung out with some of the girls in the building. Then I tried boarding school which didn't work out. It was only on stage, that I was most confident." Good for him. 

4. He has battled bullying and body-shaming

Although the director was kind enough to ward off any instigation that he was bullied, his statements did reveal some form of it. Johar said, "No, I was never mocked or bullied at school. It was just me and my own problems. Although some of them would call me pansy. I would get intensely angry at that word.... It made me feel like I did not belong. It made me feel abnormal. I knew I was, but it just made me angry."

This was not the only derision thrown his way. Johar also admitted that he was a 'fat child', and spoke about the hypocrisy of fat-shaming in Indian culture. "I was fat. Fat is something in this country, I just realise, that makes people laugh. For some idiotic reason, they think fat people should be laughed at."

5. He is not afraid to speak his mind... or keep mum

One thing that remained a hot topic of discussion was Johar's sexuality and his take on gay rights. The director, smart enough to sidestep the landmine, was also unwilling to let go of the topic. He admitted that as a country India is far too sensitive about everything, and hence the topic needs to be handled with care. However, he also said, "On a humanitarian level, I believe it [section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalizes homosexuality] should be abolished." About his own trysts with the issue, he said, " I am on the edge and I don't want to fall."

Regardless of what people think, it is indeed admirable that someone from an insular and frequently targeted industry has had the courage to come out and speak honestly on some issues of importance.