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Bollywood director’s ‘coming out’ causes a stir in India

Bollywood director’s ‘coming out’ causes a stir in India

Bollywood royalty Karan Johar (L) and Shah Rukh Khan at the launch of Johar's biography An Unsuitable Boy.

Top Bollywood filmmaker Karan Johar’s new biography has caused controversy for what it does not explicitly say about his sexuality.

‘Everybody knows what my sexual orientation is. I don’t need to scream it out. I won’t only because I live in a country where I could possibly be jailed for saying this,’ he says in his biography titled An Unsuitable Boy.

The 44-year-old is one of India’s most famous celebrities. Along with making films in Bollywood, Johar hosts the long running talk show called Koffee with Karan.

Homosexual sex is illegal in India, but being gay is not.

Despite this, Johar says he has become the poster boy of homosexuality in his country and receives hundreds of homophobic tweets a day.

‘The reason I don’t say it out aloud is simply that I don’t want to be dealing with the [police complaints],’ Johar says in his book.

‘I’m not going to sit in the courts because of ridiculous, completely bigoted individuals who have no education, no intelligence, who go into some kind of rapture for publicity.’

Coming out is for the privileged

Johar’s critics say his remarks could harm millions of LGBTI people in India.

Filmmaker Apurva Asrani says his friend’s statements are untrue because you cannot be arrested for saying you are gay.

‘You cannot even get arrested for being gay. The law (Article 377) can only be invoked against you if you are first caught in the act, and then after they have laboratory evidence of you taking it or giving it up the bum!’ Asrani writes in The Wire.

‘Just for the record, I don’t know of a single urban, gay man or woman arrested for having penetrative sex. Especially not someone as privileged as you.

‘Do you realise what message you are giving to LGBTQ folk who struggle with their sexuality?… Do you realise that your statement will push so many people who struggle with their identity back into stuffy closets?’

Karan Johar: Bollywood and sex

Johar’s book is a play on esteemed author Vikram Seth’s novel A Suitable Boy.

Seth, who is also gay, has been a vocal supporter of gay rights in India and criticised the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to uphold section 377 of the Indian Penal Code criminalising homosexual acts.

Though he never admits his sexuality in his book, Johar does open up about sex. He describes paying to lose his virginity in New York when he was 26 years old.

‘It just seemed a bit stupid; it seemed fake because obviously the person assigned to please you is going to please you artificially,’ he writes.

Johar also dismisses rumours of a sexual relationship between long-time friend and Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan.

‘If I asked you if you are sleeping with your brother, how will you feel? For me, no matter what ups and downs Shah Rukh and I have been through, he is a father figure, an older brother to me.’