Filmmaker Karan Johar's autobiography An Unsuitable Boy contains within it a fascinating account of how celebrity friendships work, or don't. Disruptions in the 44-year-old director's relationships with his colleagues - most famously his two-decade equation with Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol - have been reported on endlessly and in his book, KJo reveals details of how he lost one friend - Kajol - and navigated troubled waters with two others - SRK and Kareena Kapoor. "I don't have a relationship with Kajol anymore," he writes of a friendship of 25 years that ended for good last year after Kajol endorsed her husband Ajay Devgn when he posted what appeared to be evidence that Karan Johar had paid for flattering tweets of his film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. He hadn't, as it turned out, but Kajol's public siding against him finished what remained of their personal and professional partnership. SRK was the first person Karan Johar says he called after the 'fallout' with Kajol - but there was also a breach between the actor and his director of four (and a half if you count Ae Dil Hai Mushkil) films.
SRK and Karan Johar never acknowledged a rift but the superstar's absence on the previous season of KJo's chat show Koffee With Karan caused much comment. In his book, Karan Johar begins the account of how his friendship with SRK was interrupted with this disclaimer: "Yes, there was definitely a distance between us in recent year but that was because we were not working with each other. There's no other reason."
Then, the account becomes personal, confessional. Karan Johar admits to being 'hurt' that Shah Rukh Khan skipped Koffee With Karan. Of SRK, he writes: "He was hurt that I didn't work with him. I was hurt that with Student of the Year, there was no acknowledgement from him, there was no love or support given to me. Then it just grew. It was like he thought 'after everything I've done for Karan' and I thought 'after everything I've done for him'. We both felt like we had contributed to each other's lives so tremendously. It was just two people sulking."
KJo describes how things changed between them: "Suddenly, we had become formal with each other... He was not backslapping me like I wanted him to. And I was not cracking that odd joke like I would have...From being so close it transformed to: 'Could you please call me when you have a minute?' Once, just last year, he got so angry with me. I called up his manager and said, 'I really need to meet Shah Rukh.' He called me and said, 'When did you start calling my manager?' I said, 'Oh, I didn't want to disturb you.' He said, 'Achha?' And he fell silent."
All through, KJo and SRK's wife Gauri Khan remained friends.
The first of his friendships to be interrupted was with Kareena Kapoor, writes Karan Johar. "She asked for too much money and we had some kind of a fallout at that time," he writes, of offering Kareena first the role that Preity Zinta eventually played in Kal Ho Naa Ho. The actress apparently asked for a salary equal to that of SRK, one of the film's two heroes. "Sorry," said Karan Johar and cast Preity instead. "Kareena and I didn't speak to each other for almost a year. For a year, we looked through each other at parties. It was very idiotic. She was a kid; she's a decade younger than me," writes KJo.
The popular wisdom that celebrities can't be friends is enabled by people who Karan Johar describes as 'messengers,' writing that "Chinese whispers really ruin relationships." And it's not true, he says, that actors can't get along: "I feel Shah Rukh and Salman can be friends. There's genuine love between them. Salman's family was the first family that welcomed Shah Rukh in Mumbai. There is a strong friendship, but life and circumstances came in the way."