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Guess Who Use The 'Woman Card' Karan Johar Was Talking About A Lot? Men.

A replacement for logic.

06/03/2017 5:44 PM IST | Updated 06/03/2017 8:05 PM IST
Tobias Schwarz / Reuters
Director Karan Johar attends a news conference to promote his movie "My Name is Khan" at the 60th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 12, 2010. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz (GERMANY)

What exactly is a 'woman card'? Many people, mostly men like Karan Johar, will tell you that it is a dangerous-sounding, legitimate name for a phenomenon they think plagues their lives. It's basically an accusation that women use the fact of their gender to get out of a sticky situation, shirk responsibilities, get ahead in life and who knows, even fly to the moon without a rocket, and summon unicorns for their daily commute.

You've probably heard the phrase being tossed around during agitated lunch-break discussions at work. At a workplace, the 'woman card' is pretty much an euphemism for menstrual pain or cramps. "Yeah, I can't show the 'woman card' na, haha?" you've probably heard a male colleague 'joke', while complaining he can't take 'such leaves' whereas women can. You've learnt to ignore it. The man is least likely to swallow a crocodile alive which will then claw and pull at his abdomen any time soon. Or grow a uterus. He'll never know, but he'll still be sour about the 'woman card'.

At a workplace, the 'woman card' is pretty much an euphemism for menstrual pain or cramps.

Or a friend at a party, who after a few drinks, will testily ask, why indeed do we want reserved seats on buses and reserved train compartments, if we seek 'equality'? "That same old woman card, na?" he'll laugh, pleased with the astute observation he has just made. Well, he'll have to be 13 again, grow a pair of boobs, and get them squeezed on a bus, or pinched on a train, or nudged with an elbow at the auto stand to know, why the 'ladies' seat/compartment' is a tiny respite during our daily commute. Really tiny though.

As familiar as I am with the process of ignoring accusations of overspending on this shape-shifting, virtual card, Karan Johar carping about the 'woman card' during an interview with film critic Anupama Chopra made for delicious irony. Here were two Bollywood insiders, discussing to thunderous applause, an outsider who had managed to show one of them the mirror. Kangana Ranaut, in the now infamous episode with Koffee With Karan, had accused Karan Johar of mocking how she spoke English. And in a show, where people are egged on by Johar himself to be flippant and testy about each other, Ranaut cloaked an accusation as a joke and lobbed it at Johar. When Johar asked what she would name her biography, Ranaut answered him, but also added that Johar would play a nepotistic director in it. She finished it with a cheeky laugh.

Here were two Bollywood insiders, discussing to thunderous applause, an outsider who had managed to show one of them the mirror.

Much like how Johar, right at the beginning of the show, while recapping Ranaut's career, said he was very impressed with Gangster but then she made 'certain choices', referring to the string of flops Ranaut has been a part of. "I thought she was lovely in Gangster and after that there were certain choices that I think just happened which is sometimes destiny, sometimes circumstance-related. But it is actually till I saw all that amazing work that you did specially in the Tanu Weds Manu films ... I remember calling you," he said.

The reason why it struck as especially sour to me that every film star who has been on the KWK couch — including the likes of Shah Rukh and Salman — has seen that career low. Johar, in my memory, hasn't ever explicitly commented on the quality of the films any of his guests have acted in. He occasionally asks people if they regret doing a film, with which he hands over the right to diss films to the person who has done them.

Hindustan Times via Getty Images

It was quite evident that Ranaut and Johar were being tarty to each other and at the end of the day, together, they made for entertaining television.

However, while speaking about this episode with Chopra, Johar said that he is "tired of Kangana playing the woman card, tired of her playing the victim card". And then he proceeded to say that if she is so terrorised and traumatised by Bollywood, she should leave it. The casual arrogance of a man who was served up the the entire industry on a platter by the virtue of his birth aside, his use of the phrase 'woman card', conflating it with the 'victim card', is pretty fascinating.

If I remember right, Ranaut said she would not want to act in a film where her role was lesser than that of her male co-star. The only time the fact of her gender came up in the course of the conversation was with regard to the question who among 'the three Khans' she would like to work with. Of course, Johar made it sound like he was asking which among the following organs one cannot live without — liver, heart or brain — and Ranaut didn't seem like she felt the same way about 'the Khans'. At other times, when Ranaut did spar with Johar, it was on being an artiste, an actor, an outsider, a person who wasn't a part of Johar's inner circle.

The casual arrogance of a man who was served up the the entire industry on a platter by the virtue of his birth aside, his use of the phrase 'woman card', conflating it with the 'victim card', is pretty fascinating.

Yet, like that colleague mourning he can't get leaves and the friend carping about reserved seats, Johar accused Ranaut of brandishing the 'woman card'. I don't know Ranaut personally, I don't have an opinion on who Johar chooses to launch with his money, but it is more than disappointing that instead of countering her allegations with facts, Johar chose to accuse her of using the 'woman card' and 'victim card'.

Ranaut left a sizable space for Johar to contest her claim within the realms of reason. Johar has launched fairly talented youngsters like Alia Bhatt. He said he has given breaks to newbie directors with zero family connections. He could have argued he never had the right script for her and however much he would like it, he cannot cast everyone from the industry.

Yet, he went for the lowest hanging fruit -- that was apparently Kangana's fragile womanhood and a sense of victimhood stemming from it.

Ranaut left a sizable space for Johar to contest her claim within the realms of reason.

One telling moment, right at the end of the Koffee With Karan episode, was when Ranaut, surrounded by Shahid Kapur, Johar and Saif Ali Khan accused the filmmaker of trivialising the work actors do. Johar had asked Shahid, "You are newly married. How was it like to do the sensuous passionate scenes with Kangana?". I am not a filmmaker, yet I know that question makes next to no logical sense. When Ranaut commented that Johar was demeaning their art, Kapur jumped to his defence and hollered, "You're in a flippant show." Kangana didn't stop. Yes, she was using a 'card' here — I'd call it 'the self-respect card'.

The 'woman card' as it stands — and as demonstrated by Johar once more — is a word that is rapidly becoming a replacement for logic when arguing about women's issues. And guess who use it frequently? Men.

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