What was Akshay Kumar reminded of when he saw Ranveer Singh dance in red undies in Befikre? Who among Alia Bhatt and Deepika Padukone has had 'friends with benefits'? Who would Aamir Khan save between Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan if they were drowning and he had to save one? And are Deepika Padukone and Alia Bhatt ever awkward being together around Ranbir Kapoor?
That these pressing questions are TRP gold for television, is evident from the fact that Koffee With Karan — where Karan Johar invites his friends to giggle, look gorgeous and go all 'what ya Karrraaan' from fake embarrassment — is in its sixth season.
At most other times, I'd consider Deepika Padukone calling Fawad Khan's eyes the dreamiest in Bollywood a necessary validation of truth, but at this point in time, the chittering and fake happy tears flowing on the sets of Koffee With Karan is quite simply annoying. As my friend and colleague pointed out, "It's like watching a catty high school clique which doesn't care about anyone or anything else."
The first episode of Koffee With Karan aired on 21 October at the peak of India's #MeToo protests and revelations on social media. In the weeks preceding the airing of the show, dozens of women narrated their experience of abuse and harassment through social media and a staggering number of them were against men of the film industry. On 6 October, the day the Deepika-Alia episode was possibly shot, HuffPost India published the horrifying ordeal of a woman who was allegedly assaulted by Vikas Bahl — Karan Johar's Dharma Productions had produced Bahl's film Shandaar which also starred Alia Bhatt. Prior to the shoot, Tanushree Dutta had already spoke about Nana Patekar and how Bollywood's silence on harassment is exasperating. Yet, during a conversation between two of the industry's most successful women actors and its most powerful producer, #MeToo didn't come up even once.
Considering the legal issues involved in naming people, one can still understand Johar not taking names to referring to a particular incident. He could, however, most definitely acknowledge the struggles of women in an industry he has an important stake in. Surely, even if for the sake of tokenism, Johar, the master of wordplay, could find an idiom to talk about the monsters lurking in his backyard without 'risking' friends and business? Frankly, while dozens of women in Bollywood have narrated stories of abuse perpetrated by powerful men in the industry, Johar and friends playing 'sexy and I know it' on national television as if Bollywood is shiny Dharma Productions party song is kind of frustrating.
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Ironically, in the first episode itself, Johar referred to the Hindutva right-wing's protests over Padmaavat, without taking names and asked Padukone how she felt about it. Padukone said, she understood why many people called her personally and supported her and didn't issue a public statement. Some right-wing groups had announced a reward for anyone who'd be willing to cut off Padukone's nose.
"If you say something it's an issue, if you don't say, it's an issue," she said. Johar simply nodded, he was one of the Bollywood bigwigs who did not publicly stand up for Padukone or the film when they were faced with obnoxious Hindutva right-wing vilification. It's unfortunate since Johar himself had borne the brunt of a senseless right wing campaign against Fawad Khan starring in his film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. He issued an apology later, but during the course of the ordeal, Johar also received public support from the media, his fraternity and social media users.
Johar simply nodded, he was one of the Bollywood bigwigs who did not publicly stand up for Padukone or the film when they were faced with obnoxious Hindutva right-wing vilification.
In all fairness, Johar can't be alone blamed for the show — two episodes of which have been aired — sounding tone deaf in the present context. The channel airing the show also has a stake in the content and should ideally push for greater relevance. Star, also platformed Satyamev Jayate, which claimed to discuss social evils on popular television. They have dropped All India Bakchod's show from their online platform Hotstar following sexual harassment allegations against an AIB member. Making Koffee With Karan acknowledge the massive churning happening on the fringes of Johar's clique will be the true test of the channel's commitment to the issue of harassment faced by women in the industry.
The one time, an issue which was not related to a Bollywood star's love life or his/her wardrobe came up, it wasn't something Johar seems to have anticipated or even wanted to discuss. Kangana Ranaut mentioning Bollywood nepotism problem, however, didn't find a dignified audience among Johar and his Bollywood bubble. Johar opened this season of Koffee With Karan mentioning with a grimace how every time he hears the word 'nepotism' he gets a 'nepospasm'.
The tagline for this season of 'Koffee With Karan' is 'stop making sense'. That is perhaps, the only honest thing about the show.