A-listers spilling the tea, catty burns, stars at ease, and, of course, the famous ‘rapid-fire round’, followed by ‘the hamper’, which can be the sole reason for someone to want a career in the Hindi film industry: Koffee With Karan has for long been the most popular Bollywood chat show.
It is undoubtedly the biggest newsmaker on the entertainment beat. Who can forget Salman Bhai’s virginity claims, Alia Bhatt’s ‘president’ moment, Kangana Ranaut’s fiery nepotism accusations and THAT episode featuring cricketers K.L. Rahul and Hardik Pandya.
And why wouldn’t it be? The host is the ever eloquent Dharma productions supremo Karan Johar who has been adding to our English vocabulary long before Shashi Tharoor did. But it isn’t only Karan’s competence as a good host that gives him an edge over others who interview Bollywood stars, it’s the simple fact that Johar happens to be one of the most powerful men — if not the most powerful — in the industry and even the biggest stars would think twice before snubbing him. Kangana Ranaut being an exception.
Johar also seems to share a comfortable camaraderie with the stars who open up to him quite comfortably.
Now, a new season is reportedly on the cards (yay?). But Koffee With Karan in the post-Sushant Singh Rajput, post-The Kashmir Files, post anti-CAA/NRC (Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens) protest and the post-pandemic world cannot do with the usual, now redundant, shenanigans. And we do hope Johar takes that into account before the shooting of the latest season begins.
Bollywood has changed
A lot can happen over coffee. But will anything substantial come out of it? Listen, we’re hardly interested in stars ranking other stars in order of hotness/acting talent, and we’re not interested in knowing who they will kill, hook up with or marry.
Since the pandemic, the alleged suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput, and the drug scandals that rocked the Bollywood industry, people are not interested in fluff anymore. The attacks on the film industry got so bad that Bollywood veteran and Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan had to stand in the Rajya Sabha and ask the House to protect and respect the industry as well as its star power.
Bollywood followers are dying to hear from the industry that has so far been consistently criticised for staving off any political commentary, or for even standing up for their own members when crises hit.
The mudslinging following Sushant Singh Rajput sent even the host Karan Johar underground for a while. The accusations levelled, even if unfounded, weren’t trivial. Many held Johar directly responsible for Sushant’s death. Stars like Deepika Padukone, Ananya Pandey, Sara Ali Khan and Shraddha Kapoor all had to depose in front of the Narcotics Control Bureau in relation to the drugs probe. Stars’ WhatsApp chats were leaked and scrutinised by news presenters like Navika Kumar.
It was an existential time for the industry, with theatres shut and audiences moving to OTT for better content. Free of the monopoly of Bollywood families, people questioned the very future of the Hindi film industry.
When these stars sit on the couch in front of Karan, Indians who follow the show and the celebrities’ life would want answers for what went inside their heads during such a troubling time for the industry. No journalist can get stars to break their silence. Only Karan can. But does he want to? Or will he stick to fluff, away from politics?
Success of The Kashmir Files
That Right-wing ideology will directly impact Bollywood is not clearer in anything more than the blockbuster success of The Kashmir Files.
This has to make people think. That Vivek Agnihotri, who I hear was sidelined by the core group of the film industry, took a poorly marketed film to the theatres, got tax write offs by various state governments, and roused the public in an unprecedented way, tells Bollywood that it cannot function in a vacuum.
Right-wingers within the industry won’t shy away from loudly talking about their ideology. But we’ve heard enough from Anupam Kher and Paresh Rawal, and to an extent, even Akshay Kumar. We’ve heard enough of Bollywood tweeting on what the country’s ‘internal matters’ are that Rihanna mustn’t comment on.
We’d like to know what the ‘OG influencers’ have to say about the current politics of the country, which has directly started affecting the movies people watch. If not the political climate, we at least want hard stories like the death of SSR, drug scandal, and inflammatory reporting that had direct consequences on Bollywood’s functioning. And we hope Karan Johar does it so that he’s true to his show, if not his audience.
The SRK question
Karan must keep all episodes on one side, and have the Shah Rukh Khan episode on the other. If SRK indeed makes an appearance in the upcoming season, we want to know the details of everything that happened during the week his son was detained for allegedly attending a rave party and consuming drugs.
Because what happened to SRK wasn’t in silos from the country’s politics. There have been reports that agencies were taking a special interest in the activities of his son. He was detained for a long time even though no drugs were found on him.
Shah Rukh Khan chose to keep silent all through the CAA-NRC protests, especially when there was violence at his alma mater Jamia Millia Islamia, and when a protest led by Muslims, fighting for the rights of Muslim citizens, had rocked the country.
In that sense, the silence of the Khans was louder than all of Bollywood put together. Will Koffee With Karan shed its image of being a gossip-only platform and actually add nuance to its content or will it shy away from it? Because at this point, an actor’s intimacy will not be revealed by them telling us who they’d rather kill and who’d they rather sleep with, it will come from them openly talking about issues plaguing the country, and in effect their rozi roti.
Views are personal.
(Edited by Srinjoy Dey)