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Bitter taste of Koffee

Karan Johar’s show on Star World is finally getting flak for its disturbing attempts to tease out revelations about the sex lives of its guests

“Have you ever gone skinny dipping?”
“Have you ever taken a shower with someone?”
“Are you a part of the mile-high club?”
“Have you ever made out in a car or khet?”

These are some of the frequently asked questions in a well-known talk show – where Bollywood’s biggest celebs are the guests. And the host is ‘an unsuitable boy’ (as reads the title of his autobiography). Yes, we are talking about Karan Johar and his ‘scintillating’ and ‘sensational’ talk show Koffee with Karan.

As everyone knows by now, one of the latest episodes of this famed talk show ventured into the sports world and featured Indian cricketer Hardik Pandya, whose sexist comments on the show sparked much debate and directed some long-overdue flak at the Koffee couch. Sexist comments and probing questions have always been a trademark of Johar’s very own television venture. He pushes his guests to reveal details about their peccadilloes and inevitably, the guests who are inexperienced take the bait.

Often, the show gets a scoop on who’s dating whom and who’s doing whom. And Johar is unabashedly and unapologetically open about it. After a few minutes of ‘praise’ and talking about ‘work’ or ‘films’ – he dives into his real interest – the love and sex lives of his guests. He often says quite clearly: “Now let’s come to the point.”

One can perhaps justify his tack by saying that we live in a liberal and democratic country, where discussing sex should not be a big deal. But when it comes to being racist or misogynist or sexist or downright nasty – then surely a line is crossed somewhere. Many are of the opinion that when guests blurt out their true attitude to women, Karan Johar is equally responsible for it – because his questioning is such. He is quite keen that his show be known for the spilling of beans.

Let’s take a look at some such instances, where Mr Johar went overboard to garner TRPs over a cup of coffee!

  • This season Team Bahubaali – filmmaker S S Rajamouli, actors Prabhas and Rana Daggubati — were the guests on episode 10, which Johar calls his “proudest cup of coffee” till date. But the way he kept poking them to reveal details about their personal lives was not something to be proud of. He kept asking Prabhas, who was not comfortable with these questions, “What happens in your farmhouse?” At one point, Prabhas said: “It is a gym, okay? A workout place.” To which comes Johar’s rejoinder, “Not a makeout place?” His guest was visibly uncomfortable, but that did not deter Johar from carrying on with his probing.

  • One of the most squirm-worthy episodes was Season 5’s chat with Ranbir Kapoor and Ranveer Singh. Jokingly, Singh made sexual passes at Johar, even calling him a ‘ken doll’ and commenting, “What I’ll not give to see you in a pair of white hotpants?” To all these Johar said, “You all are making me sound like I am some sex object,” which is exactly what he does with his guests. When Kapoor was asked about Deepika Padukone, he shut down Johar by saying, “It’s been 7 or 8 years. Everybody’s moved on. It’s high time Koffee with Karan moves on too.”
  • Episode 6 of season 5 features Shah Rukh Khan, making a comeback on the show following rumours of Johar and his supposed tiff. This is where Alia Bhat appeared for the first time, leading to what is called her ‘President of India fiasco.’ Throughout the episode, SRK got visibly uncomfortable multiple times, when Johar probed about young Alia’s personal life. To this Johar replied, “I’m asking about her personal life, not her sex life!” He even goes as far as to insinuate that Alia may have been sexually attracted to Khan while shooting Dear Zindagi, which certainly seems like quite an inappropriate question to ask a girl nearly half his age, regardless of what her response was.

  • With Jacqueline Fernandez and Siddharth Malhotra, on the 10th episode of season 5, he dove right in for the kill. He seemed determined to prove that Malhotra and Fernandez were in a romantic relationship from the very start. The two actors got candid about their friendship and spoke expansively, but carefully, about their relationship, and insisted that they were not romantically involved. They narrated instances of how they spent time together, did readings together, sometimes had meals together, among other things — to which Johar responded with a scathing, “Do you do all these with all the boys?” to Jacqueline.
  • When Anushka Sharma and Ranveer Singh appeared together in the third season, the statements made and the questions asked were an invasion of privacy. He insisted that he had heard from “reliable sources” that the two were in a relationship. The fact that Singh had once been mobbed by a group of women in Singapore (they had apparently tried to tear his clothes, bite his ears, and ‘pinch his ass’ among other things) was laughed about and ridiculed on the formidable ‘couch’. When Anushka complained about not having received as much attention as him after her first release, Singh jokingly says, “You want your ass pinched? I’m right here.” Regardless of the level of comfort they share with one another, this is certainly not a statement to be made lightly on national TV. Anushka could only manage a half-vehement “Don’t talk to me like that!”
  • In episode 3 of Season 2, Karan says to Mallika Sherawat that by mentioning her as the sexiest from the sex-appeal list, the male actors may not offend other leading actresses. Also, after every break Karan dubs his other guest Sanjay Leela Bhansali as “the genius” and Mallika as “very controversial,” offering a rather impolite contrast. In episode 12 of Season 3, Karan Johar blatantly and shamelessly asked Rakhi Sawant about her silicon implants. He even went on to say, “Wahi silicon use kara ya kahi aur bhi. (Have you used silicon there only, or somewhere else also?)” Sexist much?
  • In one of the most controversial episodes, which saw Sonam Kapoor and Deepika Padukone almost ripping apart Ranbir Kapoor, there was also a discussion on plastic surgery. Johar was seen eager to get “names” of few celebrities who has gone under the knife. When Deepika was seen whispering a name to Sonam, he said: “I am not getting any names. I don’t like this.” After that he tried to make up for his demeaning comments by saying that surgery is okay and it’s an individual’s choice. But the very next moment, he answers Sonam’s comment with, “These ‘poor plastic women’ can’t even rest in peace. Thanks to the two of you.”
  • Fortunately, there were a few instances when the tables did turn, and Johar got a taste of his own medicine. Actors like Kangana Ranaut, Twinkle Khanna, Akshay Kumar, Ranveer Singh and few others actually criticised his show. Finally breaking his silence on the Pandya-Rahul episode, he apologised, admitting that the conversation may have crossed boundaries. He added that the show is entirely run by women and none of them protested. Shifting the blame?

With inputs from Sreya Deb and Shubham Bhatia