Our Love-Hate Relationship With Koffee With Karan

Oh we love it and we hate it at the same time.

joono
Pop Desified

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Koffee With Karan has been out there for a good while now and yet, has managed to stay relevant and keep people interested. It is considered by many, including Karan Johar himself, as a “guilty pleasure” show. So why do we love and hate the show so much? Are we just sadists of some sort or does it actually have some relevance beyond the mean gossips?

Koffee With Karan promo image

So the idea is simple. Karan Johar, being a very mainstream and popular name in the film industry, sits down with relevant/big names from bollywood, over a cup of coffee, to give us a deeper insight into their lives, careers and personality. Sounds simple and fun doesn’t it? Well, it is neither simple nor fun, but we will get into that in a bit. The love-hate relationship is not just with the audience, even with the celebrities as well.

Simi Garewal

There’s something really interesting about the setting of the show, that is so subtle yet really makes a difference. It is the fact that the entire set is so intimate and personal, successfully dissociating itself from other traditional “interviews”. It follows a pattern very similar to the iconic show Rendezvous with Simi Garewal, which stopped airing close to the launch of Koffee With Karan. Simi, like Karan was also an insider, sitting down with A-list celebrities of the time and chit-chatting about their lives. The concept of an insider interviewing these celebrities, really struck a chord with the audience, because they were getting a more candid insight into their favourite stars, from the star themselves, instead of the tabloids and gossip magazines that were the only consistent source of information during those times. The host being a part of the industry also helped push the guests to open up. Instead of being this stranger, trying to intrude into your personal life, searching in your words an eye catching headline, it felt like a conversation with someone they knew, someone who knows the business. Her advantage also being, she usually had the most relevant conversations to hold, something no other interviewer could ever get access to. “The star, that unattainable slab of glory, was suddenly becoming more accessible, and with that, the mystique was draining. Actors like Shah Rukh Khan realized they had to compensate for this mystique with charm. That the masses would want you, not because of what they don’t know about you, but because of what they know about you.”— says Film Companion and I couldn’t have said it better. Except the mystery helped them from exposing the unlikeable versions of their personalities.

Karan Johar was the biggest name during 2004, with major hit films like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham and Kal Ho Na Ho, thus aptly cast to host the show. He was also an easy bridge towards the newer generation of actors— in terms of relatability, work and life; Simi Garewal’s guests and audience mostly being the previous generation of megastars and even branched into interviewing cultural icons like Ratan Tata, Gayatri Devi, Rupert Murdoch, Mukesh Ambani, Jayalalithaa, and Benazir Bhutto.

Now coming to the question posed in the heading— what aspects do we love in Koffee With Karan and which ones do we hate? There is no denying how the show is indeed one of a kind. With Rendezvous with Simi Garewal discontinuing, people jumped to the next best option thrown at them. Except, even though the show followed a similar concept, it was hardly at par with the dignity and legacy Simi Garewal had set with her show. That is what has been the complaint since day 1 and given how people still watch it, every season more than the previous, it has never been addressed, rather obviously allowed.

With Karan’s increased brazenness and boldness in his questions, increased the guests discomfort and hesitance, which is awfully visible in a lot of them. There are many awkward moments after certain questions which Karan, very interestingly, decides to fill with more attempts to get his desired answer, sometimes making it difficult to watch. He casually brings up topics that were discussed sometime prior, in privacy with him, on the show, breaching the trust the guest had in him while they had opened up to him as a friend and confidant. These stunts aim at putting these celebrities in a tight spot, the inexperienced ones giving in to his shrewd desires of reigning their privacy and the experienced ones, sometimes fazed and shook at the unexpected betrayal, usually make attempts to hide it behind humour. Leading me to the next point— the humour in the show is usually tensed, awkward and ingenuine. We laugh because they laugh, they laugh because laughing it off is easier than being honest.

Questions about their personal lives, sex lives, other celebs sex lives, chasing them until they name drop people, unknowingly making the celebrities a propagator of the same rumours they don’t believe in themselves. More often than not they take back their statements, clarify the things that were just jokes, but these clarifications hardly make it to the cuts that are taken out of context and become the sole reason for mass hatred thrown at them after the episode airs. Such a phenomenon even happened in the latest season with statements made by Deepika Padukone about her husband, Ranveer Singh, during their dating phase were weaponized against her, garnering hate and degrading names from the masses.

The infamous “rapid fire round”, usually hosted as the last segment of the show, takes the cake. It started out as a means to test the guest’s general knowledge with questions about the president of India etc. But has now degraded into a cheap, vulgar, intrusive, scandalous affair and is usually used to display personal biases and grievances within Bollywood. The guests compete to win a hamper which is never worth the hate they receive following the release of the episode. The winner is usually the one who dropped more names, was more scandalous, risked their career and image more than the other. The anxiety on the faces of the guests is so apparent before this segment, it feels illegal that they still participate in it. He also never cuts out bits that should've never, very evidently, made it to the final episode. Even bits the guests themselves ask to be cut. You will find instances where the guest specifically mention some portion to get cut, which Karan defiantly rejects.

The show has also been accused of promoting nepotism, bringing those celebrities as guests who are nepo babies in the industry and hardly ever having outsiders on his couch, the kinda people who will actually truly benefit from the attention the show can give them. There is also this pattern where whenever he brings such nepo babies, they reveal things they honestly needn’t. From calling each other by nicknames, to talking about their private meetings, they reveal things that make them unrelatable and unlikeable. Like in the latest episode, Karan Johar and Ananya Panday discuss how Karan had adviced her to take a certain film, a privilege most actors don’t enjoy unless they’re in the business for a few generations. They’re always promoting the upcoming films and public appearances of nepo kids and outsiders hardly ever have this opportunity. If Karan Johar wasn’t tagged as the “flag bearer of nepotism” by Kangana Ranaut, an outsider who has made it big in the industry, on that same couch, maybe we could’ve brushed aside this claim. But it is all too evident.

Ranbir Kapoor talking about the show.

Talking about nepo babies, not all of em like the show. Ranbir Kapoor has gone on record to say how Anushka Sharma and him want the show cancelled because the show is making money out of screwing up their life and persona. He says it is unfair to him and all the other invited celebrities. And we all feel for him.

Simi Garewal’s show aimed to replace tabloid culture with her show, a concept Karan Johar gradually took over, only to become a more credible tabloid version of the celebrities. Simi Garewal took her advantage as an insider to bring out meaningful and raw versions of the celebrities while Karan exploited his to make money off of out of context, borderline forced scandals of his guests.

So even though we love the openness and candid confessions we get from the show, with our favourite celebrities sitting down and enjoying a fun chat, there are some things we would rather not know, especially if it is at the cost of an actor's mental health and reputation being wrongly damaged. It commodifies the celebrities, stripping them of their right to have a personal life and privacy. And using that to make money, makes is even worse.

Honestly, there is not much the audience can do about this. They can only stop watching the show, but if Bigg Boss is still running, we can safely conclude that the Indian audience loves drama way too much. I think if actors all condemn and stop appearing on the show can this atrocity be ended. If anyone, it is them who are losing out the most in this. But a lot of times actors themselves use the platform to revive their name in mainstream media. So as it seems, Koffee with Karan isn’t going anywhere. We just gotta make peace with that. Maybe Karan can mend his ways, which he claims he’s doing this season. Let’s see what unfolds.

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joono
Pop Desified

With everything going on in my mind, writing is the only way to keep track of it ^^