Looks like Karan Johar has been paying close attention to the backlash his current season is facing. And did some quick damage control by having Akshay Kumar and Samantha Ruth Prabhu’s interview as episode 3 of Karan Johar Koffee with Karan Season 7. Smart move!
The biggest criticism that his talk show is facing in the current season’s boring and humourless on the whole. One may credit it to an overall lack of intelligence and wit. While Bollywood is not the place you can look for these traits, we had some well-rounded actors in Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, Sushmita Sen, Preity Zinta on the show.
In one word: Samantha Ruth Prabhu.
Anyway, apart from Samantha’s naturally optimistic and bubbly persona that’s infectious, it’s her intelligence that made it watchable.
This was evident when she talked about the criticism that her song ‘Oo Antava Mawa’ catered to the male gaze. Even though it was a satire on it. She defended her choice, saying who better than nautch girls and actresses, accustomed to a wide range of male gaze, make the satire.
Little surprise that Samantha has been an academic topper. She discontinued her education because her father couldn’t afford it anymore and joined the movie industry instead.
Samantha came across as candid. She didn’t sugarcoat her current relationship with her ex-husband, Naga Chaitanya, stating that things are not pleasant between them.
Amidst rumours of her intimate scenes in Family Man and a sensuous song in Pushpa, her ex-husband’s alleged affair with a co-star, or her disinterest to become a mother because of her ambition, speculated as some reasons for their divorce, Samantha Prabhu didn’t paint a rosy picture of the divorce while not washing her dirty linen in public.
Karan Johar was also in his element as a host. His self-deprecating humour was intact, which I find his most endearing quality. He’s a shrewd producer who knows what sells with his audience and serves them exactly that.
What Didn’t Work
Akshay Kumar didn’t bring much to the table in the show.
It was amusing that he discussed the insecurities of Bollywood actors. There are past reports where he’s said to have cut his male co-actors’ scenes. Anyway, it seems like he’s a changed man now.
One good outcome of this discussion was breaking the myth that women are each other’s biggest enemies. What I love the most about Samantha Ruth Prabhu is her equation with contemporaries such as Nayanthara, and Tamanna Bhatia. The love and respect for them was evident on this show, and heartening to hear despite Karan’s occasional snakiness.
But whatever came out of his mouth was problematic. Especially when he dismissed the pairings of older actors with younger actresses as plain jealousy. He asks a delusional question to Karan, if he looks like a 55-year-old man. Yes, you do, Akshay Kumar old!
To see Samantha Ruth Prabhu pander to his ego was a tad disappointing. But it’s what patriarchal systems do to most women in it. Fortunately, when it came to Akshay Kumar net worth, she quipped that his one day’s salary is worth the salary of an entire movie project for actresses.
He dismissed the criticism about his Canadian citizenship. But he continues to make preachy Indian patriotic movies and social media videos.
Another problematic statement was his notion of what makes a successful actor which is luck or destiny. This is in line with what Sonam Kapoor had said a few years ago about good karma. This is an irresponsible statement to make in a highly superstitious country like ours. Women endure abuse, domestic violence, rapes, divorce, caste related atrocities or any ill fortune as part of their bad karma. It implies victims deserved it, because of their actions in the past lives or as part of their karma. As educated people, we can be more empathetic and rational in our responses. As it can lead to further conditioning, bias, and stigma in society.
Then there was a discussion on nepotism, and KJo cleverly brought in outsiders to prove his point. Akshay Kumar kept mum. Obviously, he’s married into a film family and his son is waiting in the wings to join the film industry. Samantha weighed in that everyone has their own demons and that when star kids fail, everyone knows about it.
All is well. What Samantha missed is the endless opportunities star kids get despite a spate of flops, a luxury denied to outsiders. Also, they didn’t discuss that while Kangana Ranaut introduced and popularized the word, it was Sushant Singh Rajput’s death that invited the public ire for the first time. Bollywood is still reeling under the negative public impression with barely there hits in a year.
While no one knows the verifiable facts of the case, speculations are rife it was nepotism and bullying that drove the actor to his death. What followed the accusations against the Hindi film industry was another classic case of patriarchy. The late actor’s girlfriend (who at worst, can be accused of being nothing more than a ‘pawn’ and at best, a victim of a nation-wide witch-hunt) along with leading actresses were witch-hunted for alleged drug use. In Bollywood, it seems only female actors are drug addicts. Our male actors drink Gau Mutra, Coca Cola/Pepsi, and Complan.
If there is another word apart from ‘nepotism’ that Koffee with Karan is associated with, it is the word ‘cringe’.
In this episode, the cringe factor was amply provided by Akshay Kumar in all his creepiness. It seemed the old man couldn’t keep his hands off Samantha Ruth Prabhu at the least given chance.
While I’m sure the show is scripted, it was still cringe to watch the entrance with Samantha in Akshay’s arms. And during the dance round, when he swings her around to the point where her mic falls off her, with KJo begging him to stop his Tarzan act.
While Samantha Prabhu might have given her consent, it’s still discomfiting to watch lusty old actors tickle the bellies of younger actresses and swing them around like toys on national television to establish their hyper-masculinity. Sadly, this is the industry norm and the rite of passage for actresses worldwide.
Last, what didn’t work again was Karan Johar’s incorrigible obsession with Alia Bhatt. Someone please tell him to stop. There is no denying Alia’s acting abilities. But here’s also no denying the gatekeeping that happens in the industry to reserve some of the best roles for her. We are also yet to see if Alia Bhatt can pull in the crowds without a big filmmaker, production house, and superstars as her costars. Like say Kangana Ranaut in ‘Queen’, Sridevi in ‘English Vinglish’, Parvathy Thiruvothu in ‘Uyare’, Rima Kallingal in ‘22 Female Kottayam’, Nimisha Sajayan in ‘The Great Indian Kitchen’, Bhagyashree Milind in ‘Anandi Gopal’, and several other regional actresses in India.
So, it was good to see Samantha Ruth Prabhu respond to Karan Johar back in the same coin saying she admits paying Ormax media to come on top of their poll.
The way Samantha manoeuvred comfortably through the show speaks a lot about her impeccable networking skills. She made everyone around feel comfortable and kept the camaraderie alive.
While there are people whose approach is combative like Kangana Ranaut, there are others like Samantha Ruth Prabhu and Priyanka Chopra Jonas who don’t take on the system head-on, but work around it and still stand up for themselves like a bawse.
A Good Onetime Watch
All-in-all, this episode of Karan Johar Koffee with Karan Season 7 was an enjoyable watch. Psst! If not for the cringe factor in the form of Akshay Kumar.
But compared to the other bizarre trending news of Ranveer Singh and Britney Spears breaking the internet with their nudes, or even the incident when Akshay Kumar convinced his wife, Twinkle Khanna to unzip his pants at a fashion show a few years ago, I’ll take the relatively lesser cringe Koffee version of “Ooo Antava Mawa” featuring Akshay Kumar and Samantha Ruth Prabhu any day.
Watch Karan Johar Koffee with Karan Season 7 here.