• Paromita Vohra: What I learned from Koffee with Karan Season 5

    Paromita VohraJan 01, 2017, 07:05 IST

    (From left) Karan Johar gets chatty with Akshay Kumar and Twinkle Khanna
    (From left) Karan Johar gets chatty with Akshay Kumar and Twinkle Khanna

    It’s that time of the year. You know, when I predict the political, economic and sociological future of India 2017. Yaniki, what I learned from Koffee with Karan Season 5.

    Koffee with Karan has been for this decade what Stardust magazine was for the 1970s. A temple to campiness, and a place where sex, power and money get discussed a lot. In the guise of gossip and trafficking in the frivolous, its subversive energy brought to the surface submerged desires and dynamics, queering Bollywood’s straight narrative, albeit with a large serving of snobbery.

    Where Simi Garewal brought a seriousness to intimate life and emotions, Koffee with Karan brought a snap, crackle and pop irreverence to morality, gender and sexuality, and Johar’s own peek-a-boo coquetry about his sexuality was part of that audacious sparkle. Innuendo is a tricky tightrope walk, but a necessary one, if human desires are not to be dumped in the prosaic bin of political worthiness.

    But, now, this particular campiness feels very, well, last year. Worse, last to last year. The show’s QC, yaniki Queerness Cred, was severely brought down by two things — bro-giri and PR-giri.

    With some exceptions (SRK and Akshay Kumar) the boyz (what else to call them?) made some right noises about “respecting (our) women” but then proceed to endlessly discuss their own bodies (should we worry?) and each other, their brothers from other mothers, na. Their jokes and mimicry were full of predictable homophobia and sexism, which drowned out the humour.

    Worst of all, they congratulated themselves on their own supposed outrageousness, also known as trying-too-hard. Thinking they were so cool, to talk about porn and kiss Arjun Kapoor (socho), made them seem so straight, so hetero-normative, so macho it was, as Anushka Sharma said in her episode, with respect to bare-chested posturing dudes, “Frankly, a bit off-putting haan.”

    Guests arriving on the show to promote movies were also unbearable because then the intimacies were all fake without the fabulous. Someone rescue KJo from becoming this PR Uncle. After all, the year is still young and so is he.

    And, actually, someone did. The damsels it was, who saved us from distress. Twinkle Khanna owned her gorgeousness and her nerdiness equally. Her jokes were wicked but not mean. Her sexual humour was celebratory, not derogatory. Anushka Sharma was effortlessly androgynous (in outfit) and seductively comfortable with her loud laugh and funny faces, her conviction about redefining success on her terms. Fatima Shaikh and Sanya Malhotra, the actors from Dangal, were a picture of candour and ease. Even Katrina Kaif, very pretty and a little awkward, was nicely withering about Bollywood’s boys club dynamics. These very confident women shone without self-importance and made Karan Johar shine, a study in mutually appreciative joy.

    So, what I learned, to the good, from Season 5, was that perhaps the era of cheerful, not mealy-mouthed, sincerity is upon us. When our political environment is high on theatrics of false earnestness and fake change, there is something uplifting in encountering people and things that are unpredictably, untidily, hence queerly, themselves. And maybe, with what emanated from these women, it might be coming our way after all.

    That’s my hope for the new year anyway. And a happy new year to you, of course. Yours, sincerely.

    Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevipictures.com

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