Reality TV and talk shows are consumed with much more excitement than regularly scheduled programming and Koffee With Karan has taken celebrity talk shows to a delicious gossipy height in India. But as we consume the manufactured gossip and staged fun, is it time to be disillusioned and recognise the inherent homophobia and misogyny that seem to underline this show?
Case in point is the latest episode with Diljit and Badshah. Die-hard Diljit fans will remember him from his toothy innocent smile and saccharine voice in “Tutt ju tadak kar ke” circa 2002 when he was all of 17/18 years old possibly.
And Badshah has enjoyed immense popularity in Punjab and Bollywood alike, especially when Honey Singh slowly edged out of the picture.
Lakhs of people tuned in to watch the two share banter with Karan Johar, but what they didn’t sign up for was the slew of insensitive comments and questions (mostly by Johar himself, though Badshah came in a close second). First there was Badshah’s so called ’embarrassing’ story of performing at a gay party. Though what exactly is embarrassing about the composition of your audience in terms of their sexuality, we failed to glean from his giggles. By the time Karan Johar let out his uncontrolled laughs and picked his jaw up from the floor, poor Diljit tried to salvage the situation to no avail, but bless him for trying.
Badshah started talking about how his fans are ‘auntiyaan’ and agreed he ‘get up and danced’ with them all the same.
Next Badshah started talking about how his fans are ‘auntiyaan’ and agreed he ‘get up and danced’ with them all the same. Over to Diljit who very sweetly said the gender of his fans didn’t matter to him, which gave Johar the opportunity to brew some biphobia up by trying to trap Diljit into saying he is bisexual and then warning him to not say ‘such things’ as people will interpret it as ‘something else’.
Quite disappointing to see Karan Johar urge someone to stay in a non-existent closet. As a celebrity, no one is forcing him to be an activist, but the least he can do is to not damage the LGBTQIA movement. What would happen (and how would Karan react) if a celebrity actually came out as bisexual, remains to be seen. But for the time being, his advice is to avoid at all costs, getting “mistaken” for being bisexual.
After this uncomfortable exchange, Karan advised Diljit to compliment his hot female fans (meanwhile Diljit is rumoured to be a married man), and then proceeded to celebrate his stalking of Kylie Jenner on social media. Somehow the way three men sat down to discuss a female celebrity who doesn’t know of their existence is eerily reminiscent of college when the boys hostel would get together to cyber-stalk some ‘sweet’ boy’s crush as a group. This gang behaviour just feels inherently violent rather than ‘sweet’.
Diljit’s humble, down to earth image that fans love, was delivered a death blow next as he parroted off brand name after brand name with Badshah in the fashion quiz. Although, it’s refreshing to see men obsess about clothes and fashion but the whole thing just reeked of showing off their oodles of money. I have had a long standing theory that most Punjabi songs are only about three things: daaru (liquor), girls (either objectified or portrayed as heartbreakers/gold-diggers), and money. Diljit and Badshah’s songs check each box above.
But the worst was yet to come. The lassi shots started right off the bat by counting the number of women Badshah and Diljit have slept with. In this cringe-worthy segment, it became more and more difficult to understand what exactly Johar was trying to bring out. Were we supposed to count the notches on Badshah’s belt? Be impressed by his ‘score’? And then Johar went on to say “Well done!” to Badshah admitting he’d been with more than one woman at the same time, begging the question of exactly what was applause-worthy here?
Were we celebrating cheating, or threesomes, or his sexual ‘achievement’? What exactly is the audience supposed to take away from this? That it is cool to view sex as accomplishment, that the notches on your belt matter more than your talent, or that “boys will be boys”? This is 2018. Shouldn’t Karan Johar be better by now and catch up with the narrative, cast his misogyny aside at least when he’s being watched by lakhs of impressionable viewers on national TV?
Well, actually, sensitivity training for all artists (especially the influential lot with the huge male fan followings) is the need of the hour.
The least we could expect is for Karan Johar to be sensitive to his own guests. Diljit’s discomfort was clearly visible as the show crossed more and more lines. Sexually explicit questions are inappropriate – plain and simple, whether the subject on the couch is male or female, especially when those questions are not welcome to the subject. How about a little sensitivity training for the KWK team?
Well, actually, sensitivity training for all artists (especially the influential lot with the huge male fan followings) is the need of the hour. Maybe that would make Badshah realise that Mika’s molestation of Rakhi Sawant is not a joking matter and even if Mika ‘liked’ her, nothing justified kissing her forcefully. Of course we all know now this is an ongoing criminal behaviour issue that Mika stands accused of.
The problem of misogyny and homophobia in the entertainment industry runs deep and free. As for the big guns realizing where they are going wrong, we have a long way to go. With Diljit’s image slightly dented, Badshah’s misogyny exposed (judging by his lyrics and videos over the years, hardly a surprise), and Karan Johar seen for the problematic person he really is, hopefully the more aware audiences can lower their TRPs by saying no to the Kaffeine and Kringe.
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