Once edgy and buzzy, is Koffee With Karan now becoming predictable?

For two decades, Koffee With Karan has been the ultimate voyeur’s delight. Once unmissable, the show now grapples to captivate viewers, transitioning from raw authenticity to rehearsed platitudes

By Yasser Usman

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Published: Thu 7 Dec 2023, 4:32 PM

Karan Johar’s Koffee With Karan (KWK) has been the ultimate peephole into Bollywood’s inner sanctum since it kicked off nearly 20 years ago (2004). It was a game-changer in Indian talk shows, pulling back the curtain on Bollywood’s elite. It remarkably turned the humdrum celebrity interviews into a rollercoaster ride through the lives of A-listers. Forget the usual yawn-inducing chats, KWK was the spot where celebs spilled all the tea — their dirty laundry, personal stories, confessions, and gossip so juicy it’d make even the most hardened gossip columnist blush.

But KWK wasn’t just about gossip. Each season was like a Bollywood rollercoaster, jam-packed with eyebrow-raising comments and controversies that set tinseltown on fire. Who could forget when Kangana Ranaut called out Karan Johar as the “flagbearer of nepotism”? That single statement ignited a whole Bollywood debate that’s burning till today. Then there was the episode where Deepika Padukone and Sonam Kapoor threw so much shade at Ranbir Kapoor that his parents hit back in anger. Oh, and the time Kareena Kapoor poked fun at Priyanka Chopra’s accent, asking: “Where did PC get that accent from?” triggering a snapping comeback from PC: “I get my accent from the same place her boyfriend (Saif Ali Khan) does.”

Let’s not forget when actor Emraan Hashmi was asked about the first thing that comes to his mind when he hears Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s name. “Plastic,” the actor had replied. The show had Salman Khan claiming, “I am a virgin and I sleep alone”, while Shah Rukh Khan publicly apologised to Salman Khan for their fight. It was a Bollywood tornado! A cultural phenomenon at least in the initial four seasons. But as the gift hampers got fancier, the show gradually began to lose its fizz and got trapped in a predictable and templated structure.

In the current season too, the once-cherished USPs of spontaneity and unexpected revelations are missing. The celebrity guests, once known for their candour and willingness to spill the beans, now appear to be reciting rehearsed lines, their responses as predictable as the sunrise.

The most talked-about debut episode of season 8, the Ranveer-Deepika episode, was all about the lovey-dovey anecdotes and behind-the-scenes glimpses into their whirlwind romance and wedding. But it was Padukone’s candid admission that she had dated other men while simultaneously seeing Ranveer Singh that sent shockwaves through the entertainment industry and beyond. This unexpected, honest revelation injected a much-needed spark into the episode. Unfortunately, the spark quickly fizzled out as the subsequent episodes of the season spiralled into a monotonous loop of predictable conversations and carefully crafted personas.

Then Karan Johar managed to lure the reclusive Deol brothers, Sunny and Bobby, hoping to unearth some juicy tidbits from their lives and careers. However, much to his dismay and the audience’s disappointment, the Deols remained as tight-lipped as ever, deflecting Karan’s attempts at extracting masala with their trademark brotherly camaraderie. Dharmendra’s much-publicised kiss in Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahaani (2023) was briefly addressed, but the brothers swiftly dismissed it with a nonchalant “he gets away with anything”, leaving Karan and the viewers yearning for more. Their guarded demeanour extended to the topics of Esha and Ahana, their sisters, much to the chagrin of those hoping for some behind-the-scenes gossip. The highlight? Karan revealing Sunny’s unexpected teddy bear fetish.

Next few episodes featuring Sara Ali Khan-Ananya Panday, and Varun Dhawan-Sidharth Malhotra lacked the show’s former spark and wit. The Alia Bhatt-Kareena Kapoor Khan episode carried immense potential. Both had been individually entertaining in their previous appearances on the show. However, when they came together for an episode, their interaction seemed cautious and intentionally superficial. In most episodes, rehearsed responses and cautious behaviour diluted the show’s original charm of candid conversations and spilled secrets.

Though many factors contribute to this decline, a significant culprit is the heightened media scrutiny, the relentless online trolling, and the pervasive influence of social media, which have instilled an acute sense of caution in celebrities. The fear of one misspoken word triggering a PR nightmare, as exemplified by the Deepika-Ranveer episode, has transformed the show into a carefully choreographed performance, where free-flowing conversations are sacrificed for the sake of image management. For years, the high point of the show remained its rapid-fire round. Almost every answer had a potential story or a hidden snarky comment. In this season, even that charm seems to have vanished, with predictable and dull exchanges. Another potential factor could be the lack of the magnetic presence of certain Bollywood heavyweights like Shah Rukh, Salman, and Ranbir Kapoor, who brought unique energy and unpredictability to the show with their charisma to connect with audiences on a personal level. They might have contributed to the show’s shift in dynamics in this season.

It’s akin to watching a rerun of a once-great sitcom with stale jokes and characters losing their zing. A makeover might do wonders, like bringing in fresh elements and a more diverse guest list. Hopefully, with a dash of creativity and a sprinkle of madness, it can reclaim its captivating charm, or at the very least prevent us from reaching for our remotes.

wknd@khaleejtimes.com

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