Bitter Koffee

It’s supposed to be a harmless chat show. So why does it make me so uneasy?

Rohan JoshiReaders, there’s no easy way to say this, and I hope you appreciate the strength and courage it took to come out and say what I’m about to say on a public forum.

I’d like you to spare a thought for my friends and family, who have to deal with the fact that the man they thought they knew is in fact a depraved idiot with a hopeless addiction.

Mum, I know you read this column, and I know you’ve long suspected that I have a shameful secret, like a drug habit or a Nokia.

But ma, my problems run deeper. I’m afraid I can no longer deny the terrible truth of my despair; I watch Koffee With Karan.

Asked what he’d do if he woke up in bed with Sunny Leone, Shahid Kapoor replied, “The obvious!”
Asked what he’d do if he woke up in bed with Sunny Leone, Shahid Kapoor replied, “The obvious!”

I devour Koffee With Karan, drawn to it like a moth to the tacky living-room set. I’ve watched from the start, and borne witness to the show’s evolution. Gone are the early seasons of bland interviews with Deepika Padukone. In their place we now get bland interviews with different people like Deepika Padukone.

As silly as it sounds, at 9 pm on a Sunday night, Koffee With Karan is the exact sort of televised softball that my brain needs (but not the one it deserves). Like most Karan Johar productions, you could send an artillery shell through my brain halfway through KWK, and I’d still have enough grey matter left to process the show.

I can almost see some of you rolling your eyes, muttering “Going after KJo, Rohan? Pretty soft, obvious target no? What next? 800 words on the Unbearable Lightness of Being Human?” That’s not what this is about, On the contrary, I respect that the show’s made it through four seasons, with the same 15 people answering questions that have been pre-cut and softened up by a firewall of star PR and ego managers. I think that as an interviewer, Karan Johar is disarmingly conversational and avuncular with his peers, holding fort even when some of his guests are as daft as dead skin. Or at least he used to be.

I can’t tell whether it’s this season in particular, or whether it’s just something I’ve never noticed before, but there’s some very troubling sexual politics on the show, and they’re not coming just from the guests; they’re coming from Karan Johar himself. Last year, he directed a segment of the anthology Bombay Talkies, in which a character’s first words are to the effect of “I’m gay, okay.

I’m gay, and that doesn’t make me wrong, or broken, or flawed, and you just need to deal with it.” I don’t know how to reconcile that sort of justified ferocity with a question like “Who would you have a gay encounter with at gunpoint?” There’s a billion ethical quandaries in that phrasing alone, but lets chalk that down to me overthinking it.

This season, Johar has approached the remaining 35 minutes of the interview with single-minded focus directed at finding out who the star on his couch is sleeping with. If Arnab Goswami were a Page 3 reporter, I suspect that this is what his hectoring would sound like.

Even that can be forgiven though; KWK’s entire raison d’etre is to fuel or dismiss idle star gossip, on some level, that’s why we all watch, but Johar’s tone this season has been cringe-worthy. “I’ll eat and come” remarked Salman Khan during the season opener.

“Uh huh… or will you (drumroll) COME and THEN eat?” grinned Karan, who now seems only three weeks away from being the embarrassing uncle at the wedding who says “Are you working hard or HARDLY WORKING EH?!” and then misses the high-five that he initiated in the first place.

All of that can be forgiven as pandering to the lowest common denominator. But then there’s Johar’s troubling, random allusions to Sunny Leone. Twice this season, he’s brought her up for no good reason. He asked Shahid Kapoor what he’d do if he woke up in bed with Sunny Leone, to which Kapoor replied “The obvious!”

This is a woman who’s made no bones about her days in porn, a woman who is more open about her past sexuality than Johar is about his present. She deserves better than to be the condescending punch line to a rapid-fire question. Also, Shahid Kapoor; “the obvious”? Look in a mirror you infant, she’d eat you for breakfast and still be hungry.

Add to which, her filmography is way more watchable than Shahid Kapoor’s. Or Karan Johar’s, for that matter. This Koffee used to taste pretty good, Mr Johar, but now it just makes me uneasy. Maybe I need to switch to decaf. Does anyone have Simi Garewal’s number?

Rohan Joshi is a writer and stand-up comedian who likes reading, films and people who do not use the SMS lingo. You can also contact him on

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  • Shubi02-Mar-2014

    I have few observations about the column. 1st and d obvious one is if u have trouble digesting the show y go to the extent if writing a column about it. Now m not a huge fan of KJo but to have some empathy I would say its not easy being gay in India. Infact jus by reading this column I can say its easier to be a porn star.(now nthin against sunny but ur column mks it sound easier to b so)

  • Shubi02-Mar-2014

    D comment nly allows so many words.. lemmi continue.. u say tht thrz billion ethical quandaries.. what is d poor guy suppose to do.. just move to a nation wr being gay is legalised? The irony is u r drawn to d show like u say. Plus m not quite clear by what u mean when u say sunny will eat shahid kapoor for breakfast. Hv u slept wid him or her? How wud u kno. That is a very offensive personal comment . I wud say tht u sound no less thn kjo himself n this column. I hope u enjoyed reading this.:)

  • What's in a name?19-Mar-2014

    I can see too many gay people getting offended here. I enjoyed reading the article anyways.

  • Essentially Human02-Mar-2014

    Wow, you use so many words and say absolutely nothing.. except perhaps that Karan Johar is probably gay; and since he hasn't come out publicly, you are basically outing him. Moreover, using words like 'depraved' and 'shameless' in addition to 'coming out' when talking of a closeted gay man is only terrible homophobic banter (whether or not you are homophobic is irrelevant). But what can I do... laugh away at the cost of an inhumanely persecuted minority, just like people have done for millenia.

  • saf01-Mar-2014

    Hey I agree.Quite a nu of cringe factory this time.

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