Paromita Vohra: That victim card

Mar 12, 2017, 06:36 IST | Paromita Vohra

Karan Johar
Karan Johar

Whatever else one may imply (as he prefers it) about Karan Johar's orientation, ladies-oriented he has not shown himself to be lately. Folks are shocked that he said Kangana Ranaut should stop playing the victim card and just leave the industry if she doesn't like nepotism.

Pehle toh, such a campy Lalita Pawar type utterance! Arre, itni takleef hai to jaati kyon nahin! It's quite giggle-inducing. Second, was there ever any doubt about Mr Johar's position on these matters? He has always revelled in his snobbery and SoBo-ness, so it's intriguing he lashed out at this.

Take that he asked Kangana to stop playing the victim card. Consider his own record. We have heard so many times how he was tortured for being a fat kid. He must keep bringing up these humiliations and, in fact, mocking them himself before someone else does. We are frequently treated to his confessions of emotional paralysis. He cannot love because he has hang-ups. He cannot come out about his sexuality because he fears backlash despite all his power and privilege. Now, the right wing bullies him before the release of his film. He is trapped by his power and money and inner pain. Ask him how he's suffered and he'll tell you.

Nothing is an evocation of this odd power than Mr Johar's show. Gone are the days it was a gleeful, gossipy party. It is now merely a marketing vehicle for new A-list releases. No one says anything. Sometimes guests come solo, so it's an hour of restless enervation and watching people play with themselves. The rapid fire round of course, what did you think I meant? Periodically, Mr Johar offers himself up for debasement. The innuendo about his sexuality has long ago lost its sly thrill, its camp cleverness and feels more like toxic submission to heteronormative contempt.

But, Mr Johar submits to the system at whose hand he has suffered, like the woman who bleaches and plucks out each body hair and diets and gyms and beauty parlours so she can win a rich husband and a brittle marriage made bearable only by martinis, so she can belong to the patriarchy, supposedly a sign that you are loved and powerful, when you are in a sense imprisoned. But that is the way of the world, such folks say. Everyone must submit before heterocapitalism. Once the system accepts you, you are relieved. You've made it to the other side. You're not sitting on the edge of the field with the other losers, phew. In fact, you will then do everything to make sure you differentiate yourself from them, for fear you'll be back in their midst. Mean Girls, anyone?

Imagine then, if a Kangana Ranaut comes along singing, it's my party and I'll cry if I want to, in my smashing retro-chic, blue stocking style? It's the equivalent of a fat, funny woman telling the thin, rich, unhappy wife — hey you can be free and have fun and love and success without all that self-hating self-control! That's a crisis, boss. It could very well lead to what Maneka Gandhi might call a hormonal outburst. And, of course, Mr Johar does not want Kangana Ranaut to play the victim card. After all, that card is his and suddenly it's not the joker after all.

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

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