Neetu Kapoor Left the Industry on Her Own Strong Terms. Zeenat Aman Could not be Further From her Sex Siren Image. There was no Issue With the Male Dominated Hindi Cinema Landscape. Nobody Partied in the Seventies. Every Rumour Published in Film Magazines was a Lie.
Chew over these with the heft-of-a-headline, interwoven with gossipy-rebuke implications, and you might contrive that Perhaps, Coyness can be Charming? Now, had this been one of the earlier seasons with that delicious whiff of notoriety it earned from the guests’ acidic castigations, any affinity for these blanket rebuttals would have shrivelled up. Who cares for the script of denial that comes with the preparation of neatly-pressed-linen? The latest addition to Season 8 of the talk show, even if it doesn’t indulge in John-Abraham-is-Expressionless, or Ranbir-Kapoor-Should-Endorse-a-Condom sort of divulgings, at least reminds you what it is that is so irresistible about chafing at these prescriptive, and grating public performances.
Did it register with Kapoor and Aman that Hindi Cinema was, perhaps, an especially male-driven landscape during the recesses of their youth? The former reasoned she was too young to register it because she was whisked off into matrimony at the age of 21 by Rishi Kapoor, and the latter listed out her iconic successes, and lathered it with vigorous refusal to let the stardom that emerged from it to be tainted by the uglier insinuations of systemic hierarchies at the workplace. That’s fair because it adheres to a celebrity truism: Systemic issues exist, but what use is of embedding them in individual narratives?
Anecdotes about Rishi Kapoor’s controlling and possessive behaviour, his fits of bullying on sets — characterised as ‘passion’ to couch and cushion the negative implications in interviews elsewhere— are swapped with a familial ease between Johar and Neetu-ji, as he refers to her. Aman, “Ma’am”, shared how she was cast by Raj Kapoor in Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978) due to a bubbling, leaking passion for the cinema he creates— what is it about these safe recountings that come across as endearing, rather than fumigated, watered-down half-truths?
Even when Kapoor was asked during the Rapid Fire round what marital advice she would like to impart to her son and his wife — superstars Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt of course, you didn’t need me to tell you that — she made a facile remark about being gracious towards the generational difference. I have a great sympathy for the generation Neetu Kapoor’s children belong to — none of their cliched promulgations ever feel as buoyed, or charged because of Voompla, Reddit threads, chunks of Youtube analysis and their put-up-a-pasteurised-wall PR approach. I mean…they could, but they just don’t.
Aman’s gait as she entered, containing neither the flashiness, or the whim for it, sticks out in the oddness of this refusal to indulge in ballyhoo. Her approach towards the brazen construing of her love life, and her sexual escapades, is deny, deny and deny. The show’s writers forgot to parse through her Instagram grid perhaps, and squeeze out the wisdom she put in the caption of her eleventh post— she has clearly stated the extent to which the public should have access to her, access to them.
What is restoring about this episode is how much it focuses on the veteran actors’ circuitous stardom, their recent resurgence through Kapoor’s second foray into cinema after the death of her spouse and Aman’s arrival on Instagram — rather than, what I had presumed, a gratuitous focus on the married life of Neetu Kapoor’s son and daughter-in-law, and a more specific and scandalous focus on the romantic entanglements of yesteryears. Johar never entirely veers away from the latter though, but would it be Koffee With Karan if he did? Not that authenticity only comes in the shape of who slept with whom, or definitely did not, like the film magazines claimed.
The only person — other than her husband “Chintu Ji”— Neetu Kapoor had a crush on was Shashi Kapoor, she claimed. Aman, when asked which of the rumours around her were true during the Rapid Fire round, retorted “none of them” jovially, till Johar made the question specific: Who gave her the box within the box within the box within the box and said “the ball was in her court”. Without giving out the name, Aman said it was someone from the Kapoor family. For all the episodes of this season, Johar has, sorrowfully, albeit a bit understandably, dwelled on the past due to the safer musings of recent guests in a bid for a professional image management. But with such a beguiling past sitting on his couch, it leads to an itching question: Of what point is the present?