Two talented actors and a leading director-producer meet at a chat show and the conversation that follows serves to make a great case for staying single and not having babies. True, you may not make it into a Whatsapp moms’ group with Bollywood elite, but at least you’ll still have conversation topics beyond the fruit of your loins.
Welcome to perhaps the second-most anticipated episode of Koffee With Karan (after the first one of this season, featuring Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh). Both Alia Bhatt and Kareena Kapoor Khan are regulars on Johar’s show. In his introduction, Johar said Bhatt feels like his first born and Kapoor is his “spirit soulmate”. He added that he was abandoning the script for this conversation because he loves and adores these two women too much to not be spontaneous with them. Considering how entertaining Bhatt has been in previous appearances on the show and the rapport between Johar and Kapoor, you’d be forgiven for raising your expectations. Except there is a baby-shaped elephant in the room.
The first topic of conversation is parenting. For a solid, uninterrupted eight minutes, Johar, Bhatt and Kapoor talk about their offspring. Johar says he’s delighted that his twins are in the same age bracket as the children of friends like Kapoor and producer Aditya Chopra, and that the next generation gets along. “He’s obsessed with Taimur. He has a Taimur story every day,” Johar says about his son Yash and Kapoor’s son Taimur. Bhatt shares that she and her husband, actor Ranbir Kapoor, fight with each other to have time with their baby daughter, Raha. “That’s a cue to have one each,” responds Kapoor, with a twinkle in her eye that suddenly connects this glamorous member of Bollywood royalty with the neighbourhood aunty whom all women over the age of 25 avoid.
Johar then shifts the focus of the conversation to husbands, and asks a long-winded question about whether it’s hard to be married to an actor since they have “more temptation” around them in their professional life. It says a lot about how dull this season of Koffee with Karan has been that Bhatt’s expressions while listening to Johar’s question are a highlight of both the episode and the season.
Bhatt stares, squints, scrunches her nose, clicks her tongue as she dismisses Johar’s question about whether being married to an actor comes with its challenges. It is arguably not as ridiculous a subject as Bhatt makes it out to be, given both her and Kapoor’s love stories with their husbands began while working with them as co-stars (on Brahmastra (2023) and Tashan (2008) respectively). Kapoor, it turns out, didn’t even get the point of Johar’s question. When Bhatt explains that Johar is essentially asking if the two women worry about their husbands’ fidelity, her jaw drops. Clearly, the thought has never struck her. Saifeena stans, rejoice. Also, for all those who fretted about the implication of Ranbir’s opinion on lipsticks upon his marriage, Bhatt and Johar will have you know her husband embodies the opposite of toxic masculinity. Bhatt expressed amazement at how much was written about the video in which she mentioned in passing that her husband often asks her to wipe off the lipstick she’s wearing. It’s a fair point, but the 50 minutes spent on Koffee with Karan are a great example of how little actors offer by way of topics worthy of analysis and conversation.
From a purely humanitarian point of view, it’s lovely to see two women who appear to be living life on their own terms and glowing with happiness. However, it’s also frustrating to sit through a whole episode and get next to nothing about either woman as professionals despite both thriving in their careers. For instance, what does it mean for Bhatt and Kapoor to be producers? Why did they choose to become producers at such different stages in their careers? At one point, Kapoor, who is often drowned out by Bhatt and Johar in the episode, asked, “When does a woman peak in her career?” It would have been wonderful to hear how Bhatt, Kapoor and Johar would answer that question. Instead, it’s dismissed in favour of conversation about husbands and babies. Everything else is treated dismissively and it feels like a parent trap has swallowed all three people on the show.
At one point, Johar prods Kapoor, asking her why she didn’t attend the success party that actor, producer and collector of teddy bears Sunny Deol had thrown after Gadar 2 (2023) broke box office records. Kapoor glibly replies she was out of town and in any case, Johar is the one who will attend everything. Her raised eyebrow is playful and full of sauce, but without snark. Johar made a weak attempt at getting Kapoor to talk about why she didn’t make her Bollywood debut opposite Hrithik Roshan, which Kapoor fended off gracefully. It’s evident that she won’t talk about the hierarchies within Bollywood families or the social dynamics that made it easier for her and Johar to become besties while maintaining chasms between her and actors like Ameesha Patel.
To its credit, this episode of Koffee with Karan feels less politely rehearsed than the others in the season. Unfortunately, the banter between the three family friends feels neither insightful nor interesting. Both Kapoor and Bhatt are fine actors and their ability to perform in a way that feels unaffected is very much on display in this episode. The same easy fluency and ability to make poise look unstudied that make their performances in films stand out, can be seen in their Koffee appearance. The tones are casual; they giggle, raise an eyebrow here, and throw in an affectionate jibe there, but there’s little for an audience to take away from the chat that is carefully and deliberately superficial. On the plus side, now you know what it’s like to be on a Whatsapp moms’ group chat with Johar, Kapoor and Bhatt.