Koffee with Karan Review: Anil Kapoor, Varun Dhawan Talk about Libido and Nepotism

Host Karan Johar said Kapoor was his first “superstar friend” in and Dhawan was “the first baby I put into business”
Koffee with Karan Review: Anil Kapoor, Varun Dhawan Talk about Libido and Nepotism

We’ve come to that point in the seventh season of Koffee with Karan (KwK) when it feels like the show’s producers are pulling out the episodes that they either forgot about or wilfully set aside for the greater good. From Kartik Aaryan and Kiara Advani saying “Hi Karan it’s me” while doing promotion for Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 (2022) to Varun Dhawan talking about the pairing of the now-uncoupled Disha Patani and Tiger Shroff (Shroff said he was single when he appeared on the show), this episode feels like a time capsule that got lost on its way to Disney+ Hotstar. But it’s here now and we’re watching it, because that’s what we do when celebrities show up. 

A lot of effort went into making this episode pop. Dhawan wore an all-red suit. Anil Kapoor pulled out his thumkas for the glam-slam-thank-you-ma’am session in Karan Johar’s MyGlamm Zone. Dhawan and Kapoor brought diamonds for Johar and cutting chai for themselves. Johar got people to call in and ask Kapoor and Dhawan for marital advice. Dhawan, who asked a caller “How frequently do you have intercourse?”, informed us his libido is “too strong”. Kapoor, when asked if he has a playlist for sex, said, “I don’t listen, I do it.” In case we didn’t believe this, he also said the secret of his still-youthful glow was “sex, sex, sex.” There was also a conversation on nepotism that redefined the word (more on that later). Unfortunately, for all the hard work that’s gone into KwK, this summary is more exciting than the actual episode. 

For those who remember the early seasons, KwK became the fan favourite that it is now because Johar crafted a delicious balance between performance and honesty in his show. He wasn’t just the Bollywood insider with all the contacts, but also a good interviewer. His guests were celebrities who dolled up but also dished it out — not a lot, but just enough to convince audiences that there’s a nugget of something real under the glistening façade. Seven seasons later, the performative aspect of KwK is as jacked up as Dhawan in his shirtless photos, and the only moments that feel genuine are also the ones that are boring. This isn’t because fame makes people less interesting. It’s because Johar is asking the questions his guests want to answer, rather than the ones that could make for good conversations. For example, early in the show, Johar shared a photo (from two years ago) in which Kapoor is seen shirtless on a beach. “Hats off,” said Johar, with genuine admiration to Kapoor and it’s a fair point because Kapoor really does seem to have pressed the pause button on ageing. Not one of the three men in the “Koffee House” talked about ageing in an industry that is obsessed with youth. Neither did anyone talk about how the expectations and yardstick for male beauty have shifted in the decades since Kapoor’s first rush of success as a Bollywood hero. Once upon a time, Kapoor appeared shirtless and hairy on screen and on magazine covers. Was that a measure of the industry being less demanding or beauty conventions being more generous for men? Was the body confidence that Kapoor flaunted as a young man just a front? Or is he the Leonard Zelig of Indian masculinity, transforming himself to absorb and reflect what he sees around him in order to fit in?

But Kapoor didn’t come to KwK to be real. He came to perform. “Do you want me to do it serious?” he asked Johar when Johar tried to get his guests to discuss infidelity, as though this was an audition rather than a talk show. It’s a sad day for gossip lovers when a conversation about infidelity has all the excitement of wilted lettuce. On the plus side, we may have witnessed on camera the moment when Johar discovered “helicopter” is a sexual position in addition to being a transport vehicle. 

There’s a haphazard, disjoint quality to this episode of KwK and as it progresses into the rapid-fire and game rounds, Dhawan and Kapoor’s performances acquire a manic edge. It’s almost as though the actors can tell the show is flagging and so each one does whatever he can to level up. In Dhawan’s case, it’s yelling out Arjun Kapoor’s name (while mimicking Kapoor’s accented English). Kapoor, on the other hand, starts dancing. It’s worked for countless Bollywood films, so why not a chat show? 

Yet the highlight of this episode is neither the sex advice that Dhawan dishes out to hapless callers nor Kapoor saying “Mere har movement mein pelvic zaroor aa jata hai (My every movement has some pelvic action)”, but the brief discussion on nepotism. Johar, Kapoor and Dhawan all belong to Bollywood film families and have benefited from being industry insiders. Or as Johar put it, “We’ve all somehow borne the brunt of it.” Conventionally, nepotism is defined as benefiting from one’s social connection either directly or indirectly. Johar recasts “the phenomena” as a burden that people like him have manfully borne in face of criticism and public scorn. Also, just FYI, this is a recent phenomenon according to Johar. “When I launched you 10 years ago,” Johar said to Dhawan, “it wasn’t even a thing. But now, apparently, any relation you have, it gives you that first access into the business, is now called nepotism.” Indeed it does and it is. Dhawan is the only one who acknowledges there is an advantage to being an insider. “It’s something that definitely exists,” Dhawan said of nepotism, right after Johar said Dhawan being director David Dhawan’s son had nothing to do with the actor being cast in Student of the Year (we are to believe someone who doesn’t share a social network with Johar has as much of a chance of getting a starry launch from Dharma Productions). “As society evolves and you go ahead, you can’t turn a blind eye to these things,” Dhawan said, sitting between two older men who did exactly that. 

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