It was a familiar brew served in a new cup in the season premiere of Koffee With Karan, which was aired on Star World and Hotstar on Sunday. Coffee and conversation flowed freely as Alia Bhatt and Deepika Padukone shared the couch for a chat-plus-gossip session with host and filmmaker Karan Johar.
The talk show, now in its sixth edition, opened with two female guests for the first time. This was underscored by Johar in his opening monologue, in which he promised an episode of “girl power”. That two contemporaries can shower compliments on each other and ooze camaraderie was a star-studded nod to the concept of sisterhood.
Despite this messaging, the season premiere of Koffee With Karan may not have passed the talk show variant of a Bechdel test, for the conversation kept veering towards the men in their lives – Ranbir Kapoor and Ranveer Singh.
For those who have been living under a rock, Johar spelled out how the love lives of his celebrity guests have crisscrossed: Kapoor, Bhatt’s current boyfriend, was Padukone’s ex. But, as the actresses stressed, there was no ill-will or awkwardness between the two.
The other looming presence was Padukone’s impending nuptials, referenced numerous times, indirectly and otherwise. This was well-timed – just hours before the show aired at 9 pm, Padukone and Singh confirmed on social media they would be getting married on November 14 and 15. As a result, a usually reticent Padukone was refreshingly open about her relationship with Singh and even Bhatt didn’t protest Johar’s references to Kapoor as her boyfriend.
The conversation also touched upon the success of Bhatt’s Raazi (which has been co-produced by Johar’s Dharma Films) and Padukone’s Padmaavat. The latter, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s magnum opus based on the mythical Rajput queen Padmavati, was released on January 25 after an almost two-month delay and amid violent protests by Hindu groups. Johar revisited the controversy with Padukone, who said she was let down by the fracas and felt that they “didn’t need to be in that situation”.
However, the freewheeling conversation was brief and the games – including some new (and slightly tedious ones) – took up a majority of the 68-minute run time. With the cat out of the bag about the women’s love lives, there was little left to reveal even in the rapid-fire round, where celebrities have to answer a range of questions within seconds, the idea being that the quick response time will leave them with little room to be diplomatic. The questions were uninspired and even the raised stakes didn’t prompt a wicked or clever moment (this time, apart from the coffee hamper, the celebrity who delivers the best line of the season will win an Audi car).
Among other things, Bhatt was asked whom she would choose between her cats and Ranbir Kapoor for a lazy evening at home, or who is sexier between Katrina Kaif and Kareena Kapoor. Padukone was asked to pick between movies and babies (“babies while doing movies” was her answer) and whether she would rather be half her height, or double her weight.
Other highlights included Johar’s floral suit and the reference to nepotism in his monologue, a debate that began on this talk show last year when actress Kangana Ranaut called the filmmaker out on his penchant for casting star kids and has weaved in and out of focus since. The best moment on the show by far, which spoke more about women’s empowerment than all the “girl power” packaging, was when the immaculate Bhatt let out a burp on national television – and everyone had a good laugh about it.