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Karan Johar, are you the Bollywood mafia Kangana Ranaut was talking about?

In asking Kangana to leave Bollywood, Karan has displayed the very nepotism and entitlement she was talking about

Devlina Ganguly @DevlinaGanguly 7 March 2017, 6:17 PM
Karan was seen squirming in his seat as Kangana decimated one Bollywood power structure after another on his show

Karan was seen squirming in his seat as Kangana decimated one Bollywood power structure after another on his show Image: Solaris

Karan Johar says he's "done with Kangana Ranaut playing the victim card", and repeats for good measure, "I'm done". Speaking at an event at the London School of Economics, the filmmaker also tells Kangana she could leave Bollywood if it's such a bad place. Umm... Karan, that sounds a bit like you think you are the king of all you survey in Bollywood and you can banish someone when you're "done" with her.  

Bollywood, for all its recent efforts at being a flag-bearer of feminism with films such as Mardaani, PINK and Queen, still remains patriarchical. Be it the huge discrepancy in pay packages for male and female actors, powerful female actors being relegated to mere eye-candies accompanying a male superstar (remember Sultan, Bajrangi Bhaijaan?), or the many item numbers that blatantly objectify women, B-town still breathes misogyny. So, how is Karan Johar, a seemingly sensitive man, letting himself be the bastion for it?

Karan is not only one of the strongest power structures in the Hindi film industry today, he has been born and brought up in it, imbibing all its mores and socio-cultural norms. The fact that he was born in a filmi family of some standing and managed to carve out a super successful career for himself, becoming some sort of a monarchical figure in the industry, doesn't mean Bollywood is equal to him and vice-versa. The man, used to making/ breaking stars was rattled by a woman who, despite being an outsider, didn't flinch while decimating him and every industry convention on his own show.

And despite his evolved sensibilities, he has hit back and asked Kangana Ranaut to leave Bollywood. He has raked up the 'woman victim' card, the much-used-and-abused go-to weapon for men when they cannot come up with anything logical while arguing about women's issues.

Kangana Ranaut
Kangana on Koffee with Karan season 5 (Image: Facebook)

Apart from those living under a rock, we all remember that Koffee with Karan episode where Kangana came, saw and conquered like a 'queen', leaving the show's usually flamboyant host fumbling for words.

Guests on this celebrity 'chat' show are often asked uncomfortable questions, ranging from their sexual lives to possible hook-ups — to which they giggle in embrassment or laugh in a show of nonchalant coolness, while KJo has his fill of 'good-humoured' laughter. From Bollywood's unanointed king Shah Rukh Khan to its current blue-eyed girl Alia Bhatt (lauded for her strong feminist roles in Highway and Dear Zindagi), Karan's guests have almost been like actors on his sets, performing for his pleasure. So imagine the man's shock when Kangana made him almost squirm in his seat.

Karan must have thought that inviting her to his coveted 'koffee' couch was redemption enough for ignoring Kangana all these years (apart from making fun of her uncool accent with other guests). He may have also seen this gesture as a glowing example of his magnanimity, 'allowing' the industry 'outsider' to grace the couch other stars would fight for.

But Kangana had no gratitude to show. And why would she? A two-time National Award winner needn't feel grateful to be invited to a show which is termed 'flippant' by its very host. Karan, taking on the task of evaluating Kangana's careergraph, had said that though he liked her in Gangster, he had almost written her off after the string of flops she delivered thereafter. But with her performance in Tanu Weds Manu, Kangana redeemed herself in Karan's eyes. You could almost sense Karan telling Kangana in so many words, that yes, he had accepted her as someone who is of any worth in Bollywood. But why is Karan's acceptance so important? He may have delivered quite a number of entertaining-yet-intellectually-average hits, but does that make him qualified enough to write off an actor's career?

Karan had also admitted that he had asked Aditya Chopra not to cast Anushka Sharma in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, and how he felt so proud that she had proved him wrong with her acting prowess down the years. And Anushka, mind you, never for once did question Karan (at least in public) about what gave him the right to kill someone's career even before it had begun?

But that night, sitting on his couch, Kangana trampled his fragile ego and unchallenged entitlement. When Karan asked Kangana what she would name her biography, Kangana decided to hurl some bitter truths at him. Saying that her biography would have Karan play a nepotistic director in it, she finished it off with a cheeky laugh. She also called him a part of the Bollywood mafia, to which he couldn't say anything much but laugh. Since you are a champion of all things humourous Karan, maybe the girl was just having fun on your 'flippant' show.

And in a recent interview, Karan ironically proved her right by saying he is "tired of Kangana playing the woman card, tired of her playing the victim card". He went on to say that if she felt so terrorised and victimised by Bollywood, she should leave the industry. Here again, we see the casual arrogance of a person from one of the "first families of Bollywood", a term he so loves to flaunt.

The only time gender came up on the show was when Kangana was asked who among 'the three Khans' would she like to work with. Kangana, who demands to be acknowledged for her individual worth, and so she should, answered that she wouldn't want to work with any of the Khans if her role wasn't at par with them. Is that playing the 'woman' card Karan? Demanding to have an equal footing in a space where her art is no less compelling than her male co-actors, even the mighty Khan triumverate? On other occasions, Kangana indulged in a battle of wits with Karan on being an outsider, an artiste demanding to be judged on merit and a person who isn't part of Karan's coterie.

In that particular episode, Kangana once again stood out as the outsider who had no inclination to belong, to be accepted. She came across as someone confident in her own skin, who had battled through her struggles, conquered them on her own and was assured of her own worth. Not for once did she come across as a victim, Karan.

In asking Kangana to leave Bollywood, you prove her right. You are the Bollywood mafia she was talking about Karan, where an entire industry is synonymous to an individual who, when challenged from his comfort zone, becomes judge, jury and executioner.

Read more:

Kangana Ranaut accuses Karan Johar of nepotism on Koffee with Karan 5

Kangana Ranaut has the best face to shut down mansplainers

Karan Johar becomes father to twins via surrogacy

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