LONDON: 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. 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.