In the last episode of Koffee With Karan, there was something else brewing (apart from the coffee of course). Kangana Ranuat was on the couch, all guns blazing in classic queen fashion. For the entire running time of the show, she answered question after question, calling out Karan Johar for years of “rejection” and “mockery” she has faced because of many like him.
Why does it matter that a female actor took on Bollywood’s biggest names, while being polite and composed? Because for the first time, on a show termed ‘frivolous’ by its own host, and reserved mostly for the who’s who of the Bollywood film industry,, here was an ‘outsider’, shaking the ones right up at the high rung of the ladder – with a smile on her face through it all.
“You made fun of my English on this couch. These things do drive you,” launched off Kangana, within the first five minutes of the episode, as Karan visibly struggled to a respond. In one shot, Kangana had blown off the privilege and the hypocrisy of the so-called elite, for sidelining all those who don’t necessarily talk like them, or keep the same company. “I am not trying to fit in and say I want to prove myself,” said Kangana, as she pointed out that Karan’s appreciation of her craft was long overdue.
Both Karan Johar and Aditya Chopra had said “Nothing would happen [of this girl]” when they saw Kangana’s foray into Bollywood, over 10 years ago she shared. And boy have they had to eat their words.
Kangana has proven every naysayer who thought a small-town girl, who couldn’t speak fluent English and had no big industry daddies completely wrong, and how. She’s built herself up independently and all on her own.
“Brands don’t hire you because you aren’t on social media. I don’t do ads for fairness creams, I don’t do shows,” she went on to say. “You let go for something more valuable, which is my values.” In two lines, she had ripped apart the notion of all that female actors in Bollywood need to do and must do to ‘fit in’ or just ‘succeed’.
Even in 2017, it makes the film industry uncomfortable to have a female actor, that too an ‘outsider’, with strong opinions at the helm. But Kangana continues to prove how she’s determined to do just that. Let’s not forget – she is the first actor to have proclaimed “My period blood is not gross” on national TV, when she was shamed for a natural bodily function, and she continues to challenge popular perceptions about female actors, proving that you’ll find people who are “ready to pay three times” because they really want to work with you for your talent.
When Karan asked if she’s ever jealous when a film does really well, she admitted that it does pinch her. But the icing on the cake was that she went on to quote “Dangal” as an example – a film starring a top male actor – proving that gender doesn’t really matter when you’re talking good cinema. For a couch that’s used to judging male actors based on talent and female actors based on looks, this was a big moment.
And then came probably the biggest highlight of all five seasons of KWK combined. When talking of the role Karan would play in her someday biography, she laughed and said, “[You’d be] the stereotypical Bollywood biggie, snooty, intolerant of outsiders, flag-bearer of nepotism, movie mafia.”
As Karan almost choked, Kangana seemed like she knew this had to be said. For a viewer like me, this was the moment the ‘outsider’ had proved that she is here to stay. It was so refreshing from the usual tirade of celebrities joking about wanting to play the next part in Karan’s films, and cozying up to the idea that being on KWK implies you have to be ‘bitchy’ and ‘snooty’.
For the first time on the show, a female actor refused a part opposite any of the three Khans – because she wouldn’t get an ‘equal role’. She proved how you can be intelligent and funny, instead of being just one, and said she was sick of male actors assuming that female actors have “low IQ”.
In recent times, other female actors too have called out sexism in the industry. Anushka Sharma recently blasted the media for spreading rumours about Virat Kohli producing her upcoming film. Sonam Kapoor too has gone on record to state that the wage gap in Bollywood is utterly sexist. Kangana asserting all this and more on a show that kept branding itself ‘frivolous’ (not once, but twice, or maybe more), was almost like a call to Bollywood to grow up.
Oh, and what’s more? Karan asking Kangana if she’d like to be rich without love, or poor but in love. The response? “Karan, your idea of poverty is very different from mine.” Quite apt, for someone in whose films being rich is as commonplace as the dust on the streets.
It wasn’t just the fact that Kangana called Karan Johar out that matters – it matters more that she stood up to the ones considered most powerful on their own turf. For an industry that’s too comfortable in its rigid hierarchal ways of working, here is a woman who announced that she’s not stopping till the coffee (and the system) is shaken well and good.