Reaching For the Stars: How Koffee With Karan Got us Closer to Bollywood

Pop Culture

Reaching For the Stars: How Koffee With Karan Got us Closer to Bollywood

Illustration: Akshita Monga

If you’ve grown up in India, you’re aware that the whole country has two major hobbies: Bollywood and cricket. And unlike cricket, that happens to unite people when there’s a match against Pakistan, Bollywood is a permanent presence in our lives: The ever-increasing crowds outside Mannat and Jalsa are proof.

If you’re a die-hard romantic, your world begins and ends with Shah Rukh Khan. If you’ve always dreamt of being a sassy beauty, Poo was your role model. Although, we saw these stars play out our fantasies on the big screen, we barely knew them.


That is, until Koffee with Karan. As the show’s latest season premieres on Hotstar this weekend, it’s time to look back at how KWK, a Star World Original, brought us closer to the stars.

Almost 14 years ago, writer-director-producer, Karan Johar did the unthinkable: He brought our favourite Bollywood stars from the big screen, straight into our living rooms. In the hour-long chat show that premiered with SRK and Kajol, Johar would make stars – ranging from A-listers, debutantes, to Bollywood veterans and spouses – reveal their greatest biases, disappointments, fears, and dreams, in such a candid fashion as if the spotlight was never on them. Rarely have our stars been as relatable as they have been on KWK. Where else can you imagine Mahesh Bhatt throwing shade on Kajol?


You see, before KWK, we didn’t know an Aamir Khan or Varun Dhawan beyond the films they did or the rumours and link-ups that film magazines printed against their names. But KWK attempted to uncover the person behind the star: Varun Dhawan is as goofy in real life as he is in the movies and Aamir is dangerously reticent. Suddenly, our favourite stars were now more human. It felt as comfortable as catching up with long-lost friends on a couch.


As a result, every single star who has made an appearance in KWK, revealed much more than they’d ever done in their films and interviews. Sure, we were fans of Alia Bhatt since her stupendous performance in Highway, but would we have ever gotten to know that Bhatt would mistake the Chief Minister of Maharashtra with the President of India? Or that Emraan Hashmi, an actor whose liplocks made more news than his acting, is one of Bollywood’s most intelligent and opinionated actors?


Likewise we’d read and dismissed stories of Kareena Kapoor and Bipasha Basu’s much-publicised catfight on the sets of Ajnabee. But it was on the couch of KWK, that we got a confirmation. In the show’s second season, Kapoor called John Abraham – who was then dating Basu – “expressionless” and Bipasha Basu, in a later season, claimed that Kapoor “had too many expressions”. At a time when Bollywood goes out of its way to preserve an airbrushed image of its stars, here were two leading actresses shattering the illusion of unrealistic perfection.


In fact, the fifth season of KWK that aired in 2016, arguably the show’s best season, holds a key into the impact of the show on celebrities. In one of the earlier seasons, when Sonam Kapoor made an appearance with Deepika Padukone, the two actresses redefined the idea of celebrity gossip by dishing out nuggets about Ranbir Kapoor’s prowess in the boyfriend department. It was an episode that reiterated KWK’s no-holds-barred approach, revealing a side of the actresses we hardly imagined. Just like the episode with Salman, Arbaaz, and Sohail Khan. Salman’s devil-may-care attitude is no secret, but what stood out was the rarely seen camaraderie among the brothers: There was love, respect, and lots of leg pulling.


But the best revelation last season was undoubtedly Mrs Funnybones aka Twinkle Khanna’s appearance with her husband Akshay Kumar. As was expected, Khanna didn’t mince her words, even cracking jokes at Johar’s expense. But her sharpest blow was reserved for her husband: Khanna revealed that her relationship with Kumar started off as a fling, leaving Kumar speechless. Who’d have guessed that it was possible for the Box Office Khiladi to get this embarrassed?


It makes you wonder, if there was no KWK, how would we ever have known that we didn’t just have to idolise our favourite Bollywood stars – we could get to know them too. This weekend, you have the chance to know them once again, on Koffee With Karan on Hotstar. We’re settling down with a giant tub of popcorn.


Binge watch all five seasons of Koffee with Karan on Hotstar.