regular-article-logo Friday, 02 June 2023

War and civility

Bharathi S. Pradhan Published 06.12.20, 01:14 AM
 Karan Johar, the target of much of Kangana's ire and fire, was the most maligned man of the year.

Karan Johar, the target of much of Kangana's ire and fire, was the most maligned man of the year. File Picture

As we move into the last month of a tumultuous year, you may praise them or pan them, two “K”s who are polar opposites changed many a discourse in 2020: Kangana Ranaut and Karan Johar.

One has often disagreed with Kangana, especially over the somniferous word “nepotism”. If one had to pay heed to her utterings, it’d be tantamount to, for example, depriving ourselves the delights of listening to a honey-throated Kaushiki Chakraborty. By that rule, one of the finest classical singers of this generation would have been denied a stage to break into a thumri or dhrupad, or indeed any raag at all, only because she happened to be Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty’s daughter. If Kangana had been a musician, all the children of maestros who’ve inherited their parents’ skills would have been verbally lynched. And Ustad Alla Rakha’s son, Zakir Hussain, would have been banned from touching a tabla.


Thus, one had thought its inherent impotence would abort the N word from Kangana’s arsenal.

But with the tragic suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput, in jumped Kangana, never mind if she’d never met him while he breathed. Aided by TV channels with their own prime time agendas and a horde of lockdown-unemployed social media “activists”, Kangana exhumed the word again to mislead the very course of the police and CBI investigation.

However, there were other incidents where you wanted to stand by her. You had to hand it to Kangana that in a year which began with a laudably-performed Panga, she did take panga with the biggest names in Maharashtra, and made history. Like the apex court ruling, which will forever be cited as the Arnab Goswami case however polarised the opinion on him may be, the high court decision to give her compensation for “vengeful demolition” of her property will live on as the Kangana precedent in legal circles.

So she has undeniably contributed to making 2020 eventful while Karan Johar, the target of much of her ire and fire, was the most maligned man of the year. He too, sometimes with his silence and sometimes with actions, changed the tone of many a debate.

With his silence-is-golden decision, Karan successfully tided over the viciousness of a verbal assault on him, as if he had anything to do with the unfortunate death of Sushant.

By his action of tweaking “Bollywood Wives” (title registered with Madhur Bhandarkar) to The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives (streaming on Netflix), and a well-worded public explanation to Madhur, Karan also swam out of troubled waters. Trouble because Madhur officially complained that after he’d refused to part with his title as he himself was all set to make Bollywood Wives, it was unethical to use that title.

But is Karan unethically vengeful? It’s well known that when Javed Akhtar had walked out of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai because he (wrongly) saw titillation in the title, Karan felt he owed Sameer, who had stepped in to write the lyrics. Thus, Sameer was given Kal Ho Naa Ho despite the lyrics requiring the depth of Akhtar’s pen. Similarly, after Kareena Kapoor had upped her price and was replaced by Preity in Kal Ho Naa Ho, Karan had gratefully cast Ms Zinta in Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna.

Does this sound like a man without ethics? Perhaps the point Karan has made is that a Web series isn’t the same as a feature film (which Madhur is making) —they are different platforms with different timings. It’s not like two Shaheed Bhagat Singhs clashing at the box office on the same day.

On the other hand, I know Madhur too. He doesn’t stir controversies by design and he steers away from unpleasantness. For instance, although he and Sushant were gym buddies, and Kangana was his Fashion actor, Madhur sensibly sat out and offered no opinion all through the tamasha that went from nepotism to narcotics via murder without addressing suicide or mental health. But Madhur is also a man who won’t shy away from fighting for his haq, and he was hurt that Karan had tweaked his title.

Fortunately, with civility in both filmmakers, this turned out to be the “civil war” of 2020.

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