HomeNewsIs Karan Johar Bollywood’s most controversial star? All the tea

Is Karan Johar Bollywood’s most controversial star? All the tea

If you look at his work & network in Bollywood, Karan Johar will strike you as Bollywood's favorite person. Here's all the tea on the Bollywood star.

Is Karan Johar Bollywood’s most controversial star? All the tea

If you look at his work & network in Bollywood, Karan Johar will strike you as Bollywood’s favorite person. After all, everyone lovingly calls him KJo, he used to be best friends with Shah Rukh Khan & is the progeny of the accomplished producer Yash Johar. Certainly, he was born with pedigree & pampered on the shooting sets.

Then how has he become so controversial, that if someone ruffles some feathers in one narrative of Bollywood, the eventual debate somehow still targets him? Let’s break it down.

Who is Karan Johar?

It’s impossible to know Bollywood & to not have heard of Karan Johar. KJo’s donned many hats in his Bollywood escapades – from film director, producer, screenwriter, actor, and even a costume designer. His first public brush with Bollywood was in the iconic Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (DDLJ) in 1995, where he played the nerdy friend.

Roughly 20 years later, he’s also starred in another movie – this time as the antihero – alongside Ranbir Kapoor & Anushka Sharma. Anurag Kashyap’s Bombay Velvet may have bombed at the box office – and even the critics loathed it – but Karan’s stayed relentless in his creative pursuits. He’s produced more than 50 movies to date.

Having said that, he’s also the controversy’s favorite child & sometimes he’s even the one igniting the gossip mill. 

Koffee with Karan, the poster child for the nepotism debate

We’d like to think that his eponymous talk show has revealed a lot more about him than it has about his guests. He loves good gossip & he never shies away from accepting that. Watch any of his episodes with Kareena Kapoor Khan as the guest & you’ll instantly understand what we’re implying. 

Talk shows hosts are supposed to coax juicy details from the guests, but KJo goes above & beyond to make them catty, pushes them to commodify & rank newcomers, and doesn’t even pretend that coteries don’t exist. 

It even becomes an open platform for celebrities to be their racist, casteist and toxic selves. Audiences have grown smarter in the years since the first episode aired. Karan asking his guests to rate their peers is just a blatant exercise in body-shaming, misogyny, sexism, among other “isms”. We need nothing more than the Hardik Pandya episode as proof of this.

Almost all the controversies Karan Johar’s courted in his career have been undergirded by his family background & privilege. It’s not just his lineage, rather his actions that bring him into an uncomfortable spotlight. 

He’s been launching kids of other actors & hardly ever gives a chance to newcomers – he wasn’t on board with Anushka Sharma for Band Baaja Baarat. It’s hard for him to deny the existence of nepotism in the industry when he is the flagbearer of the concept. No wonder he was dragged into the nepotism discourse when Sushant Singh Rajput died.

An Unsuitable Boy

Karan Johar is gay, but for all we know, this is off the record. He hasn’t come out of the closet, even though several of his guests on Koffee with Karan have tried to pull him out. Twinkle Khanna encouraged him to get together with her husband, Arjun Kapoor joked how no one can portray a gay man better than KJo, and Salman Khan blatantly remarked, “I’m a virgin and so are you.” 

All of these inquiries into Karan Johar’s sex life, but none met with an affirmative response. If we try to dig deeper, we see instances of LGBTQ portrayal set up by Karan in the movies he’s produced. 

Take Kal Ho Na Ho, for example. In what is supposed to be a comic gag, Kanta Bai is shown shivering & hamming a faint when the two heterosexual male leads hug or are found in bed together. The 2008 movie Dostana – again produced by Karan – may have brought the conversation on homosexuality to the drawing-room, but the execution was painfully homophobic.

At the same time, Karan Johar’s the target of a lot of distasteful jokes made at the expense of his sexuality. On multiple occasions, he’s mentioned that he will never speak about his personal life or clarify what his sexual orientation is. It’s a grey area, but it’s brimming with controversies. 

In his 2017 memoir An Unsuitable Boy, KJo makes more waves. He reveals how his friendships with Kajol & Shah Rukh Khan had gone sour. While he later patched up with both of them, we aren’t sure the nitty-gritty going public through his memoir went down smoothly.

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Kritika is a writer and communications consultant based in India. She loves consuming stories in all forms – books, movies, TV shows – and places these stories under a fierce assessment to see if they are feminist, empathetic or entertaining enough. All of Kritika's work is undergirded by her passion for mental health.

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