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Opinion | Is Karan Johar becoming the sole scapegoat for all Bollywood ills?

Bollywood Karan Johar's past comments on his deliberate efforts to "sabotage" Anushka Sharma's career have returned to haunt him. 

Opinion | Is Karan Johar becoming the sole scapegoat for all Bollywood ills?
Pic Courtesy: Official Instagram Account of Karan Johar

Last Updated: 11.48 AM, Apr 10, 2023


Bollywood filmmaker Karan Johar is again in the middle of a raging controversy. Not because of something he did today, but for his past deeds. His self-incriminating comments that he made in a sheer state of euphoria a few years ago have come back to haunt him. 

Film editor-screenwriter Apurva Asrani earlier this week tweeted a 38-second clip from Karan Johar's interaction during the 18th MAMI Mumbai Film Festival in 2016. “I totally wanted to, completely murder Anushka Sharma's career. Because when Aditya Chopra showed me her image, I was like, ‘no, no, mad or what, you signing her, you crazy! There is no need for you to sign this Anushka Sharma'. There was another lead actress at that time who I wanted Adi to sign and I was totally behind the scene sabotaging her completely. The movie also I was reluctantly watching Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi," Karan said. 

He also added, "But, when I watched Band Baaja Baaraat, I felt like I owed her an apology and compliment. Apology because I felt so embarrassed that I would have ruined the graph of an exceptional talent." 

Karan's heartfelt admission to the error in judgement was received in good humour at the time. And Anushka was also visibly enjoying the moment of having disproved a naysayer. And it seemed Karan was exaggerating his intentions much to the amusement of the audience. He was seemingly spicing it up more than required for drama and playing to the gallery. Karan's candid comments didn't generate any negative press either. It seemed as if everyone appreciated Karan's ability to reflect on his actions and take ownership of his missteps.

But, Karan's admission has not aged well. The times have changed. As the discourse around the film industry has evolved, questions about the opportunities available to outsiders versus the preferential treatment given to star kids have taken centre stage. The debate now centres on whether young talents without connections in the industry have a fair chance to succeed, or if they are consistently marginalized and unable to thrive in an environment that prioritizes nepotism. In light of these ongoing discussions, Karan's previous statements on the topic may need to be reevaluated and recontextualised.

There is a growing consensus that the industry has been indifferent to the "outsiders." There are several successful outsiders like Shah Rukh Khan, Ranveer Singh, Anushka Sharma, Rajkummar Rao, and Ayushmann Khurrana to name a few. However, the overarching narrative suggests that these individuals' paths to success were more challenging due to the industry's entrenched nepotism and preference for star kids. Despite the many talented outsiders who have made it big in Bollywood, the perception remains that their success is the exception rather than the norm. 

Recently, Priyanka Chopra Jonas sparked a debate when she revealed that she felt sidelined in the Hindi industry, prompting her to seek a career in Hollywood. “I’m not a nepo baby. I didn’t have that kind of support that exists in a big way in Bollywood movies. You know they are multi-generational actors that come in and get multiple opportunities versus the ones that come in from outside. You don’t have your uncle making a movie for you just because your last one tanked, right? You have to get it and you have to hustle for it. I was being pushed into a corner in the industry. I had people not casting me, I had beef with people, I am not good at playing that game, so I kind of was tired of the politics and I said I needed a break," Priyanka, said in a candid interview with Dax Shepard for the Armchair Expert podcast. 

Despite being one of the top female stars in India in 2015, with a string of successful films to her name including the solo hit Mary Kom, Priyanka's candid admission of feeling insecure and uncertain about her future in the Hindi film industry raises questions. If even someone in her position can feel vulnerable and marginalised, what does that say about the broader landscape for novice talents in Bollywood? Her statement, sure, raises important questions that require reflection and action from the industry as a whole. It's crucial for industry members to consciously make efforts to ensure that talented outsiders feel valued and supported. 

Pic Courtesy: Official Instagram Accounts of Karan Johar and Priyanka Chopra
Pic Courtesy: Official Instagram Accounts of Karan Johar and Priyanka Chopra

Even though Priyanka didn't name names, actor Kangana Ranaut was quick to blame Karan for chasing away the Citadel star to Hollywood. Although, the friendly meeting between Priyanka and Karan during the two-day gala event at the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre helped Karan's image to an extent. 

The latest viral video has again put him in a difficult spot, adding more fuel to the ongoing PR crisis and giving more salvo to his detractors. 

Given Karan Johar's prominent position in the film industry, it's important that he recognises the significant impact his words and actions can have on the careers of others. While he may not intend to harm or hinder the success of outsiders, his words and decisions can carry immense weight and influence. As such, he must approach his role with a heightened sense of responsibility and awareness.

But, the question: is there an attempt to make Karan Johar the poster boy for everything that's wrong with the Hindi film industry? 

The issues in Bollywood are complex and multi-faceted, and it's not fair to solely blame one individual for all the industry's problems. While Karan Johar is undeniably a prominent figure in the Hindi film industry, it's important to acknowledge that he is not the entirety of Bollywood. Blaming one person for everything can oversimplify the root causes of the challenges that the industry faces. Instead, a more nuanced approach is needed to address the underlying issues and work towards a better and more inclusive future for Bollywood.

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