Koffee wars: the claws are out!


By Hindustan Times

There’s never been much love lost between Hindi film heroines, but what’s with all the recent public sniping?

Older readers will probably remember a more innocent time when film magazines carried reverential articles about the leading stars of the day, when those who were in a relationship
were described as ‘very good friends’, and every heroine felt compelled to express her utmost respect for her female colleagues even though what she really wanted was to claw their eyes out.

Well, guess what? That’s exactly what the ladies are doing these days – albeit metaphorically, for the time being at least. For now, their weapon of choice is their tongue and boy, do they hand out a lashing with a rare relish!

Nor are their frank opinions expressed within the privacy of their own drawing rooms. Au contraire, they are aired on their TV channels of choice as they act all naughty and playful on the talk show of the day. The barbs are dressed up with giggles and chuckles but they are sharp and well-directed for all that. And they are trading them as if there is no tomorrow.

Playing a starring role in these cat fights is Deepika Padukone, ex-girlfriend of Ranbir Kapoor and current squeeze of Siddharth (son of Vijay) Mallya. Asked what product her former boyfriend should endorse, Deepika was quick to respond. “Condoms!” she replied, with perfect aplomb. Questioned about Katrina Kaif – with whom Ranbir is said to be ‘very good friends’ – she said she would like to see her passport. Apparently, this was a reference to the rumour that there is some dispute about Katrina’s nationality and thus, her work status in India. (And no, I hadn’t a clue about this either.)

But Deepika is just the first among equals in this bitching fest, for want of a more polite term. Kareena Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra, who began as good friends (or so they claimed at the time) now never tire of sniping at one another. Evidently, it’s all down to the fact that Priyanka began dating Shahid after Kareena dumped him for Saif Ali Khan. Priyanka and Shahid are apparently no longer together (do try and keep up!) but the ladies are still sniping away at each other.

Kareena was first off the block, asking Priyanka where she had gotten her accent from. Priyanka, who has been educated abroad, retorted with a tart: “The same place her boyfriend got his”. Then Priyanka was asked that if she could steal something off the computer of a long list of people (including Senior Bachchan and other Hindi film stalwarts) what would she steal? When it came to Kareena, Priyanka asked with faux-innocence: “Does she even have a computer?”

Oooh, you could just see the (Hermès, of course) handbags being drawn at dawn.
For some reason, most of this sniping and bitching happens on Karan Johar’s talk show. Suddenly in the midst of a somewhat happy-clappy atmosphere where everyone is laughing and teasing one another, you get a zinger like the ones quoted above. And above the sound of a million gasps across the nation you can hear Karan chuckle happily as he thinks of the headlines this little one-liner will elicit for the next few weeks.

Okay, so can I understand why Johar is happy for the occasional barb to be levelled across the parapet of the Koffee with Karan (honestly, what is with all this ‘K’ stuff? Doesn’t anyone know how to spell any longer?) show because that can only be good for his ratings. The more outrageous the stars get on the show, the more people are likely to tune in to get their weekly fix of cheap thrills.

But why do the stars fall in line so readily? Why are they so willing to say unkind things about one another on national television? Why are they so ready to be flip and bitchy about their colleagues? Why do they get so darn nasty with so little provocation?

Okay, Karan does tend to needle them a bit. But then, that’s his job as an anchor, to stir things up, to push the envelope, to make people say things that they otherwise would not. After all, his brief is to make the show as interesting as he possibly can. And quips like these go down swimmingly with the audience at home.

But my question is this why do the stars fall for it? Why is it that in episode after episode, they all stumble into the same trap of slagging off their colleagues?

Is it that they are so comfortable with Karan – with whom all of them have done a movie or two and, no doubt, partied late into the night for good measure – that they forget that there is an actual audience out there watching and listening? Do they get conned into feeling that they are just among friends, joshing and joking, and that nothing they say will be taken seriously?

There may well be something to that because once the shock-horror reactions start pouring in, all the stars express outrage that what they said in good humour is being taken amiss. But, if you ask me, all this public sniping just makes me long for the good old days when stars concentrated on their pancake rather than their put-downs.

Call me quaint (and I’m sure you will) but I still prefer old-fashioned good manners over this new-fangled bitchiness.