MUMBAI: If the world has to figure out, if it hasn't done so already, why Bollywood films are tanking in the box office, they only have to watch the web series 'Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives'. The brainwave of Karan Johar, it is a cringe-worthy showcase of the kind of unreal lives the denizens of Bollywood lead in their manicured homes far removed from the gritty reality of India.
How can Bollywood make films that will get real people to pay a fortune and watch them, when the industry's presiding deities live in sterilised cocoons?
The same la-la land returns to our lives, courtesy of Karan Johar, of course, in 'Koffee With Karan', which has now become all about sex and Alia Bhatt. As KJo ages, not as smoothly as a Bordeaux claret, he can't seem to get Alia Bhatt out of his mind. She keeps popping up in each conversation he has with his invitees, the latest being his enlightening discussion on 'suhaag raat' with Katrina Kaif, pegged on Ms Bhatt's oh-so original pronouncement that the concept of the 'first night' has become passe.
As if this 'cult of stupidity' -- KJo's coinage, not ours -- could not stop here, he unfailingly talks about 'manifesting oneself' -- not his idea, but Rhonda Byrne's, if you still remember 'The Secret' -- on his 'couch of manifestation', starting with Vicky Kaushal 'manifesting' his love for Katrina. KJo prides himself for uniting Vicky and Katrina, Ranbir and Alia, and he now has his sights set on Sidharth Malhotra and Kiara Advani. He's well and truly Bollywood's answer to Seema Taparia.
Behind all this is a growing obsession to be at the centre of attention of a media that has very little to write on Bollywood. This obsession manifested itself most recently in his decision to become a judge on the celebrity dance show, 'Jhalak Dikhla Jaa', which has returned after five years with a bunch of attention-seekers -- the likes of Nia Sharma, Rashami Desai, et al.
Giving him company are Madhuri Dixit Nene and Nora Fatehi, whom he called 'hot' and got more attention over and above his daily quota. There's scarcely an occasion on the show that KJo does not share on his Instagram account.
All this is not helping the industry get out of the rabbit hole it has slipped into like Alice in Wonderland, but like all good image makers, KJo believes any promotion, even if it is self-promotion, works, especially if your net worth, going by media reports, is Rs 1,450 crore (and growing!). All that goofiness is a smart cover for a sharp business brain.
The irony is that, despite all the criticism, all the memes and all the boycott calls, Karan is getting richer, 'Koffee With Karan' is among Disney+ Hotstar's top shows (13 million viewers per episode, and counting!), and people are buying his polki jewellery line Tyaani and those who can afford it, are flocking to his modern European restaurant, Neuma, in South Mumbai.
It is just the place where you're probably going to run into a Gauri Khan, or a Maheep Kapoor, or a Neelam Kothari, and the other denizens of the world that 'Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives' celebrates. We may dismiss it as a cringe fest, but does KJo really care? He keeps getting the attention he craves for.
And the ego booster that every aging man needs off and on. Like hearing Maheep Kapoor say how Shanaya has been wanting to act in a Dharma Productions film ever since she was eight years old. What's a little nepotism among friends?