Koffee With Karan is back: Why Karan Johar’s ‘cult show’ won’t ever be ignored

Karan Johar is a name that does not go unrecognised. In fact, his name is so highly recognised that most know him as just Karan. The filmmaker is also a talk show host, and a witty one at that; he also has a risque brand of humour. He is returning with Koffee With Karan season 7. Come July 7 and Karan will once again remind viewers how he came to dominate the genre with a parade of A-list celebrity guests playing Koffee Quiz and answering Rapid Fire questions.

Full disclosure: This writer has watched most, but not all, episodes of Koffee With Karan – beginning with the 2004 season featuring Shah Rukh Khan with Kajol and Kareena Kapoor with Rani Mukerji – and enjoys the occasional Koffee binge-watch. And it rarely left her less than entertained.

The chat show has captivated millions of viewers for almost 18 years, and has altered very little since its early incarnation. In the Koffee With Karan season 7 trailer that dropped on Saturday – and became a top trending topic on Twitter in no time – actor Ranveer Singh tells us why people still tune in. It is a ‘cult show we all know and love’, he said.

Karan Johar is the host with the most, the man every A-lister wants to drink koffee with. Off-screen, celebs might adhere to showbiz protocols, and be business-like and discreet. But the on-screen vibe of guests on Koffee With Karan is something else entirely: it’s like watching stars in their own social habitat.

Having two A-listers together on the sofa at the same time is the show’s most obvious and triumphant USP. This seating arrangement has often thrown up some unlikely bosom buddies, too. Deepika Padukone and Alia Bhatt were seen together in Koffee With Karan season 6 in 2018. Their camaraderie provided one of the all-time greatest episodes of Koffee With Karan. While Deepika dated Ranbir Kapoor for a couple of years, Alia and Ranbir were dating at the time, and later married in 2022.

Also seen in season 6, was the impressive combined star power of Kareena Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra, which was by no means an outlier. Think of pretty much any A-lister from the last 20-25 years, and there’s a good chance they’ll have shared the show’s famous Koffee couch with another of equal stature. Rekha, who remains at the top of Karan’s wish-list, is perhaps the only major Bollywood name yet to succumb to his charms.

As a host, Karan knows his role is to steer – rather than entirely dominate the conversation–and guide celebs into revealing a new side of them that you don’t often see during their press junkets. His true masterstroke, though, is planting each episode’s guests on the couch together, often from the very start. Should one guest clam up or prove to have the personality of a potato, you can always rely on the guest on the other end of the couch to keep the party going.

On Koffee With Karan, stars all shed their facade, as they try to charm each other – Ranbir Kapoor and Ranveer Singh’s unexpected bromance was the highlight of season 5 in 2016. On the show, you watch the star become the fan – Alia giggling about marrying Ranbir or Vicky Kaushal pretending to collapse in excitement after hearing Katrina Kaif feels they’d look good together – and wonder whether it’s really real or just more schtick. But, of course, it’s real.

Karan’s familiar presence, combined with the cup of coffee or two guests drink on set, also encourages celebs to open up more than they would in other interviews. Perhaps a little too much in the case of Kareena, who famously spoke about Priyanka’s ‘accent’, and even called John Abraham an ‘expressionless’ actor in the earlier seasons of the show. You’re never too far away from the embarrassing admission you’d expect to be taken to the grave on the Karan Johar show – Sonam Kapoor in a 2011 interview said she regretted the comments she made about Ranbir in Koffee With Karan season 3.

Known for its interesting guest pairings, the latest Koffee With Karan season – streaming on Disney+ Hotstar for the first time – will feature a fresh line-up. Ranveer and Alia, who will be seen together in Karan’s Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani appear together. Another on-screen couple to share the Koffee couch is Kiara Advani and Shahid Kapoor; they were seen together in the 2019 film Kabir Singh. Making their Koffee With Karan debut are Telugu actors Samantha Ruth Prabhu (with Akshay Kumar) and Vijay Deverakonda (with Liger co-star Ananya Panday).

Given that there’s a strong chance that many of the actors he’s working with end up on the Koffee With Karan couch, Karan’s show is questioned for sorely lacking in diversity, not to mention being cheesy, staged, and borrowing from Simi Garewal’s iconic Rendezvous with Simi Garewal (both talk shows are relentlessly A-list).

Koffee With Karan is all of those things; but it also is light entertainment and smooth conversations with the biggest names in the movie business. Unlike Simi, Karan’s interviews could be deemed as not probing enough, but it always seemed like he simply wanted to have a nice, long gossipy chat with his guests/friends. Sure, not every interview went to plan, and the frosty chat with Kangana Ranaut, while she promoted Rangoon during Koffee With Karan season 5, inevitably springs to mind. But then it’s easy to remember the one that went wrong, and overlook the many that went right.

Koffee With Karan never forgets that it’s first and foremost a talk show. Yes, there’s always a brief opening monologue, but it understands that sometimes the best way to strike TV gold is to simply point the camera at celebs and allow them to, well, talk.

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