Why Karan Johar, Varun Dhawan and Saif Ali Khan's apology to Kangana Ranaut was lame

Please, just stop.

 |  8-minute read |   20-07-2017
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Karan Johar, the son of an acclaimed film producer in Bollywood, Saif Ali Khan, the son of a famous actress and an equally popular cricketer (and a former Nawab) and Varun Dhawan, the son of a highly successful Bollywood director, screamed in unison at the India International Film Awards (IIFA) 2017: “Nepotism rocks!”


To the passerby, this may have seemed like an oddly self-aware statement meant as a self-deprecating joke. Alas! Things are never what they seem. The joke was not aimed at them; rather it was at the expense of Kangana Ranaut, a self-made actress who had earned the wrath of Karan Johar in February when she called Johar the “flag bearer of nepotism” on his talk show Koffee with Karan.

Ranaut had minced no words and called out the influential filmmaker: “Karan Johar is a star and he has given me a lot of unnecessary attitude... In my biopic, if ever it's made, you'll play that stereotypical Bollywood biggie, who is like you know... very snooty and completely intolerant towards outsiders, flag bearer of nepotism, the movie mafia."

It would seem like Johar, Khan and Dhawan wanted to do nothing more than prove her right, when they unabashedly made fun of the actress on the grand stage.

When Varun Dhawan came on stage to receive his award, Saif Ali Khan said, “You are here because of your papa.”

To which Dhawan replied, “And, you’re here because of your mummy.” And Johar added, “I am here because of my papa,” and then the trio shouted: "Nepotism rocks!" 

Unfortunately, the embarrassing display of elitism didn't end there.  

Dhawan then went on to tell Johar, “There was a song in your film: Bole Choodiyan, Bole Kangana,” and the miffed flag bearer of nepotism said, “Kangana nahi hi bole toh achcha hai. Kangana bahut bolti hai (It is better if Kangana doesn’t say anything. She talks a lot).”

iifa_071917093829.jpgPhoto: Twitter/IIFA Edited: DailyO

Thankfully, the world is not as bad as one would think because their jibe at Kangana Ranaut seemed to garner universal criticism (almost universal, because one really can’t expect Bollywood to criticise bigwigs). And enough outrage later, all the three entitled men decided to explain their joke, something that was not at all necessary.

Why? Because it made things way worse.

Varun Dhawan the young star child, like any good millennial, tweeted his apology. It did not have a lot of substance and was probably anything but earnest. He wrote, “I express my apology and regret... I am extremely sorry if I have offended or hurt anyone with that act...”

It’s funny how the “star” had no problem taking pot shots at a person using her name, but his apology was directed at “anyone”. Clearly, this is less of an apology and more of an oops-I-goofed-up-but-see-I-am-a-good-guy-because-I-wrote-a-generic-apology statement.

Let’s see how Karan Johar made it better.

Talking to NDTV, the 45-year-old director took full responsibility of the situation. He said, “The idea of that joke was entirely mine, so I take onus of the idea of what we said. And I think we went a bit too far with the Kangana mention.”

“No matter what I say or feel about my issues with what Kangana said on my talk show Koffee With Karan, I think I was raised to be a dignified, a chivalrous, and a decent person. That's the upbringing that I was given and I feel that I failed on those accounts. I felt that no matter what my thoughts or personal issues on this, I should not have repeatedly brought that up. For that, I'm deeply regretful."

Johar admitted that the joke may have been in poor taste but it wasn’t intended to hurt anyone. "It was something that we said in humour, it may be terrible humour, bad humour, misplaced humour, but our intention was not to hurt anyone. That very core is what failed. Then I got carried away in the moment and I regret that," he said.

Finally, addressing the crux of the issue — nepotism — Johar said, "I want to once and for all say and close this chapter after this and subsequently I will not speak about nepotism nor Kangana because it would be distrustful for her and it would be ungraceful at my end, which I've already been. Nepotism is easy access, nobody can deny that, but what you do with that access is what moulds you into a professional."

While trying to be the bigger man, Johar did take responsibility for the ill-conceived jibe; he made much more of an effort to clear his own name and upbringing out. And in the end, he made the same excuse every privileged person uses as the easy way out: Of course I am privileged and that helped me succeed, but it’s your fault if you don’t succeed without the same privilege.

Bravo, Mr Johar.

Finally – and this is the worst – Saif Ali Khan of royal lineage made the best (read worst) remarks. At no point did he apologise for the jibe. He just said a lot of words that didn't sound coherent.

“I respect Kangana tremendously for what she’s achieved, for coming up the hard way. We’re a mutual admiration society. She also agrees that despite having illustrious parents, I too have had an uneven beginning in Bombay. I understand what Kangana means by her stance on nepotism, though I have a slightly different take on it. People knew who I was because of my parents but that didn’t necessarily give me an easy ride," he said, adding, "Look at the spate of terrible movies I’ve starred in and you know that phase lasted for a long while."

“I am generally perceived as being a very privileged person and I probably am; the reality of it is also that growing up in Pataudi and Bhopal isn’t what people think it is. We are privileged also in terms of getting an opportunity to meet a producer, which in itself is an advantage. But beyond that, only your talent can sustain you. There are also many star kids who are actors and directors who people aren’t so interested in because they perhaps lack the talent.”

“It’s easy to confuse nepotism with genetics. Maybe there is something in the genes too that makes many of Raj Kapoor’s descendants actors or Pataudis cricketers. I think it’s actually eugenics and genetics that’s coming into play.”

Besides making the time-tested nepotism-can-only-get-you-so-far excuse, the royal Khan talked about genetics. Wait, what?

There really isn't much one can say to something as asinine as that. Really. 

Also read - Karan Johar, Saif Ali Khan and Varun Dhawan's digs at Kangana Ranaut were disgusting


Pathikrit Sanyal Pathikrit Sanyal @bucketheadcase

The author is a culture writer who likes talking about the internet, memes, privacy and all things pop culture.

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