KJo tries to fit into Kamadeva’s shoes. Gross.

KJo tries to fit into Kamadeva’s shoes. Gross.

The new Netflix series ‘What The Love with Karan Johar’ sees the director-producer as a love guru. It is ridiculous yet spectacular

Is Karan Johar the modern-day Kamadeva? The Hindu god of love who shoots arrows of flowers at unsuspecting people to make them fall in love. (You would know if you have watched old mythological movies that were strangely addictive in spite of being ridiculous).

Now fast forward to Netflix India’s new seven-episodes series called ‘What the Love! With Karan Johar’. It is so bad that it actually becomes good viewing. It is supposed to showcase him as a love guru and has him spouting lines (more about this later) that are arguably the cheesiest advice that someone could offer on any level.

We know Karan Johar as a filmmaker. He has given cringe-fests like ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’ and ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham’. As a producer, thanks to his glossy Dharma Productions, he is the name behind commercial hits like ‘Good Newwz’ as well as tacky ones like ‘Drive’ (they have a deal with Netflix, so expect more such stuff).

His best avatar has been as a chat-show host in ‘Koffee with Karan’, where KJo plays himself. He is seen seated on a couch across starry friends, gossiping away as they may do in the privacy of his drawing room. As the audience, we feel like a fly on the wall, fascinated by the gossip and innuendoes. That is fun.

But what on earth is ‘What the Love’? We get an idea in episode one when KJo mingles with singles in a room that looks as artificial as the banter going around. We learn that he will ‘select’ six singletons and, get this, “make them ready for love”.

KJo and his “shamazing experts” (go figure!) — stylist Maneka Harisinghani and hair stylist and makeup artist Shaan Muttathil — sit and dissect the people with comments that the mean girls at school would make. There are eye rolls when someone admits to being a virgin, snide comments about being boring, so many comments flying loose, that it becomes a party of shaming. Why, KJo, why?

The next six episodes concentrate on each of the selected singles. There is Aashi, a pathologist, who gushes to KJo, “You have screwed my idea of romance completely!” He tuts-tuts and with a straight face lectures young girls get so swept by the idea of what filmmakers want. “But we want a Johar romance!” she replies. Cringe cringe. She has body-image issues and makes some real points which could have been tackled properly. Instead, the show never rises high in content. Star guest Arjun Kapoor and Aashi sit down to eat pizza and Johar, looking comfortable on a couch and watching the ‘date’ titters about it, and moments go by, like a string of artificial pearls.

The next episode follows a mental makeover, usually given by an invited guest, and then there is KJo, the Kamadeva, setting up two dates for the singleton. And like his movies, the single, who is now “ready for love”, walks into the ‘proverbial sunset’ with one of the dates, future secure with a partner. 

Another episode features a gay male model, Rebanne, whose heartfelt admission of facing rejection and barbs could again have lifted the show into a deeply thought-provoking one. KJo spouts quotes as inane as, “Find happiness in loneliness.” Sip chai, it seems. He does find the guy a date, which is possibly a saving grace. 

Each of the episodes are on similar lines. Monologues by KJo and the single, a date with a star guest — from Saif Ali Khan to Sunny Leone — mental makeover and then, two dates with two KJo-selected possibilities. Repeatedly, Johar announces grandly, “I am the light at the end of that deep dark tunnel called love.”

He does push a button with clichés like, “A parent nurtures you, a partner completes you” and “Love isn’t like a cold, something to catch”. The moment when he comments that one of the singles, who has scars on her face, is “scarred” is hard to digest. Then there are talks of regressive society or “evil step sisters”, intimacy, commitment phobia, and more. Good talking points which meet glossy treatment.

However, there are few takeaways from the show. For the low self-esteem issues of Reena Kumari, RJ Malishka, who does ‘What the Mindset’, asks an artist to sketch Kumari based only on the inputs Kumari gives about herself. The image is nothing like the one the artist draws after seeing her. The closest one is, of course, the second drawing. An improv session with comedian Kaneez Surka aimed at “loosening” a “boring” chartered accountant with poor social skills is stellar. For the KJo fans, he makes some candid confessions which are brave for Indian TV.

At the end of ‘What the Love!’, it is love that comes to mind. A strong powerful emotion like that can survive anything, even KJo’s handling. But it is doubtful if the viewers could survive the colour, bling, and artificiality of modern-day love as seen through Karan Johar’s lens. Only humour and laughter could get them through.

(The writer is a freelance features writer)

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