Karan Johar’s new podcast/web series/radio chat show on Ishq 104.8 FM, Calling Karan, is so incredibly satisfying. Though it began only on the 7th of December, with just 8 episodes available online, you already feel like it’s got everything it needs to become a household name like Koffee With Karan.
Calling Karan’s technically a radio show, but you can also watch it in webisode form or listen to the podcast. I watched the episodes, and recommend you do too, because it lets you watch Johar’s priceless reactions, expressions and eyebrow lifts. It adds a whole extra layer to the experience of watching Johar hand out sometimes-dubious relationship advice to Mumbai’s citizenry. And boy, is it an experience.
The show features Karan sitting at a study table littered with table lamps and coffee mugs, answering questions about love, dating and relationships. It allows you to take a fascinating deep dive into the emotional trials and tribulations of various callers. There’s something about the combination of Johar’s familiarity, celebrity and chattiness that inspires callers to confide really intimate details about their relationships in him, and their stories make for some emotionally satisfying viewing.
Unless Johar chooses that moment to shock you with his advice, which, as you watch more episodes, you realise he does with alarming frequency.
But before we get to Johar’s sometimes-dubious advice, let’s look at the really good stuff – the callers and their stories. You feel sure the show’s makers have screened their callers well (or cut out the boring ones in post-production), because each caller you see on the show has a fairly unexpected, entertaining or secretly universal problem to deal with.
One caller, Riddhi, began her account spectacularly by saying, “Sir mujhe na, kuch kuch ho raha hain, bahut zabardast ho raha hain!” which should really just have been the end of it all because what could top that? Riddhi tells him about how she and her best friend hooked up on a “trip to Himachal”, and how he’s now seeming stand-offish, and she doesn’t know whether to bring it up or let it go.
You sense that the callers come from a range of different social locations, from upper-crusty sounding Nay, who can’t stop sleeping with random women after his breakup, to the adorable Riddhi, who breathlessly switches between Hindi and English to express her feelings, to sweet old Moinul, who explained to Johar in chaste Hindi how he is still unchastely attracted to his wife but wished she would be more extroverted. Karan is equally comfortable, jovial and witty with all his callers, and seems to put most of them, even those audibly hyperventilating at his fame, at immediate ease.
But while he may put his callers at ease, as a listener, his relationship advice frequently makes you sit up startled.
Sometimes, Johar manages to hit the mark perfectly, like when he very kindly tells Riddhi that “pyaar dosti hain” works as a good film dialogue in KKHH, but not at all in real life, and that her hook-up buddy probably just isn’t that into her. Or when he tells Moinul, who complains about his introverted wife, to take her out to dinner and really talk to her about her interests and hobbies, and let her personality bloom through conversation.
Other times, though, his responses can be a bit dubious. He frequently informs different callers that they must have lots of lovers and generally hopping love lives because they’re so “hot and sexy”, and tells Geetanjali, who hooked up with her friend’s boyfriend and finds the idea of just being friends-with-benefits unethical, that she can’t talk about ethics because she double-crossed her friend in the first place.