Huh. Interesting collection of stories for my usual Monday post. More beating up on Karan than I would have expected.
The World Versus Karan
This is an interesting one. For Karan’s birthday, one of his friends, a Nepali designer based in New York, Prabal Gurung, posted a photo of them embracing with a cheeky caption “Pyaar kiya to darna kya” (why fear when you love). The Indian media jumped on this and interpreted it as a romantic relationship.
Prabal clarified in a really interesting way. Rather than saying “ewww, no, Karan’s yucky” he flipped it around and asked why the media could not conceive of two men loving each other non-romantically? He also said that he does love Karan, as a mentor and a friend and a support in his life, but has been in a relationship for 5 years with a different man.
What really jumped out at me from this is the description of his relationship with Karan. “Karan is someone I deeply admire and respect. Not only has he been there for me, he has been there for my family as well. I admire his wit, his compassion, and his empathy for this world”.
Prabul is not some lightweight. I scrolled through his twitter feed and found that he mostly reposted serious articles on issues related LGBTQ rights, op-eds from the New York Times, and articles about being Asian in America. And he is quietly successful and respected in his field, a graduate of Parson’s school (best fashion design school in America), rose steadily at Bill Blass before branching out and starting his own label, now clothing people like Michelle Obama and the Duchess of Cambridge.
Karan is perceived in India as the stereotype of the “sissy” gay man, and the bitter gay man, the one whose unfulfilled desires lead him to try to control everyone around him. Certainly that is the picture of him painted in the media, pushy and controlling and “bitchy”. Something slightly less than a full human, defined by his sexuality. And maybe that’s how he feels about himself when he is in India, maybe that’s how he acts because he thinks that is how people expect him to act.
But the relationship described here is very different. Empathy, compassion, being there for his friends and their families. Someone you respect, someone with dignity. And this is coming from someone with a curious mind and a broad range of interests, someone who has excelled at his own artistic field. Which means Karan also has a broad range of interests, can probably talk intelligently about international gay rights issues, the changing face of social media, and everything else that Prabul is interested in.
I am sad that when the media and the Indian public looked at a photo of them together, they immediately leaped to assuming these two men would only be together romantically. There is an underlying assumption that Karan can only offer people sex, or favors. That no one would be simply a friend to him, that he has no depth to offer, nothing on the inside. It makes me sad for Karan, but also for gay men in general, that somehow it is assumed not being able to romantically love a woman means you are not able to build a real connection with any person.
Kangana Shoots at Karan Again
Speaking of homophobia and potshots, there is Kangana’s latest insults to Karan. This time, she is claiming that he tells he controls the stars at Dharma, including telling them who to date. Jumping off of a post from another twitter troll, KRK, which claimed that Karan fired Ishaan Khattar from Dharma for speaking disrespectfully to him.
There is a narrative Kangana has been building for years around Karan. That being, he is a sour unhappy man who lashes out and hurts others because of his own unhappiness. He stops her from getting movie roles by saying bad things to Aditya Chopra, he makes fun of how she can’t speak English because he is insecure. He only works with people who are part of his “in crowd” and keeps the others out. And now, he controls the love lives and sexual affairs of those he controls for his own amusement.
Kangana isn’t building up this story in a vacuum. It works because people like it. There is a small grain of truth at the center, but I believe that truth is more what Prabul describes, Karan as an empathetic and witty and kind man to all his friends. He loves people and cares for them and wants to help them succeed. And he has the sincere respect of a lot of people in the industry. When Aditya Chopra asks his opinion on who to cast in a movie, he is asking a fellow master of filmmaking, and one of his oldest friends. When someone comes up to Karan and begs for a chance, they are asking because he is known to be compassionate and supportive and open to giving opportunities. But somehow “respect in the industry” has been twisted to be “influence and power” and “willingness to go the extra mile to help those who deserve help” has been twisted to be “only gives chances to people he likes”.
In the same way a loving birthday message between two friends was twisted to be a sign of a romantic relationship, everything Karan does gets twisted and tainted. If, for instance, he gives advice to a young person who comes to him with their dating woes, now it is turned into an accusation that the Dharma stars are only allowed to date people he approves of for them. And if Ishaan Khattar spoke disrespectfully to him, why exactly should Karan NOT have fired him? Ishaan isn’t that famous and isn’t that talented, Karan has a perfect right to not work with someone who is disrespectful to him. That isn’t being petty and mean, that is being human. And I don’t think I am being naive or idealistic to think like this, I think I am just being human and trying to treat everyone else (including celebrities) as humans.
Oh, and there was also an series of quotes from Salman about Priyanka which I was going to write about and then realized that there isn’t really anything new to say. As before, Salman has the choice of saying nothing and implying there is something wrong with his movie/Katrina, or saying something and implying there is something wrong with Priyanka and nothing wrong with his movie or Katrina. Here is the story if you are interested: https://www.bollywoodhungama.com/news/bollywood/bharat-salman-khan-reveals-priyanka-chopras-last-minute-exit-film-embarassing/