The average age of guests on Koffee with Karan over the years has only been decreasing. Do you remember the last senior citizen who graced the Koffee couch? Well, technically, it was Sunny Deol this season. He’s 65, despite giving a massive blockbuster as a leading man this year – and playing with teddy bears. (Also Read: Koffee with Karan Season 8: Karan Johar doesn’t go down and dirty with sons of the soil Ajay Devgn, Rohit Shetty)
The cut-off age
In fact, 65 seemed to be the upper age limit of guests across the season – with the likes of Amitabh Bachchan, Javed Akhtar, and Anil Kapoor hovering around that mark when they last appeared on the chat show in Season 3, 2, and 7 respectively. Amitabh was 67, a little above the cut-off age when he last appeared on the chat show five seasons ago.
Cut to the latest episode on Season 8: where the 79-year-old Sharmila Tagore graced the couch with all her grey-hair wisdom, old-world charm, and youthful flourishes intact. Her contemporary Amitabh Bachchan is 81 now, is pulling off four films a year, and sprinting to his seat on Kaun Banega Crorepati, but has been away from the Koffee couch for seven years now, where he was a fixture for the first three seasons.
The only past exception to the 65 rule is veteran screenwriter Salim Khan, who was 78 when he appeared as a guest on the inaugural episode of Koffee with Karan Season 4 alongside his son Salman Khan. But that was more of a special surprise appearance for Salman in the last segment, instead of it being a full-episode drill. The difference between Amitabh’s age on his last appearance (67) and Sharmila’s latest appearance (79) is 12 years! That also makes her the first septuagenarian to have appeared on the show.
Don’t get me wrong: Actors, filmmakers, and celebrities from that generation, who are septuagenarians now, have been invited numerous times to the show across the seasons. Shabana Azmi, Jaya Bachchan, Hema Malini, Zeenat Aman, late Rishi Kapoor, Mahesh Bhatt, Richard Gere, and Shobhaa De have all appeared on the show – some even twice. But the past four seasons have been obsessed with the youth and have a Gen-Z gaze all over them, especially since the show switched completely to Disney+ Hotstar from the now-defunct Star World.
Karan Johar has also fed into this Gen-Z focus since the show is co-owned by his digital wing Dharmatic Entertainment. He’s self-admittedly infamous for shielding his midlife crisis with embracing the company, fashion, and lingo of the Gen-Z. But as he confessed in the last episode with Ajay Devgn and Rohit Shetty, he’s an industry kid who’s deeply steeped into the world of old Bollywood, thanks to his cinema-loving parents. Waheeda Rehman and Sadhna were in fact his father’s Rakhi sisters.
Even Karan’s movies reserve a special place for dadi-nani characters. Farida Jalal in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), Achla Sachdev and Himani Shivpuri in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001), Sushma Seth in Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003), Kirron Kher in Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006), and Farida again in Student of the Year (2012) – these are all memorable characters crucial to their respective narratives. In fact, his last directorial Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani was Kuch Kuch Hota Hai gone septuagenarian with Jaya Bachchan, Shabana and Dharmendra in a love triangle of dadas and dadis.
Gen-Z, take note
When Karan revealed in the latest episode that he initially approached Sharmila for the role of Shabana, Sharmila explained that she said no because the world was still grappling with COVID then, she wasn’t vaccinated, and was at immense risk “after my cancer.” She dropped the C-bomb so casually, as casually as she posed in a bikini on the Filmfare magazine cover in the 1960s.
Sharmila has always maintained a degree of nonchalance in these strokes of rebellion. While she posed in a bikini only because she felt she “looked good,” she also corrected course after backlash by signing a non-glamorous yet iconic role of Aradhana (1969) and aced it too. She admitted she wouldn’t confess she was in a live-in relationship with Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi in those days, but lauded Saif’s now-wife Kareena Kapoor for announcing it to the world when she did over a decade ago.
The Gen-Z, like all other generations, can take note of how Sharmila has always struck the sweet spot between silent rebellion and cognizant course-correction. She’s aged gracefully while remaining young at heart. A gesture as small as holding her glasses elegantly in her hand speaks volumes on a show where the host has to explain wearing reading glasses in every episode. Unlike Karan, Sharmila doesn’t age down to look and feel young. She just sets new rules for what it’s like to be on the eve of 80.
Like her daughter Soha Ali Khan, 45, and granddaughter Sara Ali Khan, 28, said on the show, Sharmila is more progressive than them today. That also goes for her fairly forward-thinking son Saif Ali Khan. Seven years after he turned down a gay man’s part (Fawad Khan’s) in Shakun Batra’s Kapoor & Sons, Sharmila played a queer dadi in Rahul V. Chitella’s Gulmohar. Again, the choice came naturally to her, but she did put her concerns on board. That’s probably what the cocktail of age and experience bring on board – rebellion with a shrug of shoulders and reception with a keen ear. We need more of the same on Koffee with Karan.
Before the Koffee gets Cold’ is a weekly column that goes beyond the froth to study the storm inside the Koffee cup.
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