Image Credit: Instagram/Deepika Padukone

Earlier this year, several unverified news reports claimed that Bollywood power couple Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh were facing trouble in their marriage and heading towards Splitsville.

Unsurprisingly, this gorgeously handsome and bankable pair from Hindi cinema did not dignify those reports with a reaction at that point in time.

However, when we heard that the two were appearing together for the first time in the launch episode of season 8 of the glossy celebrity chat show, ‘Koffee With Karan,’ we assumed that they would address the proverbial elephant in the room. After all, its catty and saucy host, Johar — who is in the inner circle of most A-listers – is notorious for prodding stars to spill the tea. (Remember when Padukone dished it out about her ex-beau Ranbir Kapoor along with actress Sonam Kapoor, hinting at his philandering tendencies back in 2010)? They collectively displayed enough spunk and sass. But age seems to have mellowed Padukone and taken the bite out of her.

Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone, the portrait of a modern working couple?

In the first episode of season 8 of KWK that streamed last night, we witnessed one of the most sanitised chapters in the history of KWK. And its flavour? Vanilla, albeit with dollops of diplomacy and a smattering of home truths thrown in. (“Marriage is work” being one of those life gems).

To be fair, movie mogul Karan Johar had dropped broad hints that this new season will aim to correct the perceived wrongs committed in the previous episodes. So, being woke, even if performatively, seems to be at the top of his agenda. Perhaps this season will not see him allegedly favouring star kid Janhvi Kapoor over another privileged insider and actress Sara Ali Khan.

While it’s heartening to know that Johar has his ears to the ground, it doesn’t necessarily benefit a chat show that’s fuelled by celebrities spilling some dirt. Gentrifying a show that feeds off scandals involving stars may not always make for dynamite television. Perhaps that’s what happened with the new episode.

Just like Singh and Padukone’s choice of all-black ensembles for the show, there was hardly any colour to keep us invested for an hour. Plus, the questions and responses seem to have been tailored to fit the narrative of how Padukone and Singh are this wholesome, regular couple. Did you buy it? Well, that depends entirely on the degree of your fandom and admiration for this good-looking duo.

But we have to admit that inserting snippets of their dreamy wedding video was a stroke of genius in brand building. The bits and bobs where they gave their fans a sizzling peek into their private moments were a pure stroke of ingenuity. Their wedding in Italy was one of the most hushed affairs in Bollywood, and allowing their fans to vicariously enjoy their lavish nuptials sends off the message that they are this aspirational portrait of a modern couple.

DEEPIKA WEDDING-1698323795645
Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh head to Italy to tie the knot

Also, at every point, the two were intent on proving that their relationship is as sturdy as their washboard abs. While those portions are impossible to check for veracity, the show segueing into mental health issues faced by Padukone truly had our hearts. The portions where Padukone, an ardent advocate of mental health, talks about how Singh has learned to be her caretaker when she doesn’t feel too good seem to come from an authentic space. Her honest appraisal of a person living with depression and her better half learning to support her through her dark phases hits a stirring note.

While celebrity chat shows like ‘Koffee With Karan’ are directed at commodifying celebrities and their controversy-filled existence, it’s heartening to see a huge star like Padukone speak openly and passionately about living with depression. It seems to come from a real place.

Koffee With Karan kicks off with Alia Bhatt and Ranveer Singh
Koffee With Karan has seen a string of A-listers including Alia Bhatt (middle) in the hot seat

Also, be warned, the games in this season, especially when the guests have to put on headphones and dance to songs, were lame. Barring the rapid fire, there was very little heat in the other playful games.

While the first episode of this season was mostly bland and benign with little nuggets of insight, here’s hoping that stars truly spill the tea in the coming episodes. A little less synthetic and manufactured conversations migt make it less of a glamourous spectacle.

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‘Koffee With Karan’, season 8, streams on Disney+