The latest episode of Koffee with Karan featured sportspersons Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul as guests, in a first for the popular celebrity talk show. The episode, like any other, started off on an entertaining note with the ace cricketers engaged in a candid no-holds-barred conversation with host and filmmaker Karan Johar, but things went steadily downhill after Pandya passed outrageously sexist and racist remarks, triggering a social media storm against the all-rounder.
Some called it the most distasteful and offensive episode in the show’s history while others slammed the prevalent locker-room culture that encourages men to objectify women on national television. Irked by the bad press the controversy was generating for the Indian cricket team and the BCCI, the Committee of Administrators issued a show-cause notice to both players, and sought an explanation within 24 hours for their remarks on women on the show.
How the cricketing board reacted
Former BCCI general manager Ratnakar Shetty called Pandya’s conduct a “disgrace to the cricket community”.
It is time the BCCI decides to take corrective steps for cricketers who talk rubbish on public platforms. Hardik Pandya was a disgrace to the cricket community the way he spoke on Koffeewith Karan show. He has insulted the women and also made a racist remark.— Ratnakar Shetty (@RatnakarShetty6) January 9, 2019
“We have sent showcause notices to Hardik Pandya and K L Rahul for their comments. They have been given 24 hours to give an explanation,” Chairman of the CoA Vinod Rai told PTI on Wednesday.
How Pandya responded to the backlash
The notice came just hours after Pandya apologised for his disrespectful statements on Twitter, saying he got “carried away by the nature” of the show, even blaming the producers for coaxing a carefree attitude from the players. Pandya posted, “After reflecting on my comments on Koffee with Karan, I would like to apologise to everyone concerned who I may have hurt in any way.
The 25-year-old, who is playing in the ongoing series against Australia, vowed never to repeat the behaviour, in his response to BCCI’s showcause notice, saying he did not realise that his comments would be found offensive. Seen in celebratory videos with the rest of his teammates after the 2-1 win against the Ashes, Pandya has since been lying low and even skipped optional practice on Wednesday.
“I made an appearance on the chat show where I have made certain statements without realising that these could be disrespectful and offend sensitivities of viewers for which I am sincerely regretful,” he said in the official response, adding, “I would like to assure you that there was no malice or any sort of ill-intent on my part to offend anyone or portray any section of the society in bad light. I made these statements in the flow of the show and had not comprehended the extent to which my statements would be found offensive.”
“Rest assured I hold the BCCI in highest regard and will exercise complete discretion and prudence to ensure that such incidents are never repeated in future,” a copy of the response which is in PTI’s possession read.
Here’s what he said on the show
On the show, Pandya boasted about hooking up with multiple women and spoke about how open he is with his parents. When the host of the show asked him why didn’t he ask women their name in a club, Pandya responded by saying, “I like to watch and observe how they (women) move. I’m little from the black side so I need to see how they move.”
Among the most crass and cringe-worthy bits were statements like, “When I lost my virginity, I came home and said, “Main karke aya hai aaj (I had sex today)” and “At a party my parents asked me acha tera wala (women) kaun sa hai [who is your interest here?] so I said yeh, yeh, yeh (pointing out women) and they were like waah proud of you beta.”
It must be noted here that his colleague and partner on the show KL Rahul exercised greater restraint while answering Johar’s questions on women and relationships. He recalled receiving a dressing down from his parents who had discovered condoms in his pocket when he was 18. But it was mostly Pandya’s loose talk on women that took the entire nation by surprise.
Few red flags
Although BCCI top brass took the right call by demanding an explanation from the players, they have also reportedly questioned the need for players to make public appearances in non-sporting events or shows. According to sources, the CoA is currently contemplating “whether players should even be allowed to appear on such shows which have got nothing to do with cricket,” PTI reported. Who are they trying to shield and to what end, one wonders.
It is essential to expose the misogyny of those we appreciate for their talent, although that sword is double-edged. For youngsters in India, who idolise their cricketing heroes, it is very easy to be influenced by their lifestyle, ideologies and ethos outside of the playing field. Pandya’s thinly-veiled sexism found a legitimate platform to pass off as braggadocio on Johar’s show, which is probably why he didn’t think his unconscionable comments would elicit such backlash.
Speaking of which, Star World India, which distributes Koffee with Karan,tweeted commending Karan Johar for outing the cricketer, but there hasn’t been a single comment from Johar himself about whether he feels vindicated for not taking a firmer stance right then and there, especially in the #MeToo era.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.