The stage has moved—from a typical celebrity chat show couch to your own. Actor and former Miss India Neha Dhupia turned 13 in the film industry this year, and to commemorate these teenage years, presented herself with a unique gift— #NoFilterNeha, a sharp weekly podcast on the Saavn app that aims to strip down celebrities to their ‘#NoFilter’ versions.
Sounds familiar? It is. The format borrows heavily from that defining celebrity talk show you’re thinking of, down to slipping in coffee-brand promotions every now and then. The A-list guests are courted into controversy with direct, pointed questions (“So, who are you sexting right now?”); they play versions of games that are synonymous with Karan Johar’s now-iconic show.
The first episode, released on 4 October, turns the tables on Johar himself. The comparisons are inevitable, of course, but Dhupia is spirited, does her homework and is refreshingly self-aware. Johar’s introduction and welcome includes an honest “So what if I didn’t qualify for the 800 episodes of his show?”; an endearing theme of self-deprecation runs through the rest of the podcast. If getting your roles cut from a film was an Olympic sport, she says, she would definitely take a medal.
She follows hundreds of celebrities on Instagram and stalks the #AboutLastNight hashtag for party updates—”While these people are out there looking like a million bucks, I’m looking like pachaas rupye at home”.
The episode with Johar is perhaps best described by the opening disclaimer: ‘The language on #NoFilterNeha is not suitable for children, listener discretion is advised’. He bares details of how and where he lost his virginity, his sexting style, and indeed, in a cringe-worthy moment, how his “p**** ‘needs plumbing”. He comes as close to coming out of the closet as is legal—“I can’t marry you, Neha. It’s a technicality, and I’ll get arrested if I say more… You’re not my type from any angle; there are so many parts of your body that don’t interest me.”
The show is not all sex. Dhupia is well prepared in each of the episodes. Though her guest list is bursting with over-exposed names, including Kareena Kapoor Khan, Sonam Kapoor, Chetan Bhagat, Kangana Ranaut, Ranbir Kapoor and Yuvraj Singh, she manages to unearth new nuggets of information that are whimsical and entertaining. Refreshingly, the stars never discuss their upcoming films. Instead, you learn that Kareena Kapoor Khan carries around her own bottles of “great” wine and gets bartenders to ensure it is poured only to her and that Dhupia tries to chat her up at parties in the hope of a taste; how Sonam Kapoor’s brother, Harshvardhan, texts directors from her phone asking to work with them and how Kapoor laughed aloud when she first saw the infamous feathery Cannes dress that spawned many thousand memes; that Johar approached “every lead man, including Chandrachur Singh” to play Salman Khan’s role in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and how Khan made him “weep buckets” on set by insisting he make his dapper-dulha Saajan Ji Ghar Aaye entry in torn jeans and a white T-shirt.
The podcast model lends itself well to generating fun conversation, without the glaring lights and staring cameras, and Dhupia benefits from having the dual perspective of being a part-insider, part-outsider. #NoFilterNeha isn’t scholarly listening and doesn’t pretend to be. But on a long commute home after a hard day at work, it’s a breezy, not entirely mindless, way to kill time.