One of the significances of Bollywood lies in its self-positioning as an unofficial apparatus that has its social, cultural, political, and economic significance. It has explored several value themed movies, other than purely entertaining movies, and great movies have been made about nation-ness, womanhood, tradition, and patriarchy, etc. The family ‘themed’ movies have continued to be explored in various ways through every decade and phase in Bollywood’s rich history. But, have you paid attention to how family and friends are helped in Bollywood? Well, there is, indeed, a nauseating level of nepotism in Bollywood! Sometimes ‘family melodrama’ is taken too far. The power of certain Bollywood families is unquestionable when it comes to ‘casting’ roles in movies, or choosing playback singers for Bollywood music. Some talented actors without any family background in Bollywood often complain of having struggled very hard to get small roles.
Where there is booming talent, certain ‘star kids’ have been preferred for certain roles and have been casted when another, perhaps more talented face promised a better performance. Nepotism has always been there in Bollywood, but in the recent years, it has certainly risen. Certainly, there are many stars who have ‘earned’ their places and reputation in Bollywood through their hard work and potential, but, there also are certain faces who would never have been launched in Bollywood had it not been for their family backgrounds, or strong connections of friends in the industry. The industry has been engaged with challenging or entirely circumventing the power of these powerful families. Some people have argued that ‘Bollywood families’ neutralize the threat of a film flopping in the box office collections because people will anyway go and flock the theatres to see ‘a Kapoor’, or ‘a Khan’ movie, or a movie distributed by big banners such as ‘Dharma Productions’, ‘RajShri Productions’, ‘Balaji Productions’ or ‘Red Chillies Entertainment’.
Family Lines in Bollywood, or Talent? What Popularized these Stars?
Arjun Kapoor- the son of famous film producer, Boney Kapoor; Alia Bhatt-the daughter of producer Mahesh Bhatt; Athiya Shetty- the daughter of famous actor, Suniel Shetty; Emraan Hashmi-the nephew of producer Mahesh Bhatt; Shraddha Kapoor-the daughter of the famous comic-villain Shakti Kapoor; Sonakshi Sinha-the daughter of famous actor Shatrughan Sinha; Sonam Kapoor-the daughter of famous actors Anil and Sunita Kapoor; Tiger Shroff-the son of known actor Jackie Shroff; Varun Dhawan- the son of famous producer David Dhawan; Sara Ali Khan-the daughter of famous actors Saif Ali Khan and Amrita Singh; and the list can go on and on. These are but a few name who have become known and were given their first roles in the industry mainly because of nepotism. Sara Ali Khan admitted in an interview, “I definitely believe that knowing people in the industry does help…There’s also a level of protection that we enjoy.”
The Kapoor family comprises five generations of actors, producers and directors. The lineage includes legendary actor Raj Kapoor, and the legacy has more recently been continued by Ranbir Kapoor. Abhishek Bachchan, Imran Khan, Soha Ali Khan, Sooraj Pancholi, Prateek Babbar, Tushar Kapoor, Janhvi Kapoor, Ishan Khatter; these are some other names who were backed up by people who are known in Bollywood. Now, not everyone can be ‘Salman Khan’, or ‘Nawazuddin Siddiqui’, or ‘Kajol’ or ‘Deepika Padukone’! Not every singer can be ‘Lata Mangeshkar’ or ‘Kishore Kumar’. So, it is natural that actors who may be a little talented, and debut their movie roles because of their ‘connections’ may be accused of nepotism. Whether these actors and industry people turn out to be talented, and do work that becomes a mark of their authenticity and hard-work can be the only criteria that washes down the mark of nepotism from these names.
The Truly Talented Stars in Bollywood
Since the mid-nineties, for instance, the Khan triumvirate—Shahrukh, Salman and Aamir—have been immensely popular all over the country. They are popular and loved because of their talent; their reputation has been built by them on account of their skills in acting, dancing, and foremost-entertaining. It is a popular belief that Hindi films are traditionally male-centric and heroines are at best included as embellishments and, worse, play second or third fiddle to the hero. This belief has changed in the recent years where notable performances have been given by actresses in the recent years. Bollywood cinema has been marked by a simplistic style of narrative where good wins over evil. Moviemakers are backed by the strength of their storytelling and sculpted dialogue. Good acting skills, good dialogue delivery and a great facial expression are what strengthen a character. Talent, and not nepotism should be the basis on which people are chosen for their roles and posts in the industry.
Those who did not have any connection to the Bollywood industry have struggled for years to a chance to prove themselves. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is known to have struggled for 15 years before a got a notable role in the industry. Why is nepotism such a heated debate in Bollywood? It is because nepotism has changed the destiny of several stars who would perhaps, may not be noticed had it not been for their connections. Alia Bhatt was heard saying, “Yes, it [nepotism] does exist everywhere but this is the only business where there’s no fixed funda. You need to be at the right place at the right time.” When people go to watch movies they want their money to not go wasted. This is the reason that star kids are cast in the first place. They rouse the curiosity of the public about what they can offer. But once the film is released only that name becomes known who truly has the power to deliver using his or her talent.
How does Nepotism help Star Kids?
Star kids always get lead roles in big productions even if they have not done any prior work. Many a time they don’t even have to bother giving an audition. Mediocre performances; music and ideas copied from Hollywood movies and lack of critically acclaimed good movies are the result of such policies. How often is there a hunt for a face so charming, with a voice so soothing that the audience is actually convinced that there could be no better artist who could have performed that role? How often does a movie production house hunt for a true star for their new movie instead of just considering the same names who are already there in the industry? You will say that it is a business. Is filmmaking also not an art? How long will Bollywood just stick to the names of the legendary gems? There cannot be another Amitabh or Madhuri or Salman. But shouldn’t people remotely talented be hunted for?
Who Suffers due to Nepotism?
It is only a matter of time before the general public recognizes who is working in the industry because of nepotism, and who has managed to make it big on his or her own. What is the harm in nepotism? Afterall, somebody had to work in the movie anyway! Well, it has made all the difference. When you see a good-looking face with blank expressions, you get bored. When you see an actress carry an expensive bag and gossip with other costars in the movie, just the way you see in your college, you do get very bored, unless her dialogues carry a weight. What do great filmmakers do? They deliver the content right, through the right people. It’s all about the hunt for the right person-the right script writer, the right director, the right actor/actress, or the right music director. Why have talented actors such as Vivian Dsena and Meera Deosthale not been cast in a lead role in a movie? It is because their talent could only take them as far away as the TV screen. Perhaps, they need a little extra for being cast in a movie. What can that be? I wonder!