As Jahnvi Kapoor and Sara Ali Khan join the ever-growing gang, what better time to re-visit the old, familiar lineage/bloodline template chronically colouring Bollywood’s history? Also, what better occasion to examine whether this star-kids syndrome brings meaningful value to the table or if their privileged surnames are an unfair roadblock to several brilliant and worthier aspirants?
Let’s face it, star-kids have always featured big time in Bollywood. From the late Akbar-e-Azams (Prithviraj Kapoor’s) clan to Dev Anand, Rajendra Kumar, Dharmendra, Jeetendra, Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna, Rakesh Roshan, Vinod Khanna, Shatrughan Sinha – every one of them has generously foisted their laadlas and laadlis on a curious and amused public for the noble cause of entertainment, the more desperate and anxious among them, even launching the bewildered kids with dazzling fanfare. While the strike-rate between their success and failure is open to debate, the issue in question is: why are professionally trained actors from theatre, drama schools and film institutes consistently ignored and dumped with corny and inconsequential roles while star-kids automatically land plum lead roles with big banners amidst great razzmatazz?
For openers, a conversation I once had with an extremely gifted Art-house actor – hugely respected and celebrated abroad but relegated to corny, side-roles in Bollywood – is worth recalling. “It’s a damn family dukaan that operates here! It’s mostly a Khan-Kapoor-Chopra-Mehra party. Anyone outside is an outcaste! The casting has little to do with talent, background or role-appropriateness, but everything to do with khoon ka rishta. In this scheme of things, where does real talent stand a chance?”
Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, Bollywood’s most attractive, provocative and entertaining iconoclast, totally disagrees. “Bollywood was, is and will always remain a soft target for the losers, whiners and cry-babies! What’s with this nepotism crap anyway? Haven’t we heard of doctors, lawyers, engineers, bankers, government employees and even sportsmen having their kids follow their footsteps? What’s the big deal? At the end of the day, bloodline can only give you a marginal head start – the rest is totally dependent on how you perform. Just as a lawyer can’t hope to succeed by only riding on his family name without winning cases, similarly no actor can hope to make a mark, banking only on his star-dad’s approval.”
Incidentally, waiting in the wings are a slew of others: Saif’s kid Ibrahim and Big B’s granddaughter Navya Naveli Nanda, Jackie’s daughter Krishna Shroff and Sridevi’s daughter Khushi Kapoor, Sunny’s son Karan Deol and Aamir’s son Junaid Khan, Akshay’s son Aarav Kumar and Sunil’s son Aahan Shetty
The angry veteran now, unperturbed, moved ahead and focused on facts and ground realities. “Okay fine, but could a Bobby Deol, Fardeen Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Arbaz and Sohail Khan, Akshay Khanna, Suneil Anand, Tushar Kapoor or Suraj Pancholi ever dream of being even considered if they didn’t have their dad’s blessings and surnames? If the same opportunity was given to brilliantly gifted rank outsiders with half the dramabaazi and razzle dazzle accompanying the promos, publicity and launch, chances are, they and the film would have rocketed to another stratosphere, because audiences do recognise and appreciate good performances.” Bhatt, also relentless in the heat of battle, rose to the bait and returned with a slam-bang retort. “Why is this guy speaking like a righteous NGO worker?! Bollywood is not a Dharamshala designed to help the struggling artist. It’s a hugely commercial and competitive industry which runs on talent, instinct and luck. While how, where and why a film clicks remains a mystery, certain basic requirements have to come into play – good looks, screen-presence, camera-free body language, expressiveness and finally role-appropriateness. Since mainstream cinema targets the masses – and not the classes – all these parameters are crucial. In this scheme of things, cool, good-looking star-kids, available and familiar with the film-biz, are convenient choices.
Smart directors understand this and make every effort to hit target. Thereafter, it’s the luck of the draw but understand one uncomfortable truth: In this brand of cinema where entertainment calls the shots, glamour, good looks and sex appeal carry more wattage than raw, searing acting by actors with plain looks! Sad but true.” Incidentally, waiting in the wings are a slew of others: Saif’s kid Ibrahim and Big B’s granddaughter Navya Naveli Nanda, Jackie’s daughter Krishna Shroff and Sridevi’s daughter Khushi Kapoor, Sunny’s son Karan Deol and Aamir’s son Junaid Khan, Akshay’s son Aarav Kumar and Sunil’s son Aahan Shetty. More are bound to follow.
Everything considered, it’s interesting to note that even in this ‘We are Family’ environment, outsiders have struck hard and true. Dilip Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, King Khan, Akshay Kumar are only some biggies who’ve dared to break this template along with a Priyanka Chopra, Katrina Kaif, Deepika Padukone, Kangana Ranaut, amongst others. So more than Papa kehte hain and Chanda hai tu, it’s Yeh public hai, Yeh sab jaanti hai that is the signature tune of the day. what else explains the rise and shine of an Ayushman Khurana, Raj Kumar Rao or Vicky Kaushal?