Bollywood Baatein: Star-kids Versus start-kids

Nepotism may be rife in Bollywood, but there are newcomers galore who have made it to the top without any connections and a father to finance their ventures

Kartik Aaryan
Kartik Aaryan
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Subhash K Jha

Reams have been written about nepotism in the entertainment industry. What about Kartik Aaryan, the guy from Gwalior who after Bhool Bhulaiya 2 is the undisputed A-Grader of Bollywood?

If nepotism is supposed to be such a strong driving force in the film industry why are Ranveer Singh, Kartik Aaryan and Deepika Padukone regarded as the three brightest most sought-after star-actors of the post Ranbir-generation, way ahead of their contemporaries?

Is Bollywood really a den of nepotism? But if we look at the history of Hindi cinema, the star-kid syndrome is relatively recent. It started when Raj Kapoor’s son Rishi Kapoor made his debut with Bobby. Prior to that all the major stars, from Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor in the 1950s to Rajendra Kumar, Jeetendra, Dharmendra in the 1960s to Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan in the 1970s, were outsiders.

Thereafter star-kid after star-kid was launched with much fanfare. And yet there are outsiders with zero connections in the film industry who broke through in in spite of nepotism ruling the roost.

Mithun Chakraborty with his bronze skin and sinewy personality, was the last man we expected to become a star at a time when second-generation stars from within the Mumbai film industry had begun to take over.

The era of start-kids was rampant when a boy from the chawls decided to become a star. Govinda had no connections, no contacts, not even a place to stay in Mumbai.

Akshay Kumar came in at a time when star-kids like Sunny Deol and Sanjay Dutt were ruling the roost. His struggle was that of an archetypal non-insider in the film industry.

And what about Shah Rukh Khan? The boy from Delhi who followed the girl he loved to Mumbai and then decided he had to become an actor. The story of Shah Rukh’s stardom can make a terrific film.

Now there are Ranveer Singh and Kartik Aaryan. Though Ranveer comes from an affluent family he had to go through his own struggle. The rejections, the humiliation, the casting couch….ouch! When I first spoke to Ranveer Singh on the day after his Band Baaja Baaraat released in 2010 he was respectful, attentive, eager to learn.

Ranveer Singh
Ranveer Singh

Catty elements within the industry had spread the rumour that his father, a prosperous businessman, had financed the film. “The entire film industry knows Yashraj don’t need anyone’s money to make films. Certainly not my father’s,” Ranveer said.

After Ranveer there is Kartik Aaryan, slowly steadily inching his way to the top. When he came to Mumbai from his hometown Gwalior, he knew absolutely no one in the Hindi film industry. Initially he stayed in a flat in Andheri with 12 other dreamers hoping to make it big just like him.

When Kartik left Gwalior he didn’t tell his family he wanted to be an actor. “My parents didn’t know I was coming to Mumbai with my secret intention of becoming an actor, they thought I was in the city just to become an engineer. So initially I stayed in Navi Mumbai near my college but made sure I go for any and every audition in Mumbai and travelled in local trains. Changed on railway stations and travelled long hours and balanced between these auditions and studies.”

Out of the thousands of dreamers who pour into Mumbai, the city of dream, only one or at the most two, make it in Bollywood every five years. Kartik is one of them. Today he is one of the 10 most saleable star-actors in Hindi cinema.

Kartik’s stardom at a time when star kids are again crowding the marquee, provides hope for all the hopefuls from outside Mumbai. If Kartik can create a Dhamaka, so can others with no movie empire as inheritance.

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