Abhishek Srivastava examines the nepotism debate and concludes that talent is supreme and is all that matters.
Nepotism represents a concept that is deeply embedded in Indian society and culture. It exists in all forms of livelihoods; but in Bollywood and entertainment, it becomes a talking point. Celebrities draw attention naturally. It is also a profession where there is no entrance exam or passing out test necessary to become an actor, filmmaker or technician. It is family dominated. And instinct rules over intellect in choosing new on-camera talent.
True nepotism has in the past limited growth for truly good performers. But it has also begun to fade away given changing times, where talented people from trained acting and technical backgrounds find exciting opportunities in the world of cinema. As characters become more realistic, actors replace stars; cinema adapts to a world that is irreverent. It accommodates stories, ideas and experiences from reality, which makes it important to amalgamate talent from all over.
Those from the film family as well as outsiders who have now become part of the film family, have repeatedly maintained that nepotism without merit does not sustain. Time and again most have stated that the only thing required in the industry to have a fulfilling career and maintain longevity is talent and nothing else.
From insiders like Alia Bhatt to Varun Dhawan to Abhishek Bachchan to outsiders like Chitrangda Singh to Rajkumar Rao when asked about their views on nepotism have maintained that the best it can do is to ensure that it might allow them an inlet but once you are in, you are expected to carve your own place.
It also somehow gives credence to Herbert Spencer’s theory of survival of the fittest that in the long run it’s always the best that survive. Raj Kapoor tried his best to make a star out of his son Rajiv Kapoor but all his efforts came to a naught. Rajendra Kumar made a star and a heart throb out of his son Kumar Gaurav with his debut film Love Story but post the success of Love Story, it was all downhill.
Now the once superstar manages a successful travel operation. Dev Anand gave or rather created several opportunities for his son Suniel Anand but he simply had no flair for histrionics. Mala Sinha’s daughter Pratibha appeared in a few films but her career was shortlived.
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Hema Malini tried with all her might to make a star out of her daughter Esha Deol but films like Dhoom only helped elongate her career for a few years post which she had little work coming her way. The industry is full of such instances when movers and shakers of Bollywood tried their best that the next generation too continues with the tradition but all they met with was resounding failure.
When Kangana made her ‘flag bearer of nepotism’ remark at Karan Johar’s chat show, she actually did a favour to the outsiders of industry by being their voice and lifting the lid from something which for many was an acceptable truth (shrugged under the carpet) and integral to the functioning of Bollywood. When she first raised the issue – it was noticed, it was discussed. But one must also not forget that Bollywood is not driven by art, instead it’s commerce that dictates its functioning.
Film making at the end of the day remains a business which requires a huge sum of investment. Producers make films with the sole purpose of making profit just as any other business. For the precise reason, film making exercise in some quarters is also referred to as ‘projects’! And no producer will ever like to gamble with his crores. With Fridays becoming ever crucial, a lot remains at stake for Bollywood producers.
Nepotism, in the past, surely has played havoc with careers of many and in no way can be justified. It ruined careers and ensured that those with talent were made to sit on the fence. It does hurt when one is reminded that despite having started his film career as early as with Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay way back in 1988, it took a foreign film director (Asif Kapadia) to bring Irfan Khan’s talent to the fore.
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One must not forget that actors like Sanjay Kapoor, Uday Chopra, Harman Baweja, Jackky Bhagnani were given opportunities but in the long run they could not sustain. It’s sad that one often forgets to see the flip side. Alia Bhatt, Shahid Kapoor, Ranbir Kapoor, Hrithik Roshan are all from film families but no one can cast aspersions about their stardom – their sheer acting talent justifies their position among the greats of Indian cinema. The reason is elementary – they have the skills and the talent. Being born into celebrity homes only helps in terms of access – post that it’s all about an individual’s journey.
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Nepotism by nature is not a negative. It opens up opportunities yes. But it can’t sustain those that don’t have it in them. Privilege does make it easier to get in for film kids. But privilege alone can’t ensure their success. If anything, the heroines of the early 2000s disprove the aura of nepotism. While nepotism might bring in elitism and an unofficial club of sorts for industry insiders, it shouldn’t be considered anything significant. With so much content being developed for streaming where one chooses what one watches, talented people (star kids or not) will remain in business.