There is a new wave in the discussion around nepotism in Bollywood after the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput. Or perhaps it is the same old wave that has risen with a stronger force this time. Whatever be it, one thing we all can agree to is that the question was never if nepotism rules Bollywood or not. Instead, it has always been about how deep this rot runs. The latest move to uncover the ugly face of the film industry comes from Sushant’s brother-in-law Vishal Kirti, who is the husband of Sushant’s sister Shweta Singh Kirti. He recently announced the launch of Nepometer: a platform that shall aim to fight as well as spread awareness about the prevailing condition of nepotism in the industry.
The news was announced on Vishal Kriti’s Twitter account with the caption, “Fight Bollywood Nepotism with Information. We will provide ratings for movies based on how nepotistic or independent movie crew is. If the #nepometer is high, then it’s time to #boycottbollywoodnepotism #fightnepotism.”
Established Personalities Within Bollywood Speaking Up
A day before, news came that Hrithik Roshan and Alia Bhat are amongst the 819 new members invited to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ voting party. While it should be a moment of pride for all Indians, it should also be a moment of self-reflection. Filmmaker Hansal Mehta tweeted the names of all the Indian invitees under the caption “Nepotistic Academy”. And one cannot deny his claims. Similarly over the years, many others like Swara Bhasker, Taapsee Pannu, Ayushmann Khurrana, Rajkumar Rao and Kriti Sanon have been vocal about their views on nepotism in the industry.
Saif Ali Khan recently admitted that “Nepotism in its purest form is something that even I’ve been a victim of... I’m not going to take names but somebody's dad has rung up and said don't take him. Take him in the movie. All that happens and it has happened to me.” His comments received severe backlash on Twitter, and rightfully so.
While we need the stars to advocate merit and call out inequality, Saif Ali Khan's casting of himself as a victim of nepotism instead of having benefited by it, in all honesty is quite baffling a claim.
Khan is the son of actress Sharmila Tagore and cricketing legend Nawab Mansoor Ali Khan Siddiqui Pataudi. And even if we don’t go into details of his parentage, Khan has often championed nepotism in the past. After all, who can forget how easily he distanced himself from Kangana Ranaut’s comments on nepotism in that infamous 2017 episode of Koffee with Karan? Or not remember his role in the satirical skit called ‘Nepotism Rocks’ at IIFA Awards that year? While we need stars to advocate merit and call out inequality, Khan's casting of himself as a victim of nepotism instead of having benefited by it, in all honesty is quite baffling a claim.
Nepotism and How It Works
Nepotism means favouritism based on kinship. Over time, this breeds a system where people who don’t have connections to the big giants in a certain industry, are not given a chance to prove themselves. Despite how talented they might be. Star kids in the film industry have often claimed that they face struggles too. There’s no denying that: each individual has his/her own battle to fight. But as the Gully Boy actor Siddhant Chaturvedi so aptly described in a roundtable discussion, “jahaan humare sapne poore hote hain, wahi inka struggle shuru hota hai (their struggle begins where our dreams are fulfilled).”
The star kids are already privileged enough to get all the training they need. That too, from the best institutions around the world. In addition to that, they already know the workings of the film industry. The “outsiders” are hardly ever that privileged. They start from the very scratch, and years of hard work can land them with "big" auditions. So, while anybody can claim that both the “outsiders” and the star kids are running the same race, what one cannot be overlooked is that the starting lines for both are very different. The former has to reach all the way where the star-kids start their run from. Only to realize the inequality of the very race itself.
The question that remains then is: how can this system be demolished? It was not constructed in a day after all, the roots of nepotism in Bollywood go way back into the past. How can generational legacies be overturned in a way that ensures everybody starts the race from the same line? What role can established actors can play in this fight? How can we, as an audience, make sure that we stop watering the seeds of nepotism further? Will nepotism go away if we stop watching and celebrating films made by star-kids? What if this kind of an approach to beat one inequality, breeds another form of discrimination? Is this current prevailing discourse around the much-derided N-word even enough to usher any kind of change in the industry? Or is it going to be another one of those debates that yield no definite consequence?
Lastly, and most importantly, how many more talents will need to fade away into the oblivion, before dismantling this system becomes an inevitable necessity? Guess, only time will be able to answer these questions.
Dyuti Gupta is an intern with SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author’s own.