Privilege In Bollywood: It Is Not About Who Gets It, But Who Bears Its Costs

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These past few days, there is this unexplained rage that a lot of people are feeling towards Bollywood, or rather how the inner privileged circle of the industry apparently treats the “outsiders”. Sushant Singh Rajput’s death by suicide seems to have triggered a volcano of suppressed rage on social media against Bollywood, that refuses to die down. It feels like the cost of nepotism has suddenly become very evident to the audience.

Also Read: Sushant Singh Rajput’s Death: Media Coverage Hits A New Low

But why exactly are people angry with the Johars, Kapoors and Khans of the industry? Certainly nepotism is not a new issue in the industry. Generations of actors have had easy access to the film world because of their lineage. Today, however, people are angrier about talented actors being sidelined or cast out, than star kids being launched, re-launched and re-launched again, at the drop of a hat.

The debate is no longer just about who gets preferential treatment, but what it costs others.

How talented actors are sidelined, not given their due, and in fact driven to either quit or settle for less. Another thing that has perhaps aggravated the rage is how Bollywood, or rather the star kids and star makers who have been targeted, have handled the entire critique. Johar, for instance, has been quite unabashed about launching star kids.

In an interview last year, Johar said he has launched many outsiders, especially film directors, but he never gets credit for that. “Why don’t I get the benefit of that; my production house is launching kids who are directors/filmmakers. They are making major motion pictures and leading the game. They are not from the industry. Why don’t I get credit for that? Why do they discredit some of the actors who are from (the industry)? Why do I have to justify it at first? I think they are talented enough to face the camera and maybe, one thing can say is that they get easy access, but after that, they have got a journey ahead,” said Johar.

What films are we watching, which actors are we following on social media; the love of the masses can trump any privilege that the industry can offer?

The fact that Johar feels no need to justify why a star kid deserves to have a cushy launch if they are “talented” enough to face the camera, isn’t that a privilege in itself? Johar is not alone though, the industry at large hasn’t handled the criticism coming its way in the past few days.

Getting defensive about your privilege, playing the victim card, saying that you are proud of your lineage, or an absolute silence is going to make matters worse. The absence of remorse and introspection from the industry bigwigs has led to each one of them getting handpicked by the social media troll brigade and trended for all the wrong reasons.

This does not mean that the merciless trolling many actors and producers have received these past few days is justified. Bullying or harassing someone can never be justified. However, one does feel that Bollywood’s privileged circle comes across as on the defensive of its way of life in the entire debate. There’s a reluctance to accept that nepotism and the culture of privilege has peaked and needs to be toned down (getting rid of it entirely sounds far-fetched at this point, let us be real).

Also Read: Can Bollywood Deal With Women Empowerment More Subtly?

Which makes one wonder, if us as an audience have so much rage against nepotism, what do we plan to do about it? Why do star kids, with zero films to their credit have a social media following that runs into millions? Who is making superhits out of films that star second, third, or fourth-generation stars? And why are films like Aligarh, Sonchiriya, or Trapped not minting money at the box office despite being good films?

Having said that, privilege in any field is a reality, and Bollywood is no exception. But how the privileged use their power, is what matters. Could it be used to prioritise talent over personal equations? To ensure that making a star out of someone’s sone doesn’t come at the cost of a talented actor’s career? That the industry only grows diverse and inclusive? Yes, but if only Bollywood wants to be that kind of world.

Image Credit: Karan Johar/Instagram. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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