New Karan Column! Thank Goodness He Has a Platform Ready To Give Explanations!

Probably not a coincidence, right?  Not like “ugh, another big controversy I am caught in! Hey look, I have a longform writing platform to discuss it.  What a coinky-dink!”  Probably more like “should I take this column offer from NDTV? I probably should, because it will be useful the next time I am inevitably caught in a controversy.”

Here is the link to the original column.  And here is my post back when I first watched the Kangana-Karan Koffee episode and when Karan’s quotes about it first started hitting the media.  Okay, are we all up to speed?  We have done all our background reading?  Good!

Here’s the thing that drives me crazy about this whole thing.  The underlying assumption for it all is that being in the film industry is desirable.  Or, put it another way, that people in the film industry obviously are choosing to be in the film industry.

And this is just not true!  Karan talks about in his column all the super talented people born into the industry who were able to get help with their first break because of their connections.  But what he doesn’t say is that those same connections would do them no good in any other industry.  Might, in fact, harm them.

Okay, imagine being Mahesh Bhatt’s daughter.  Seems pretty great, right?  Your dad’s cool, your half-sister is famous, you’ve got a really nice house and loads of cool family friends who come over for parties.  And you get to spend school vacations on film sets.

Now, imagine being Mahesh Bhatt’s daughter at boarding school.  All your classmates know every detail of your father’s alcoholism and divorce and everything else.  They also know you are one quarter white and your cousin is a “serial kisser” onscreen and your big sister directs steamy sex scenes.  Obviously, this isn’t the worst thing a teenager has ever gone through, but I’m sure it’s not great.

Image result for pooja bhatt and alia bhatt childhood photos

(Cute photo now that she is a famous actress, embarrassing photo back when she was in middle-school)

Now imagine being Mahesh Bhatt’s daughter and trying to get a boring corporate job.  Or accepted into Med School.  Or Law School.  Or heck, IIT!!!  IIT is merit based, but it’s going to be awfully hard to achieve if you are pulled out of schools every time a new scandal breaks in the newspaper, or your father has to shoot for 6 months overseas and wants you with him.  So it’s not so easy, right?  You are tarnished with the famous name and the “film family” label.  Sure, people want to chat with you about the famous folks you grew up with, but they may not be as willing to trust you with sensitive business data, or a responsible professional position.

I don’t think that Alia actually went around on career day at her school and talked to people and realized no one would ever hire her outside of the film industry.  Because I think this is something that film kids just know, probably before they can talk.  I know I’ve heard from plenty of grown up star kids, and current stars talking about their kids, telling jokes about how they grew up thinking that all adults were film stars, because those were the only people they knew.  It’s cute, picturing these little kids going around thinking “every Daddy must be mobbed by hordes of fans when they step out of their cars, because that’s just what Daddy’s are like”.

But it also indicates a deeper truth about society that they probably figured out around the first time they weren’t invited to a birthday party at a school friend’s house.  All the “Daddies” they met were in film, because none of the “Daddies” who weren’t in film would come over to their houses.  And they weren’t invited to associate with the children of those none filmi Daddies either.  By the time you are 18, it must be painfully clear that your only options are to cut off contact with your family and marry out, or to join some form of the film industry.

And this is just getting worse now, with what Karan describes in his article, the way these kids are stalked and turned into public figures their whole lives.  You can’t just change your name or move to a new town, you have to change your whole appearance, cancel your Facebook account, get off instagram, never tweet again, and cross your fingers that none of your new friends end up being false friends and selling out your location.  It’s almost safer to just take control and embrace the fame, give an interview or do a photo shoot, take control of the narrative.

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(Do you remember all the publicity around that cute beach photo of Suhana and AbRam?  Because she was wearing a bikini?  And suddenly everyone on the internet either felt the need to talk about how hot this 16 year old playing with her baby brother was, or how terrible her parents were for letting her wear a swimsuit on a family vacation to the beach?  It’s not a great way to grow up!)

This is not true in America.  In America, you can be Harrison Ford’s son and work as a chef, for instance.  It’s not as easy as going in to film, because you don’t have the connections in the other industry, but you can still do it.  And you can fade into anonymity, the press won’t hound you, your co-workers won’t shun you, you can visit your parents without ten million articles appearing about it, you have options.

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(Only photo I can find of him.  Wouldn’t be enough to let me recognize him on the street)

And you can also get that first chef job without connections!  Karan pointed out that it isn’t just film in India that is nepotistic, which is certainly true, and there’s no reason that film should be singled out.  That’s a valid point, but I think there is a flipside to it that he hasn’t addressed.

That also means that it is just as hard for a film kid to break into a non-film industry as it is for a non-film kid to break into film.  Again, not saying you can’t do it, it would just be very very very hard.  Probably extra hard for a film kid than for an outsider from a different, let’s just say it, “caste”.  Because there is that thought process of  “oh, you must be so cool and powerful and connected and rich, you don’t even need this job, so I’m not going to help you” and “oh, you are cool and connected and rich, but I am also uncomfortable around you because I know all your family scandals and I assume you are sexually loose and scandalous yourself, and therefore I am choosing not to hire you.”

I am aware that we are grading on a curve with all of this.  I’m not saying that Alia Bhatt has a harder time in life than someone living on the street.  Or even that she has a harder time in life than plenty of other teenage girls in Bombay.  But she has a harder time of it than another girl born into her exact circumstances in terms of money and education but without the famous family and film label around their neck.

And remember, we are talking about star kids now and their particular troubles, but the “star parents” usually have their own much much much much worse troubles which are why they landed in film in the first place.  Mahesh Bhatt was a “star kid” too, his father was a producer.  But his mother was an illegal “second wife” and a Muslim.  I doubt that it would have been easy for Mahesh to get a job outside of film in any circumstances, but with an illegitimate birth and a joint religious identity hanging over him, and then eloping with a Christian girl in college, I don’t think he could have found work anywhere else.

Every film family has a story like this somewhere in the background.  Partition refugees, elopements, orphans, criminals, and so many cross-religious, cross-ethnicity, and cross-caste families that it is notable when they AREN’T mixed.  If they hadn’t landed in film and been successful, they might have ended up qualifying for government assistance or police protection.  Or, more likely, ended up dying poor and alone or killed in an honor killing.  And their kids would be born into that situation and try to survive it.

 

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(We’re not even talking that long ago, back in the 80s Aamir was a producer’s nephew who first seriously looked at acting because he needed a job so he could marry the Hindu girl next door, since he knew their families wouldn’t approve or support them)

Kangana is the one who first raised this concern, and she addressed it to Karan, so let’s look at the two of them as a test case.  Kangana was thrown out of her family home at 15.  She landed in Bombay and could only find work modeling (one of the many Bombay industries supported by and interacting with film), and then that turned into acting.  Just as it has done for the outcasts of society since the teens, the Hindi film industry took her in and gave her a place that she never would have been able to find otherwise.  It’s not just that she got a place in film despite not having film family connections, as has already been pointed out by plenty of people, she got a place in film despite having so many strikes against her that she would never have been accepted anywhere else.

I know Kangana probably worries about other girls like herself, who don’t win this “golden ticket” of access to the one industry that will accept them.  She probably looks at Alia’s success and thinks “that rich and beloved young woman is getting the chance to be a heroine, and somewhere there is a teenage girl just as talented who desperately needs the work to survive and isn’t getting it.”  And I am sure that is frustrating.

But do we really want to play the “who needs it more” game?  Or the “merit” game?  Because there is never going to be an objective measure for that.  Alia is super talented.  Maybe there is someone somewhere in the world who is even more talented than she is.  But that is one of Karan’s points in his column, he held open auditions, he looked at many many other girls, and she was the best one.  Was he supposed to just keep looking until he found someone even better, no matter how long it took, just because it wouldn’t be “fair” to hire someone from within the industry?  Is that his responsibility?

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(Even if you are a “bad” producer and don’t bother with open auditions and just cast your own kid, there is still a merit level.  A truly untalented producer’s son, no matter the amount of pressure his father puts or money he spends, will not last long)

And besides the inborn talent kind of merit, this lifelong film training is nothing to be sneezed at.  Karan says that he hired Varun as an AD because he knew him because he was David Dhawan’s son.  But he gave him the role in Student of the Year because he saw how well he did as an AD.  I am sure that was partly Varun’s own inborn talent and film sense.  But I am sure it was also the result of showing up on set with a lifetime of experience being around films.  If you don’t think of it as a choice between David Dhawan’s son and an outsider, but instead think of it as a choice between someone with 22 years experience in film and someone who just finished a 6 month film course, then the choice is clear.  I guess that’s a kind of nepotism, since the unfair advantage comes from the family you were born into, but it’s also a practical merit-based decision on the part of the people who hire you, not a sentimental one.

And as for the “who needs it more”, let’s look at Karan himself.  Do you think Karan would even be alive today if he hadn’t managed to find work in film?  I mean literally alive.  Suicide, hate crime, overdose after self-medicating for depression, I think there’s about a 75% chance he wouldn’t have lived to 40 if he hadn’t landed in the film industry.  Or else he wouldn’t be in India.  That was the plan, before he started in films, his family was trying to send him out of the country.  Because outside of the Hindi film industry, there was nowhere else in the entire country that he would fit in.  Maybe for Alia and Varun it is a simple matter of having a hard time breaking into any other area of society, and fitting into it after they have broken in.  But for plenty of the people in film, not just the actors but the crews and everyone else, this is the only place they would be able to be themselves and survive.  Whether it is because of their sexual orientation or their religion or their family background or anything else.  And it doesn’t matter if they happen to have been born into a family that has film connections already, that doesn’t make them any less endangered than anyone else with their social handicap (handicap in the golf terminology, not physical).

Image result for nargis and raj golf

(Golf!  And also, social handicaps!  The daughter of a Muslim woman with 3 husbands, and the hard-drinking son a landed family that lost everything after Independence)

But, as Karan says in his column, all of this second guessing on “merit” and “need” is meaningless, because he’s not running a charity here!  Or a government agency or anything else.  He is running a private business and he doesn’t have to answer to anyone but himself.  He wants to work with the people he wants to work with, and he doesn’t want to work with those he doesn’t want to work with.  And everyone else has that exact same right, they can turn him down and he can turn them down just because it’s what they want to do.  And what gives the media, or the public, or even other people within the industry, the right to judge him for his decisions?  If we don’t like how he casts his films, stop buying tickets for them.  Otherwise, stay out of it!

Actually, if we are going to make this a Karan versus Kangana thing (which seems to be what the media has decided it is), I am much more concerned about investigating Kangana’s background.  Because it seems like she has been a victim not of nepotism but of sexual exploitation.  Gossip claims that as a teenage model she was first introduced to the film industry by her much older, married, and on record as an abuser boyfriend Aditya Pancholi.  That’s a moral issue, not with Kangana, but with Aditya.  He shouldn’t have been abusing his power as a connected actor to force a young girl into a relationship with him.  There is direct obvious harm here.  Not Kangana’s place to bring it up necessarily, not my place to say she has to, but the open secret is that the film industry functions either through sex or family.  And the sex half of it has the potential to be way more exploitative than the family half of it.

Image result for aditya pancholi kangana

(Kangana and Aditya.  This is much more alarming to me than Karan giving a helping hand to some kid he remembers from when they were in diapers)

All of this is a lot of words to make 3 simple points:

  1. Working in the film industry is a lot less desirable than it looks and not necessarily something people would do if they had other choices available to them
  2. Being born into a film family makes it easier to get a break in the film industry because you have connections and experience and may even have talent, but it makes it a lot harder to get a break in any other industry.
  3. It’s not a national moral issue if someone made a particular decision in casting a film based on family connections or old friendships.
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25 thoughts on “New Karan Column! Thank Goodness He Has a Platform Ready To Give Explanations!

  1. You’re arguing the wrong point here (and siding with Karan Johar as per usual). The point is not whether nepotism exists in the industry or not, we all know it does. It also not around what people born into the industry should be doing with their lives. The reason that this is such a big issue is because of how Karan Johar reacted to Kangana bringing it up. Also, how he treats outsiders in general.

    Firstly, making fun of Kangana’s English and her accent. Both Alia Bhatt and Kareena Kapoor have truly awful English accents and this is not only my opinion. It is a widespread opinion. If he teased Kangana then he should tease these two in equal measure. Why the bias? Also, Karan Johar was not, apparently, 100% sure of the definition of nepotism. Why make fun of someone else’s English then?

    Secondly, look at what he openly admitted to trying to do with regards to Anushka Sharma’s career. She wasn’t even being launched by his production house. No one was asking him to work with her in any way whatsoever. Why does he get to decide who gets to be in this industry and who does not? Surely, the audience should the decide this. They’re the customers. Imagine if Aditya Chopra had listened to him? Also, how can we now trust his judgement of talent if he thought Anushka Sharma was not actor material? (And for that matter, Ranveer Singh as well!!)

    Thirdly, Alia Bhatt being cast in Student of the Year because she was apparently the best choice. Honestly, can you not imagine anyone else doing that role? Was she that good that no one else could have performed better than her? Of course not. You’ve seen her audition tape. She couldn’t act or dance and she was overweight. They obviously had to do a lot of work on her, including waiting for her to slim down. Alia is not naturally talented, her audition tape can tell you as much. One thing that also stuck out for me is her cameo in ADHM. Her acting was so terrible! I couldn’t even believe that it was Alia Bhatt. She clearly works hard in her films and on her characters. That’s admirable, but anyone could do that. She wasn’t naturally gifted with acting skills. Karan Johar worked hard on her, something he could have done for anyone.

    Also, acting skills aside, her look and ‘image’ (the reason he didn’t like Anushka) leave much to be desired. Her bikini scenes in SOTY and Shaandaar are not good at all because she simply does not have the body type required for that kind of scene. To judge whether she truly deserved SOTY ask yourself whether she would have been cast were it not for her surname. Karan himself has said as much in his interview with Anupama.

    All this aside, the real reason Karan has written this piece is to distract us from the fact that he acted like a coward, that he blatantly lied and that he was then caught in that same lie. No one is really arguing nepotism and what star kids should be doing with their lives. They’re just asking him to own to it. If he really feels that what he did with respect to casting Alia, Varun, Kareena etc was correct, why lie? Why be so defensive? Why not tell the truth the first time?

    Did you ever ask why he chose to air his views against Kangana during an interview at LSE? He was obviously attacking her and he chose the optimal place and time to do so (after Rangoon flopped and with an audience more partial to him than her). At the end of the day, Karan himself is not that talented a film maker (again, widespread opinion and also just obvious from his movies). He is in the industry because of his father. He clearly knows this. Perhaps it’s this insecurity that caused his outburst and attack on Kangana, an outsider. We cannot allow him to change the conversation here.

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    • Thanks for commenting! I love it when people comment.

      I do always side with Karan, you are right. I trust him, is the thing. And when it is a situation that we are so far removed from as the general public, all I can do is decide who I trust more based on my perception of their public appearances.

      While I trust Karan, I also don’t want to make this a Karan versus Kangana discussion. Just because I don’t find that very interesting. I like talking about how these micro-personal issues can reveal bigger themes and movements and issues in the film industry, and even in society as a whole, much more than just choosing sides.

      Anyway, that’s why I don’t really have a response to any comments about Karan distracting us or acting like a coward or anything like that. Because I don’t think it is necessary to discuss it on that personal level. But I will talk about it in terms of how he is crafting his public image! And you are completely right, he is changing the conversation.

      All along, going back to when I watched the original Koffee episode, I was fascinated by how Kangana kept making it personal and Karan kept trying to make it general. And I think he is doing the same thing with his column here. He doesn’t mention Kangana at all. He gives some examples of his casting policies and how the industry works. He does not badmouth anyone, he tries to move the conversation on to a different level instead of making it about personalities. And the interview with Anupama, as you say, was a very interesting platform for him to use. It wasn’t an interview with a gossip site or even one of Anupama’s youtube videos, it was at a somewhat academic summit. He was defending himself to his peers, in a way, not to the public. Let them pick sides between personalities, and then let the public follow, instead of bringing the public into this personal fight. At least, that’s how I saw it. As you say, he is “changing the conversation”, but I think he is changing it in a good way, there is no benefit to going round and round in a “he said; she said” merry-go-round when instead we could be talking about how to improve the industry, how to talk about Indian society, all of these bigger conversations.

      I also think Karan is a fantastic filmmaker. Before ADHM, I would agree that his camera work and technical level isn’t the best, but would argue that his ability to direct actors and write simple but resonant stories makes up for that. After ADHM, I would say that he has more than proved his technical abilities and brought his scriptwriting and directing of actors to a new level. In his autobiography, he openly talks about how insecure he has always been about his directing. He had a huge crisis when Dil Chahta Hai came out with K3G, feeling like he was suddenly behind the times and not as good. And how My Name is Khan was made just because for once he wanted critical acclaim. He’s not unaware of what people say about his work, and he knows it has flaws. What is clear just looking at Dharma films roster is that he tries to find and encourage directors who he thinks are more talented than himself. In his own field, directing, he doesn’t attack outsiders but give them a platform. Even Anurag Kashyap, who had made all kinds of terrible comments about Karan, ended up getting a production deal from Dharma films. If he prefers to work with established actors, or actors with him he has a previous connection, I can’t really fault him because that is his right to make that choice. And he has the right to only produce movies he directs himself, or directed by his friends, as well. But I will applaud him for instead trying to open up the industry to new talent in that realm.

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  2. First I want to say, that I found your blog few days ago, and I felt in love 🙂 Thank you for work.

    I would not say that it’s hard for famous kids to break into a non-film industry. Don’t forget their parents are rich and can help them star a new business or something.
    The same with “Do you think Karan would even be alive today if he hadn’t managed to find work in film?”. I think yes. He is very lucky to be born in rich, artistic family in Mumbai. I can’t imagine better background for gay kid in India.

    I didn’t like many things from Karan’s column – I just can’t believe that there was nobody talented on castings to Student of the year 2. I mean: from Bangalore to Delhi, nobody has talent? Is Karan so unfortunate or he is searching in wrong places? Or maybe he already had the vision of the protagonist, and she is connected with the industry? As he said – he is the one who put his money on films, and he can chose whoever he wants. I agree. But don’t tell me, that all people on castings sucks.

    And his statment that “We have offered roles recently to Nawazuddin Siddiqui and to Irrfan Khan which they have turned down”. Nawazuddin is like 40 years old, Irrfan is 50, they both are very talented, but only recently had became famous, after years of little roles, and struggling. They don’t need your movies Karan, not anymore. And you want to cast them because they are famous and not because you want to give a chance somebody with talent. Casting them or Siddharth Malhotra doesn’t mean you’re not a nepotist.

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    • I am so glad you found my blog! Please keep commenting, my favorite part of writing is that I get to have conversations with people in the comments.

      I could be wrong about the famous kids breaking into other industries. It felt like something that was wrong, for the same reasons you mention, after all their parents are rich, they go to parties with the elites in politics and industries, shouldn’t it be easy? But then I tried to think of any star kid who has actually broken out of the entertainment industry, and I couldn’t think of one. Not counting the daughters like Ritu Nanda or Shweta Bachchan who married out when they were young. Everyone else I could think of ended up a fashion designer or a decorator or a photographer or a model or in one of those other pop culture related fields. I couldn’t think of someone who became an industrialist or an IT person or something like that. But maybe I’m just not thinking of someone, good chance I will wake up in the middle of the night tonight going “right! That kid! He’s running a successful software company now, it is possible!”

      I like your theory that Karan had a certain type in mind when he started casting. So he wouldn’t think of it as “nepotism”, but the fact is what he is asking for would only be possible for a star kid. It sounds like the same thing with Alia in Student of the Year 1. He talks about how he fell in love with her audition because of her confidence in front of the camera and glamour and all of that. Which is clearly what he wanted for his character. But that’s also something that you can get much more easily growing up as a star kid. Even if she was “chubby”, she would still know how to put on make-up and play to the camera and all of those things, at age 17. That combination of confidence and glamour with extreme youth, I can believe that an open casting call only for high school girls just would not find anyone. If he changed the character to be 22-25, or less glamorous, then sure, he could find loads of girls in an open casting call. But if he is writing characters in a certain way, than only a star kid is going to be able to do it. I guess then the nepotism comes in not at the point of casting but at the point of writing.

      Mostly though, as you can probably tell if you’ve read some of my other coverage on this, I like Karan. I like the way he writes and the way he directs and the way he talks in interviews. I trust his judgement and believe what he says, because when we are talking about these famous people that I will never meet in real life dealing with issues that will never effect me, all I can really do is pick who seems most reasonable to me based on the way they present themselves. I liked Kangana as an actress for years, but once I started reading her public statements and interviews, somehow I stopped trusting her as a person. Which I could be totally wrong about, but again, from the far distance in which we are getting this information as the general public, all I can do is decide who I trust more based on the impression I am getting of them.

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      • I think the same about Kangana – appreciate her as an actress but I don’t like the way she talks and her scandals. But it’s a good thing that somebody finally talked about nepotism in Bollywood, because it started to be ridicoulus. I’m from Poland, now living in Italy, and I know very little star’s kids, from both movie industries, who become actors. And even when they decide to follow their parents steps, it’s rare that somebody gives them main role. In Bollywod 80% of famous kids want to be actors, and most of them start as protagonist. Many of those kids are not ready for such a big role. They should start with something smaller. I think this is what annoys me the most, or annoyed me the most before I read excuses that Karan, and some othere B. people gave to legitimatize their nepotism.

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        • One thing that made a big difference for me when I started to think about nepotism in Indian film was when I started to think of it as a pre-industrial business. So just like a farmers son would grow up and be a farmer, and wouldn’t necessarily go to school or have special training, because their whole life was training. Or how a farmer wouldn’t think “I should go out and find a talented teenager to work on my farm and eventually give them the whole place”, because its their right to pass it down to their son, and that was always the plan anyway.

          And that’s not necessarily because there was a choice to make it function in that way, until less than 20 years ago film wasn’t an “industry” in India, studios weren’t legally allowed to sell stocks or have a board of directors or any of that. So if you read stories from even as recently as the 90s, it’s still about production houses being run out of family kitchens and wives and kids sitting in on production meetings as a matter of course. And often those famous kid “launches” were a simple matter of there not being enough money to pay someone else to star in the film. Just like a teenager might have to work the counter at the family store for no pay, so was Rishi Kapoor pulled out of school to work in Mere Naam Joker and Bobby, or Aamir in Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak. Or heck, Emraan Hashmi now! He still works for, I assume, very little pay for his uncle’s production house.

          The whole concept of a “casting call” or an agent or any of that is very very new to Indian film. So maybe we are just in a growing pains period.

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          • I agree with you on the part that movies were being literally made at homes. Even though Varun didn’t become an actor out of necessity, he did mention before that actors, writers, and producers would often be in and out of his home. Often his summer vacations were spent on the sets of his father’s movies. In fact at a recent Judwaa 2 press conference, he mentioned that he remembers the Tu Mere Dil Mein Bus Ja song being shot in Mauritius and how he thought that making movies was so much fun due to the vibe on that set.

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          • Also I just remembered another story. Remember Venkatesh (you saw him in Kshana Kshanam and he’s Rana Daggubati’s uncle)? Venkatesh’s dad, Ramanaidu, was a film producer and he was planning on making a film called Kaliyuga Pandavalu directed by K. Raghavendra Rao starring Krishna (huge star then, now known as Mahesh Babu’s dad). Krishna was having a dates clash which meant that he had to drop out of the movie in the last minute. Krishna had told them to go ahead with the movie and not wait for him. Because there was not much time, Ramanaidu asked his son, Venkatesh, if he interested. And that’s how Venkatesh first became an actor.

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          • The part I find so interesting about this is what you say about the studios being run by families. I am a relative newcomer to Indian films and I know about the family connections and all, but I didn’t know that studios weren’t allowed to be corporates as we know them in America. That piece is really interesting to me, since I had thought it was just a matter of tradition. Have you written about this, or can you point me to something that would more fully discuss this?

            This little tidbit is another reminder to me of how different the two industries are. And reminds me of a little story: When we were in India last year we were fortunate to meet with several people from one of the smaller but successful production houses in Mumbai. We had what was, to me at least, a really interesting conversation about the business in India. One of the things I hadn’t been able to figure out is why producers, directors and actors in India don’t get residuals from rebroadcasts of their films on TV or satellite. And, at the same time, such a big fuss is made over the selling of satellite rights. (One reason Jerry Seinfeld is the wealthiest actor in the world is because of how many times Seinfeld episodes are aired. It surely isn’t because of how hard he works. Imagine if Shah Rukh, or any number of the other Indian actors, received residuals every time one of their movies aired!) So I asked our hosts about this and was told that it was due to corruption in the industry and the connections to organized crime in earlier days.

            So I feel I have a few pieces of the puzzle on the Indian film industry but I can’t see the whole picture.

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          • We’ve been talking about this so much that it inspired me to plan for next weeks Hindi Film 101 to be on nepotism and why it is such a family business.

            I hadn’t planned to get into the crime connections, but I may do that as the second part of it. I get into this a little in my book, related to why the personal connections to stars are so important since contracts and legalities are meaningless, but there are plenty of details I didn’t include.

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  3. I really am disappointed at how biased your posts are on the Kangana-Karan Johar issue. I agree with both Anonymous and Angie’s comments here. The really issue is how certain people go on with this soft bullying behavior and everything is masked behind the so called classy facade.

    I really enjoy your posts on Nargis, Meena Kumari and all the old actors and directors. I think I will stick to reading those.

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    • I’m glad you like my posts on the old actors and directors! I enjoy writing them.

      You are right, I am biased on the Kangana-Karan issue. Since it seems to be turning into a matter of picking sides between the two, I am picking Karan because his past remarks and everything I know about his career makes me trust him more than Kangana. But I could be completely wrong, I am basing everything simply on their public image which isn’t the full story.

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  4. I honestly don’t think that nepotism in the Hindi film industry is much of a big deal because I feel like I’ve seen worse in Telugu. Plus all of my favorite actors have been star kids so how can I point fingers at others. Nepotism is really different in Telugu in that fans wait for a hero’s son to arrive and carry the legacy of his father. For example, there was so much hype for Ram Charan’s debut movie just because he was Chiranjeevi’s son. After Ram Charan’s successful debut, Chiranjeevi retired to go into politics and Ram Charan was literally expected to do masala movies to keep the fans happy. Recently Ram Charan stated that he has always wanted to do more experimental movies but the pressure to satisfy the fans always discouraged him. Now that his father made a comeback, Ram Charan is moving away from mainstream masala movies. His next movie is a village love story with Sukumar and he is rumored to be playing a deaf and mute character. Apparently he also signed a movie with Mani Ratnam which is as far away from massy movies as you can get. Another example is that Naga Chaitanya got a similarly hyped debut launchpad but it wasn’t successful. Though he is now a pretty decent actor and he does small to medium budget movies, Naga Chaitanya is looked at as a failure because he isn’t a star like his father and grandfather were.

    Unlike the Telugu audience, the Hindi film audience doesn’t eagerly wait for these star kids to become actors. I’m sure the last star kid to enter with such expectations was Abhishek and he was nowhere as his dad. In fact, I feel like the audience ends up hating on a star kid more than wanting to give them a chance. Tiger Shroff got trolled so much about his name and appearance, but honestly he’s the best dancer in the younger lot and he proved can pull off hardcore action.

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    • Excellent points. I wonder if the different attitude is also because Hindi film as fewer stars of that level? I could see if/when Aryan makes his debut, people would have a same feeling of being super excited and eager. But someone like Anil Kapoor’s son, no one really cares in that way.

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      • Yes, in terms of hero worship there is no one at that level anymore barring the three Khans. I don’t even think Aamir has that level of following; from what I understand, he just has the audience’s trust that whatever he makes will be a quality movie. I think Aryan would end up being the last star kid with that much hype.

        In a way, being considered an outsider is beneficial to people like Ranveer and Sidharth who are actually outsider-insider. For example, Sidharth is backed by Dharma and consistently gets offered movies from them. But at the same time, before a movie release Sidharth gets to talk about how he’s an outsider from Delhi and how he’s still getting used to the industry and things like that.

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      • Looking forward to next week’s Hindi Film 101! And on Aryan Khan–My bet is he will never be an actor. Anything can happen of course, but he will never be able to outdo his father, which could be a difficult place to be. Abishek seems to handle it well, but I’m not sure every son can do that. On the other hand, if Aryan becomes a film maker–that’s what he’s studying at USC–he could create his own identity, or at least somewhat. Suhana, on the other hand, supposedly wants to act. And she is fortunate that no one will expect her to match her father’s success, for better or worse.

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        • I’ve been thinking about how Ranbir is handling it. He’s bigger than his Dad in some ways, but he is also smaller than the expectations of him as “the Kapoor heir”. He seems to have decided to just be an actor above all and not play the “Star” game, so there isn’t even the comparison. I could see Aryan doing something similar, if he wants to act, taking arty films and off-beat roles and clearly trying to be his own thing instead of a movie star.

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          • I was wondering if this is because Rishi, Shashi, or any other actor from the family never reached the heights of stardom that Raj Kapoor reached. Maybe people were interested in Ranbir as the “Kapoor heir” but at the same time everyone already agreed that no one in the family will ever be as big as Raj Kapoor. But I do like the way Ranbir isn’t trying to be a star though honestly, he does have all the skills to be a huge star if he sets his heart on it. My guess is that Aryan will become a filmmaker but he will eventually try out acting since he has the opportunity in front of him to take advantage of.

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          • I could see Aryan going that path. At the very least, I am sure he will start with a general AD internship, just like Varun and Sonam and Ranbir, it seems to be the new career path, and it has good results.

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        • I don’t understand that why do ppl want Aryan to match SRK. I mean SRK is fab let him be. Why do we need another SRK as Aryan. It may happen that Aryn can become a successful Action hero or a Comedy one its not at all necessary that he should match upto his father’s level.

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  5. I can’t believe Karan when he says that he held an audition for SOTY 2 and the only people qualifying are star kids! You can’t expect us to swallow that! As if Alia’s role in SOTY 1 is something to be lived up to. The character and Alia’s acting was a joke! However here’s where the connections come useful -she was offered films inspite of her bad acting skills. And she did a better job in the next film and the next and so on.And Siddharth is Karan’s shining example of not being nepotistic. What the heck is Karan thinking? Just when he succeeded in making people stop talking about ‘how’ supposedly Sid got his role for SOTY 1! Everyone has their prejudices.That’s human.Karan is subconsciously prejudiced towards giving a chance to the children of his friends and acquaintances.That’s his prerogative.That doesn’t mean that the rest of the general population who turned up for his auditions cannot act or are not suitable for the character.For SOTY 3 just don’t hold an open audition.

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    • I like that solution. Just don’t even pretend any more. My boss is thinking about hiring someone new for his small family business (I am the only non-relative employee), and instead of posting an ad on the internet and doing interviews and background checks and all of that agony, the plan is to just ask around among people we know to start with because it’s just easier that way. And why not? It’s a private business, we can hire whoever the heck we want, and if you bring in someone you know, you don’t have to worry about them ripping you off or being drama queens or just having a personality conflict or whatever. And no reason Karan can’t have the same choices in hiring! And no reason he should pretend any different.

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  6. I don’t agree with all of your reasoning in support of Karan (I think it’s still pretty easy for people born into privilege to succeed in any kind of industry), but I totally agree that perspective is important and I, too, trust what Karan is telling us. I also agree with the point that Kangana (in her very special off-putting way) is trying to make. They’re not mutually exclusive points.

    I think that star kids usually only get a few shots to prove their talent and those with a decent amount of talent survive. It’s an advantage, but not a lifelong one. On a selfish note, there are definitely star kids that I really want to go away and Tiger Shroff is one of them. Next to Shraddha Kapoor, he is my least favorite young actor in the industry right now. Unfortunately, despite his awful acting, his dancing and action skills will get him far. His casting in SOTY 2 ruins the film for me already. And I was so excited to see the debut of Sara Ali Khan. Sometimes it’s just human nature to wonder if the acting talent is inherited and she’s got some pretty great genes. Since I’m a big fan of Sharmila Togore and Saif Ali Khan, I am hoping for a third generation of awesomeness!

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    • That point about star kids only getting a few chances is really important and I wish I had made it. Connections can get you your big break, but they won’t keep you going. You can just look at Shraddha versus Alia or Tiger versus Sooraj Pancholi. They all got an equal break at the beginning, but then they found their own level.

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  7. Pingback: Hindi Film 101: Nepotism Through History in Hindi Film, Part 1 – dontcallitbollywood

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