The entertainment industry worldwide has a recurring debate around nepotism. In this part of the world, the word first cropped up in mainstream headlines and opinion pieces after an infamous Koffee With Karan episode last year. This interview had Kangana Ranaut candidly tell Johar that she feels he’s the flag bearer of nepotism in the industry. A lot of hue and cry was raised over her accusations and yet one year later, nothing’s really changed. And it’s not likely to.
A few days ago, ‘Bollywood’s Badshah’ Shahrukh Khan’s daughter Suhana Khan appeared on the cover of Vogue India and social media was again outraged. ‘Besides being born into SRK’s family, what has Suhana achieved?’ was the general rhetoric. Two months ago, Sri Devi’s daughter was on the cover of the magazine and this was before the release of her debut film, making the same social media activists very upset. The same time frame also had Saif Ali Khan and Amrita Singh’s daughter Sara Ali Khan sign her second big Bollywood film opposite Ranveer Singh. Sunny Deol is directing and producing Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas to launch his son Karan. Salman Khan is producing Loveratri that launches his brother-in-law Aayush Sharma. Taimur Ali Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor’s infant son, is already being covered by more publications than one can count. It’s a widely known fact that in this industry, it’s nearly impossible to get your foot in the door if you don’t know someone on the other side of it. Staying there however, isn’t as easy.
Where the industry has a Ranbir Kapoor and an Alia Bhatt it also has a Ranveer Singh and a Jacqueline Fernandez, who made it entirely on their own. Does talent beget talent? In some cases yes, but not always. Abhishek Bachchan and Uday Chopra could not make it big despite the gigantic star power they inherited. There are others who have clearly thrived through the sheer talent and effort they put in.
Coming back to the Suhana controversy, magazines like any other business publish what sells and what people want to read. SRK’s daughter’s face will sell more copies of Vogue, than the girl next door, no matter how hardworking she is. That’s the thing about star kids; they are born into fame whether they like it or not and most of them ride the wave. Photographers follow them everywhere and most of them have huge followings on Instagram. Nobody forces the media to give them this attention but they get it anyway. When comes time for a producer to pick a new face for their next film, they’ll place their bet on a star kid as opposed to someone they don’t know at all.
Nepotism isn’t just a phenomenon in Bollywood – it’s present in every entertainment industry. David Beckham’s entire family is covered by the media by virtue of blood line. Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith’s children’s Jaden and Willow have followed famous parents into showbiz. In Pakistan, Momal Sheikh followed parents Jawed Sheikh and Zinat Mangi, and uncle Saleem Sheikh who are veterans of the film and TV industry into the same line of work. Her uncle Behroz Subzwari, brother Shehzad Sheikh and cousin Shahroz Sabzwari are also a part of it. Yasir Nawaz, a well-known actor and director, paved the way for his brother Danish Nawaz. Sikandar Rizvi, grandson of Madam Noor Jahan was an understandable choice for Asad ul Haq’s first film Dekh Magar Pyaar Se, even though it was a debut film for them both.
It may be unfair but we can’t wish nepotism out of this industry, or any other one for that matter. Sons of large industrialists also inherit positions from their fathers; it’s just the way it works. According to the Keiser Report, nepotism is also rampant in big businesses and the government as well; we in Pakistan know how effective it is in political circles. The thing about films is, nepotism may open a window of opportunity for the star kid but no producer will continue to bank on a star kid who has not risen to his or her parents’ stardom, and has flopped. Dimple Kapadia and Rajesh Khanna’s daughters may have gotten favourable opportunities in Bollywood but when they tanked, they were sidelined. The same can be said about Abhishek Bachchan, to some extent. Star kids like Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt have made it big but that’s not because of their lineage but because of their talent. The box office may spike at a star kid’s debut but people won’t be fooled into promoting an untalented actor.
Back to Suhana, the hype created around having her on the cover of Vogue has itself ensured higher sales of the issue. She is Shah Rukh Khan’s daughter and she is a social media star; her debut on the magazine cover is understandable. Her success at the box office will be another game altogether.