News Category: Media
article written by, Kanchan, a news team contributor
One of the most undoubtably popular — and divisive — talking points in the Bollywood industry this year has been the issue of nepotism. A term originally associated with the assignment of imperial positions to family members of the king, ‘nepotism’ now refers to the complex power plays of Bollywood royalty.
A running joke in the Indian film industry is that regardless of your acting prowess, if your last name is ‘Khan’ or ‘Kapoor’ — you’ll have no trouble getting by. So common is this trope that many South Asian media outlets simply refer to individual actors as members of the ‘Khan Kapoor Bacchan Clan’. But where did clan originate? According to a Bollywood family tree published by the Deccan Herald, the high-profile Kapoor family, which has offered the industry actors like Kareena Kapoor, Ranbir Kapoor, Arjun Kapoor, and Jhanvi Kapoor, this family originated from Punjabi-Indian actor Prithviraj Kapoor. Since his black-and-white debut in Be Dhari Talwar, it was the Padma Bhushan-nominated actor who began this family’s historic legacy in the movie industry. Even years later, descendents of Prithviraj Kapoor have dominated Bollywood screens, earning both accolades and lead roles for decades. The ‘Khan Clan’, however, belongs to a far more complicated history, with scriptwriter Salim Khan, actor Shah Rukh Khan, and Yusuf Khan acting as branches of the family tree.
Bollywood has turned the children of stars into stars themselves, acting as a conveyor belt for wealthy and industry-connected talent. But what of the outsiders, asks the public — what of the middle and working-class performers who spend years preparing themselves for the silver screen? What of the stars with no weight to their last name, who are often cast to the sidelines in supporting roles or television jobs? Where are their magazine covers, their paparazzi-peppered wedding photoshoots, their trophies at award shows? Following the tragic death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput, Bollywood fans are now demanding recognition for the industry’s ‘outsiders’. And the effects are everywhere. Over the course of two months, prominent director Karan Johar lost roughly 800,000 subscribers on Instagram, due to his alleged involvement in ‘gatekeeping’ the industry and preventing outsiders from entering big-budget films. Alia Bhatt, daughter of renowned director Mahesh Bhatt, lost countless followers as well. The trailer of her 2020 film Sadak 2, meanwhile, is one of the most disliked videos on Youtube.
Nepotism in Bollywood has finally been met with widespread backlash and action from the public. Now what?
Anger from audiences is only a fraction of the progress necessary to create a level playing field in the industry. Spawning negativity, in my opinion, in the comment sections of Alia Bhatt’s Instagram account does nothing to address nepotism at its core. Rather than screaming at the industry’s authorities for creating an inherently unequal system, Bollywood fans can take responsibility by spending their time and tickets on lower-budget, independent productions featuring outsiders. Entertainment, after all, is a system built on reciprocity. It was only after public support for actors like Rajkumar Rao, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Vidya Balan, and Irrfan Khan surged that they were gradually offered meatier roles. The more audiences are willing to take outsiders seriously, the more big-budget production companies will be forced to open their doors to everyone.
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