Insiders vs Outsiders
Aug 16 2013
Cinema is truly a great equaliser. As Bollywood has shown time and again, it is not swayed by a person’s connections, but by their competence
Most of them will melt away into oblivion after few years of struggle but right now the energy is infectious. They derive their hope and enthusiasm from examples like Shah Rukh Khan and Irrfan Khan, or more recently Nawazuddin Siddiqi and Huma Qureshi, or iconoclasts like Anurag Kashyap and Dibakar Banerjee, complete outsiders who made it big in Mumnai— the megalopolis that turns your dreams into reality — if you just stuck around.
Sticking around, that’s the catch phrase. Cut to ten years hence and the same people start singing a different tune which in recent years has achieved mythic proportions in the Republic of Andheri (West): ‘Until and unless you are a second generation actor or filmmaker, you cannot make it to the Mumbai film industry’.
To substantiate their argument they will give you examples of Salman and Saif Ali Khan, or Hrithik Roshan and Abhishek Bachchan — all star kids doing great; among the girls they cite Kareena, Sonakshi Sinha and Sonam Kapoor, or Zoya Akhtar who is a successful director.
Suddenly gone are all the hopes and enthusiasm; many of them have already packed their bags and left for their hometowns, chastened and alcoholic, while others have joined different ancillary professions.
While there’s no doubt that if you came from a pedigreed film stock it does help you to be launched with all the necessary hullaballoo, mentored by the best marketing brains and stylists, but if the film fails to stir the box office, you are promptly relegated to the sidelines. Persistent fathers who are successful producers and filmmakers re-launch their sons again and again, hoping that the next project will catapult them to stardom; they hire reputed directors and writers, leave no stone unturned, but there’s no predicting the ‘public taste’ and the vagaries of the box office.
Harman Baweja or Jackie Vagnani despite being launched repeatedly by their experienced and market savvy producer-fathers, still find no takers. Uday Chopra, the son of the most powerful man in the industry till his death — Yash Chopra, has resigned himself to be a director, albeit an unsuccessful one. Mithun Chakraborty re-launched his son Mimoh and the name still does not ring a bell. Does anybody remember Sanjay Kapoor, Boney and Anil Kapoor’s youngest brother?
If one went back a couple of decades one would find more examples: Raj Kapoor’s youngest son Rajiv Kapoor faded into oblivion after his debut; and he belonged to the First Family of the film industry! Dev Anand’s son Suniel Anand and Manoj Kumar’s son Kunal Goswami met the same fate; so did Kumar Gaurav. Not many people know that Dilip Kumar had a brother who failed miserably at the hustles that is the Hindi film industry.
It’s not a question of talent as many assume, because many successful actors, writers and directors in the industry lack that element, something that’s possible only in our country which values gross over finesse when it comes to matters of art.
The Hindi film industry has been a melting pot of people and technicians of varying talents who come from all across the world, with dreams in their eyes and hunger in their bellies. And Mumbai is a city that is not impressed by your lineage, but interested in what you bring on the table; this unique characteristic immediately sets the city apart from most other Indian cities where ‘connections’ have an edge over competence.
While it is true that contacts could open up a few gates — like the letter from Indira Gandhi that Amitabh Bachchan carried to KA Abbas — it is ultimately the market forces that determine your fate, not your talent or ancestry. You are a mere commodity whose value fluctuates like the capricious stock market, and not even the best brains can fathom or predict how it works.