We are Family
P.S. – Outsiders Not Allowed
No one says it as openly and bluntly as K Jo’s recent film by the same name about the growing nepotism in the Hindi film industry. Or may I say a much legitimized nexus between the film families and the production houses. It pretty much goes without saying that over the last decade our film industry has become an old boys club where your surname and belonging to a film family is more important than your creative merit. In fact if statistics are to be believed, it’s perhaps the ONLY thing that matters.
Much as we pride ourselves in being the world’s biggest democracy, dynastic leanings have always been a part of the Indian DNA. In fact it would be a fallacy to expect an Obama like leader not because we don’t have a bright young chap who can lead us out of darkness but because the system in our ‘democracy’ just doesn’t allow it. We’re too happy being feudal and much as we may complain, there’s an in-built resistance that the junta always puts up to an outsider.
Of course we’ve had outsiders coming and making their mark in Hindi cinema and purists may argue that the biggest of the superstars be it Amitabh Bachchan, Dilip Kumar, Rajesh Khanna or even the popular Akshay Kumar are all outsiders. Ditto with some of our most celebrated technicians like A.R. Rehman, Anurag Kashyap and Rajkumar Hirani to name a few. But try thinking how many non-film related male actors have made it in the last 10 years? Not even 2 or 3! And I’m not really talking about the heroines because with due respects, most of these ladies are inter-changeable and it would hardly matter!
But a careful look at some of the big guns in the industry will tell you a stark story. And that is ‘We Are Family – Membership Restricted’. Which means unless you are the son or daughter of an influential film family or related to a rich producer/director, it is virtually impossible to get a break in a decent film. Yes, there are a lot of newcomers who do make their debut every Friday but in films which you and I may not even hear about. This is because there’s hardly any decent production house ready to bankroll them or do any publicity. And even in the case of small films, most of these are self funded by newcomers desperate to see themselves on screen.
While one may argue that pedigree and family names make it easier for a production house to promote a newcomer since the audience is aware of their existence, a simple look at the box office tells you that 9 out of 10 of these films just bomb at the box office! Does it make a difference to these star kids? Not at all because their over-ambitious papas are only too happy to con the next financier and start another film. What’s more, most of the press is paid off to bluff that their last film was a hit! It’s actually very surprising to see that films that had badly flopped a few years back are just passed of as super-hits 2-3 years later. A few appearances of the flop star kid on magazine covers which A-4 size posters of the cover pages plastered around the city are used (and believed) as sanitizers, presuming that the junta has anyways forgotten (or cared less) about the last film’s fate and moved on to the next Friday.
And God forbid if the same were to happen to a newcomer, he or she is simply dropped from most forthcoming projects that the newcomer would’ve signed.
It is this nepotistic attitude that is chiefly responsible for the degeneration in the quality of Indian cinema. Movies like Aishaa, Raavan, Kites and many more are sadly not being made to tell a good story – they’re just being made to showcase a star kid’s talent. And when the motive is anything but to tell a good, this is what will always happen.
Yes actors like Hrithik, Sanjay Dutt, Anil Kapoor, Ajay Devgan, Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Saif and many more are amazing actors who happen to come from film families but have earned their rightful place in the annals of cinema. But there are many more who’s very existence in the industry is questionable and had it not been for their last names wouldn’t even manage to find work even in down market TV shows!
If cinema in India, especially Hindi cinema has to regain its lost glory one of the first things the big boys need to do is look beyond the gene pool. There’s so much talent out there and it’s a criminal waste if the real guys are never given a chance. Fame and glory are by-products of the good work that an actor does in a film but unfortunately the glam factor is turning out to be the only motive for star-struck star kids to want to follow their parent’s profession!
Note- This post was originally written post the release of We Are Family but now re-edited and published considering that the trend continues to remain the same even now and is not likely to change any soon.