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Nepotism and Favoritism in Bollywood

Updated on June 25, 2020

Names like Kangana Ranaut, Akshay Kumar, Anupam Kher and Paresh Rawal have lately been making waves in the media, not simply for their outstanding performance as actors, but for their bold stance on contentious issues affecting the film industry and larger issues of national interest. While these stars have always been publicly acknowledged as principled and not merely opinionated, actors, their outspokenness has increasingly gathered more steam every time damage is caused, by successive blows, to Bollywood's name and image among the public who are the real patrons and paymasters. Kangana Ranaut has candidly talked more than once on camera about the prevalence of nepotism, rampant favouritism and ganging up of the powers that be in the industry against upcoming actors with no connections. Paresh Rawal has downgraded the star system and stated that the soldiers of the Indian Army are the real heroes and not the film actors who should, in all fairness, be called entertainers. On their part, Akshay Kumar and Anupam Kher have been extending unstinted support to nationalistic causes.

Why would a young, smart and talented actor with a brilliant academic career to boot, who had already made a name for himself among the Bollywood biggies, bring a sudden and abrupt end to his own life and career, by jumping to death? Although movie actors are known to be highly strung emotional and sensitive people, was the young actor so emotional and sensitive as to take such a rash decision, no matter what the provocation? Or was he pushed to death by an invisible force whose footprints and finger prints were all over the place in the filmdom? These are some of the questions to which the law enforcement agencies probing into the shocking death of Sushant Rajput, are trying to find answers.

Kangana Ranaut against Karan Johar

Nepotism and Favouritism

There has been a lot of talk about nepotism in Bollywood. Looking at all those star kids who are featured in every third mainstream Hindi movie(the other two being hogged by the well-entrenched star heroes), and all the other filmy personalities such as directors, distributors and the ilk associated with Bollywood, walking away with plum projects, there seems to be much merit to this claim.

Speculations apart, among the media, the army of fans of the late actor, and his well wishers, there are some insiders in the industry who have come forward to pose pertinent questions suggesting psychological pressure, and maybe even more, on the young man's apparently rash decision. Was a successful career in the films everything to him? If media reports are to be believed, he had several upcoming projects under his belt which, if completed, would have catapulted him to the dizzy heights of stardom. It was not to be. Probably, the report that the contracts were withdrawn at the instigation of a pressure group within the industry and the young actor had to return the signing amounts he had received. Heart broken? There are reports of ganging up not only against Sushant Singh Rajput but also against other new actors and directors by the Khan actors.

Are you convinced that there is nepotism, favouritism and preferential treatment of star kids?

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Slush Money

There is also a widely-prevelant theory - a conspiracy one at that - which would have you believe that the entire Hindi film industry is firmly in the grip of a school of sharks(read mafia) which finances many of the films mindlessly churned out year in and year out, year after year in Bollywood. Only a minuscule minority of these innumerable films do good business while the rest are box-office disasters. But the steady stream of films does not show any sign of flagging. What sustains the non-profit making film production?

Here one is talking about slush money, black money, hush money, unaccounted for money or any such tag one might fancy pegging on the finances supposed to be secretly flushed into film making for the most obvious purpose of laundering the tainted money from international mafia gangs. Those who control the finances apparently hold the unassailable position of dictating terms to the movie makers. So they get to propose, endorse and decide the star cast, director, music director, and the rest of the gang that are paraded as the film's crew.

The Trail of Hindi Films

Where are the Hindi movies headed, in any case? To start with, there was a melodramatic routine of brothers getting separated from each other, parents getting separated from one another, and everybody in the family getting separated from every other, either in a village carnival or in the big, wicked city or due to the machinations of the black-faced villain. The hero falls hopelessly in love with the villain's daughter. After a lot of fight between the good and the evil, the separated family members find each other either by identification of a common tattoo, locket or a family song, set to tune, which everyone in the family not only knows by heart but also belts out in a loud, soul-stirring voice. Lovers unite and the villain is put behind the bars. The world is once again a happy place to live in.

The trend changed. No greenhorn of a movie-goer is to be surprised or shocked if the plot of the story is found a complete travesty of the Indian culture, traditional values, customs and practices. In many a film would you get to see the characters of teachers, policemen, government officials, politicians, ministers et al portrayed as bumbling idiots or scheming villains, corrupt to the core so much so that you tend to start feeling that nobody in the society is really honest, upright, hardworking or sincere any more. On the contrary, robbers, bandits or common criminals would be depicted as prisoners of circumstances or products of the corrupt social and political environment engulfing the society. So, what is there for a poor, helpless young hero who had earlier had the misfortune of witnessing atrocities perpetrated against his own family members as well as against the poorest of the poor people in the society, to do? Recourse to law is of no use since the entire gamut of law, judiciary, legislature and the executive is so steeped in corruption that it stinks to high heaven. Wait. There is one way out. Take to the arms and become the judge and the executioner yourself. What else? The trend of the depiction of the anti-hero as the gold-hearted do-gooder started quite a few years ago and gained currency faster than the Australian forest fires.

Then we had the big, fat, Panjabi or NRI weddings. Indian weddings which are in reality colourful, boisterous and memorable occasions of a life time were portrayed as gross, vulgar, noisy and decadent affairs, with no end of boozing around, showing off of money power and bragging about 'status' and 'family honour' and what have you. After quite a bit of melodrama, suggestive scenes of cultural decadence(read sleaze) and explosive scenes of emotions run-riot, the bride picks up courage and 'lehenga' and runs away with her childhood lover, mercifully bringing the sordid drama to an end. The monotony of the film is intermittently broken by blink-and-you-miss-a-song-and-dance sequences. This mind-numbing trend ruled the roost for quite some time before it faded, hopefully never to come back.

Is Bollywood committing harakiri by neglecting talent?

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Secularism gone Haywire

The lopsided concept of Secularism as it has been understood and practised by successive Indian governments was effectively used by the film makers as a convenient tool to project the minority religious groupings as unwary victims of a dominant majority religion, hell bent on persecution of the voiceless few. You could almost visualise the votaries of the majority religion wearing black hats and the others donning white ones. Alien invaders are projected as valiant and romantic heroes while the sons of the soil who resisted the invaders albeit unsuccessfully are shown as medieval rulers that could neither rule nor defend their land. This ridiculous caricaturing of people on the lines of their communal orientation has gone on long enough for the knowledgeable and discerning movie-going public to wonder whatever happened to patriotism. Too old fashioned, perhaps?

And then there is the loose concept of religious tolerance which is toed by the doyens of the industry who are the self-appointed spokespersons of Bollywood. They feel free to make outrageous statements against the establishment for the alleged persecution of the religious minorities in the process of displaying to the world their intellectual prowess and liberal thinking as global citizens who do not fit into the straightjacket of national or traditional communal boundaries or values.

There are no prizes for guessing where the Hindi movies are currently heading. There is a lot of pre-marital and extra marital sex with incidences of same sex to boot. Marital discord, incompatibility, adultery, unfaithful life partners, psychopathic life partners, any kind of life partners except faithful ones... The laundry list is endless. When this is all over, the trend that is, the institution of marriage is going to be touted as the biggest joke ever what with it having already become a matter of convenience.

Notwithstanding the waxing and waning of the movie trends, music and dance still dominate the show. When the leading pair breaks into a song and dance sequence, blue-eyed nymphs of blond and redhead varieties in outlandish costumes from Ukraine and the other assorted East European countries join the strutting and galloping around in the background and silently disappear when the scene is over. Whether what passes for music or dance qualifies to be called that in terms of the accepted norms or standards is another thing.

Mega bucks

That brings us to the question of audio rights. There is big money in the worldwide audio-video rights. These rights are sold to, ahem, you are right, front-companies which are identified by the controllers of financing for, you guessed right, money laundering.

To put it in mild terms, millions are invested and laundered. The returns are mind boggling. Of the neat profit, the actors, musicians, directors, technicians and whoever else put the film together get a slice, big or small, depending on the degree of their proximity to and cooperation with the forces that pull the strings.

A star here or a star there like Akshay Kumar, Irfan Khan, Sushant Singh Rajput or Kangana Ranaut is born occasionally, the happenings being few and far between, when a talented actor outside the charmed circle gets a much-deserved break, breaks the mold and makes it really big on the screen notwithstanding the pressure and resistance by the gangs, cliques, clans and the industry's crème de la crème. Such talented actors are branded outsiders and are sought to be sidelined, ignored and neglected, at least initially. They are ridiculed for their lack of command of the English language, reluctance to participate in the mid-night parties with equal gusto as the full-fledged members of the charmed circle, their middle class virtues like abstinence from booze and drugs, their conventional views on nationalism, refusal to join the strident anti-establishment stance of the doyens of the industry. They are practically hounded out for their refusal to keep up with the Joneses. Survival is all the more difficult for women. There is no place for a thinking woman in the industry which has ample room for eye candies and arm candies.

They have to display a brave show of grit and determination to be finally accepted among the biggies, if only with great reluctance.

Nobody is complaining. Except a few talented actors or directors, who are left out of the show or feel the breathing down on their neck a bit too much for comfort. They protest, crib, try to confront the dubious forces that operate through a few favoured persons in the industry that form an incestuously-too-close-knit fraternity, notorious for its ways of favouring its own and rejecting the 'outsiders'. Their accusations and shock stories are heard by the movie-going public initially with rapt attention and sense of awe and disbelief. When the sensation-mongering public tire of the tirade, the protestors are forgotten. Very often, they commit suicide, take to alcohol or drugs for a life worse than death or simply become misfits in a world which is no better off in virtuous ways than the 'wicked' filmdom, that Bollywood has come to be known as.

Then comes along a Kangana Ranaut, all geared up to fight her own war on nepotism, favoritism, ganging up against outsiders...

Bollywood is in for interesting times ahead.


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