Bollywood woke up to a great shock on 14th June when the news of Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide flashed across the Television screens. With it, once again, the age old debate of Nepotism has become the most favoured topic on social media. Since then, Bollywood is portrayed by some as the hotbed of Nepotism; as if nepotism only proliferates in Bollywood. The world is rich with examples of nepotism specially in the field of politics, sports, businesses and even in the Service sector. Have people ever talked about nepotism in these fields for a prolonged period? These allegations always surface around election time, only to wane away as soon as the elections are over. People do not take these things seriously. Atleast in the age of social media, one can expect some healthy discussions on the topic. But we do not see it.
Let us talk about the sad demise of Sushant Singh. Was it because of nepotism that this young bright actor took this extreme step? Social media exhibits an unbridled reaction to his death linking it to nepotism without proof. For majority of people it is only a juicy gossip mostly to be forgotten within a few days till some other issue catches their attention. Actually all these half baked theories make the big word ‘nepotism’ lose its impact. In reality, there seems to be no definite connection between the death of Sushant Singh and Nepotism.
Let us analyse the world of cinema. Broadly speaking, cinema can be divided into two categories: Commercial Cinema, whose primary goal is to entertain the masses and collect a large booty, and, Parallel Cinema, meant for securing National Awards and International accolades. There is a little financial gain in the latter, but is helpful in establishing the credentials of the actors and director. There is no major tussle between these two branches of Cinema as both operate on different levels. Their ideology, their viewership and their focus is totally different.
The concept of nepotism does not work in the field of Parallel Cinema much. Rather it is not relevant since Parallel Cinema has no Stardom attached to it. It is content in catering to a few individuals and silently making a mark for itself for a specific group of connoisseurs. It does not demand much. Whereas, success in Commercial Cinema is hard to sustain. It is directly related to consumerism and responsible for a big employment industry. Commercialism attracts Stardom and vice versa. It is a big aspect of Stardom. Sometimes a single film or a single actor makes waves securing a stability for the actor and at other times, big names are washed away in the darkness of the night wiping even their names from public memory.
We have the names of two renowned families in Bollywood: the Kapoors and the Bacchhans. We Indians very well know these families who have catered to entertain people since decades. They have ruled over our hearts and minds. The Kapoor clan head, Prithviraj Kapoor was the first generation actor-producer of films in India. Tales of this legend are commonly told that he did not launch his sons, Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor under his big banner. They had a tough time in establishing their names in the industry. He made Raj Kapoor work in the production department and also as assistant to directors. Shammi and Shashi Kapoor were lucky enough to enter into the film industry directly as actors. Raj Kapoor, in turn, did not follow on his father’s footsteps. He did launch his sons, Randhir, Rishi and Rajiv. But it was their own talent that established them as actors in the long run. Randhir Kapoor and Rajiv Kapoor could not become as popular as Rishi, who had a knack of owning the entire screen with his presence. On the other hand, Shammi Kapoor did not launch his son, Aditya Kapoor for reasons of his own. And Shashi Kapoor had to accept the failure of his sons, Kunal and Karan, as they too could not make it big on the box office. His daughter, Sanjana, too, had to be content with only a negligible role in a film like Hero Hiralal.
If we consider the Genext of the Kapoor clan, both the daughters of Kapoor clan, Karishma and Kareena, entered into Bollywood against their will. It was not possible for the females of the Kapoor family to enter the film world till Raj Kapoor was alive. But after him, it was Babita who was instrumental in bringing her daughters into the fray. Rishi Kapoor kept his daughter, Riddhima, away from films and Ranbir was also made to work with Bhansali team for two years before becoming an actor.
It is an open secret that the superstar of Bollywood, Amitabh Bacchhan, had a string of disappointments in the form of not less than 13 flop films before Prakash Mehra’s Zanjeer, which was a turning point in his career. There was no nepotism working for him to make him what he is today. Whereas, Bacchhan Jr, was launched under the big banner of J P Dutta, in a film like Refugee. The introductory shot proclaims him to be the Messiah of film industry showing the promise of a long and a successful career. It was the biggest mistake to launch Abhishek on the lines of Amitabh Bacchhan. The hype that was created while he was launched, turned out to be bland. He still has not been successful to carry a film on his lone shoulders.
After considering the case of these two renowned families of Bollywood, we can safely conclude that one can get the desired break in the industry as an offshoot of nepotism, but it cannot sustain the actor for a long time in an industry which operates on the acceptance of the public. The actor has to have the desired talent, hard work, innovation and the will power to go on despite failure that ultimately makes him big at the box office. It depends upon the people’s will on every Friday night when the film is launched either to embrace the actor wholeheartedly or to throw him away into oblivion. Here, nepotism does not work. Stardom is a unique feature of commercialism. It is true that the twain can never be separated. But nepotism can not guarantee success and ensure a prolonged stardom for anyone. To link the death of Sushant Singh to nepotism after a series of successes attached to his name would be unfair and insulting. It is the sole doing of the drivers of social media. Had social media been there decades back when the great actor-director Gurudutt committed suicide, they would have blamed the Kapoor clan for his death and spread poisoned lies with nothing to verify it. This is the sad part of allegations and rumors. I leave you with this thought to ponder upon and form your own opinions.