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A new Netflix production reignites the cronyism debate in India

The argument that Bollywood star kids have it easy is back in Indian media, but some prominent film critics see the problem very differently.

India’s film industry faces renewed criticism for allowing nepotism as upcoming teenage romance film The Archies released its promo, which stars the children of some of Bollywood’s top stars.

Debate is heated in India, with critics arguing that Bollywood’s culture of nepotism continues to provide career launch pads for the children of some of Bollywood’s biggest names.

The Archies is a desi-musical adaptation of the famous comic of the same name, which revolves around the lives of a group of white teenagers.

The film, set for release on Netflix next year, is directed by Zoya Akhtar, an acclaimed director who has previously dazzled audiences with blockbuster films manhole boy.

The cast includes Suhana Khan, Agastya Nanda and Khushi Kapoor in leading roles – all three making their debuts alongside other young actors.

Khan is the daughter of Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan. Nanda’s grandfather is another big screen star, Amitabh Bachchan. Both Shah Rukh and Bachchan are living legends who have dozens of blockbusters to their names including Scholay and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. Each has over 40 million Twitter followers and millions of fans across India, Pakistan and other parts of the world.

Kapoor is the daughter of the late actress Sridevi, who ruled the screens in the 1980s and 1990s.

“It should be called ‘The Multiverse of Nepotism,'” someone tweeted Shortly after Akhtar shared a teaser of The Archies.

Many people on social media called the cast “nepotism children” and argued that the film was being used to introduce blue-eyed actors while thousands of artists with years of theater experience are still waiting to get a break in Bollywood.

Directors cast big names because they guarantee good theater turnout, says Amborish Roychoudhury, author of In a Cult of Their Own, a book about famous Bollywood films.

“I was in my early 20s when the film Refugee was released. Me, my friends and so many others flocked to see it because Abhishek Bachchan debuted and we all said ‘Oh that’s Amitabh Bachchan’s son,'” he says TRT world.

“This is how the audience perceives Star-Kids. People just want to see them on screen.”

Rishi Kapoor (L), scion of Bollywood's most famous Kapoor family, owns Amitabh Bachchan whose grandson has a role in The Archies.

Rishi Kapoor (L), scion of Bollywood’s most famous Kapoor family, owns Amitabh Bachchan whose grandson has a role in The Archies. (AP archive)

Bollywood releases hundreds of films each year, launching the careers of dozens of artists from diverse backgrounds.

But India’s cinema industry – the largest in the world in terms of the content it produces – remains dominated by artists and directors whose surnames inspire reverence even before their relatives enter the audition room.

From Salman Khan, Aamir Khan and Sanjay Dutt to Ranbir Kapoor, Alia Bhatt and Tiger Shroff, the big buck actors come from privileged backgrounds and each have a father or mother who is part of the Bollywood ecosystem.

“Not only actors and directors, but also writers, composers, playback singers, stunt directors, art directors, and several other roles have helped their children break into the industry with varying degrees of success,” says Diptakirti Chaudhuri, who writes a book series on Bollywood wrote. told TRT world.

A major reason why directors prefer so-called “star children” is that they ensure the financial viability of the project.

An Indian film can cost tens of millions of dollars and not all make the top list at the box office.

“Making a film is a very risky and expensive endeavor,” says Rishi Majumder, a journalist covering Indian cinema.

“Sometimes it just makes good business sense to have star kids because it gives the film a lot more publicity. In the case of The Archies, it could be negative publicity, but at least everyone is talking about it.”

Much of the film’s budget will be spent on marketing and publicity, he says.

“If a star kid is in a movie, so much marketing is done because all the papers are going to write about it.”

Experts also say it’s not fair to accuse artists of nepotism because they aren’t elected politicians or government officials who are paid from the treasury.

“Movie personalities who use their personal wealth or goodwill to advance their children’s careers are a private business. It’s just a different kind of inheritance,” says Chaudhuri.

This isn’t the first time hiring practices in Bollywood have come under scrutiny. A few years ago there was an uproar when actress Kangana Ranaut accused star director Karan Johar of demonstrating favoritism.

Even Zoya Akhtar, the director of The Archies, is the daughter of Javed Akhtar, a leading poet and screenwriter who has written several best-selling songs.

But one incident that really shook fans was the suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput, a young self-made actor, in 2020. Rajput was reportedly suffering from depression because he didn’t get the roles he deserved.

Before his death, Rajput had asked his fans on Instagram to watch his films, otherwise he would be “kicked out of Bollywood”.

“I don’t have a godfather,” he said in one of his recent social media posts.

After the suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput, many people questioned whether Bollywood gives equal opportunities to the poor.

After the suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput, many people questioned whether Bollywood gives equal opportunities to the poor. (AP)

The gatekeepers of the Bollywood establishment may have hampered the careers of outsiders. But it’s the audience that determines who dominates the cinema screens.

For example, Rajput’s film Sonchiriya, which explored the theme of Robin Hood, received favorable reviews from film critics but did not fare well at the box office.

“It was a rich and powerful film, but many of us haven’t even heard of it. Nobody saw it,” says Roy Choudhury.

On the other hand, he adds, a Bollywood action film that was trivial and fluffy did well simply because it starred Tiger Shroff, the son of another famous Indian actor.

And not only in Indian cinema does kinship open the door for actors. Some Hollywood stars have also struggled to shrug off accusations that their accomplishments stem from their family name.

Last year, There’s Something About Mary star Ben Stiller got caught up in a brief Twitter debate about nepotism. Stiller’s father, Jerry, was a famous actor.

Stiller maintained that entertainment is tough business and even those with access struggle in their own way to secure their place. “Showbiz, as we all know, is pretty rough and ultimately a meritocracy,” he said called.

Other prominent Hollywood stars with family connections include Michael Douglas and Nicholas Cage.

Michael’s father, Kirk Douglas, was a leading star in the 1950s. Cage was related to Francis Ford Coppola, the director of The Godfather and winner of multiple Oscars.

But Roy Choudhury says viewers don’t really care about Hollywood star relationships.

“In Hollywood, it doesn’t become part of the narrative. We consider the performances as art. We don’t judge Bollywood the same way.”

While it’s true that certain film dynasties have dominated Indian cinema for decades, relationships don’t always guarantee success.

“For almost every successful star child, there is a sibling who didn’t make it,” says Diptakirti Chaudhuri.

“Rishi Kapoor’s brother Rajiv, Aamir Khan’s brother Faisal, Salman Khan’s brothers Arbaaz and Sohail, Sunny Deol’s brother Bobby, Anil Kapoor’s brother Sanjay didn’t have much success.”

In the last two decades, the trend has changed and Bollywood is giving industry outsiders more opportunities to rise to the top.

Some of the highest-paid actresses in recent years — including Katrina Kaif, Priyanka Chopra, and Vidya Balan — have no family connections but do get gigs in big-budget films.

So far in 2022, the three highest-grossing films have “a non-star cast (The Kashmir Files), a star child (Alia Bhatt in Gangubai Kathiawadi) and an outsider married into a film family (Akshay Kumar in Bachchan Pandey). ‘ says Chaudhuri.

“On screen, audiences reward performance, but I’m sure we’re missing out on a lot of talented people who never get their foot in the door.”

Source: TRT World

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