Social media is abuzz with outrage over Vogue India’s latest cover girl – Suhana Khan. The fashion bible picked Shah Rukh and Gauri Khan’s 18-year-old daughter for their August issue and in the interview Suhana expresses her wish to be an actress some day. So, obviously, the nepotism debate is back on.
Bollywood discovered this N-word over a year ago, thanks to Kangana Ranaut and that infamous episode of Koffee With Karan. The word has cropped up in headlines, interviews and opinion pieces at least once every week since. And, it’s made no difference at all.
During the same period, former couple Saif Ali Khan and Amrita Singh’s daughter Sara Ali Khan has signed her second big Bollywood film – Rohit Shetty’s Simmba, opposite Ranveer Singh. Sridevi and Boney Kapoor’s daughter Janhvi Kapoor’s debut film Dhadak has grossed Rs 100 crore worldwide. Student of the Year 2, another Dharma Productions film, will mark the launch of Chunky Panday’s daughter Ananya and has Jackie Shroff’s son Tiger in the lead. Sunny Deol is directing and producing Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas to launch his son Karan. And, Salman Khan is producing Loveratri that launches his brother-in-law Aayush Sharma. Waiting in the wings are Shah Rukh’s son Aryan, Akshay Kumar’s son Aarav, Chunky’s nephew Ahaan, Pooja Bedi’s daughter Aalia Furniturewalla and Suniel Shetty’s son Ahan Shetty.
Regardless of the amount of (online) outrage about nepotism, Bollywood doesn’t care and neither does the audience. The industry is big enough for Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt, and also for Ranveer Singh and Jacqueline Fernandez. While ‘outsiders’ like Taapsee Pannu, Radhika Apte and Rajkummar Rao have found success, the likes of Athiya Shetty, Sayyeshaa (Dilip Kumar’s grand niece who was launched in Ajay Devgn’s Shivaay) and Jackky Bhagnani haven’t. Rajendra ‘Jubilee’ Kumar’s son Kumar Gaurav’s career eventually fizzled out in the 80s even though he debuted in the blockbuster Love Story.
All that matters is success. Magazines put someone on their cover because they want to grab eyeballs. Shah Rukh Khan’s daughter’s face will sell copies of Vogue, my neighbour’s equally talented, ambitious and pretty daughter won’t. The age of Instagram has turned kids with their familiar last names and photos of their blessedly symmetrical faces and vacations in sun-kissed locales, into minor celebrities. A star kid’s rock-solid gene pool coupled with the audience’s curiosity about Sridevi’s daughter or Shah Rukh’s son is reason enough for a producer to bet on them instead of my neighbour’s daughter.
Nepotism isn’t a phenomenon only in Bollywood. Angelina Jolie’s father is Oscar-winning actor Jon Voight. Her daughter Vivienne Jolie-Pitt made her big screen debut alongside her famous mother in Maleficent. Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith’s children’s Jaden and Willow have followed famous parents into showbiz. David Beckham’s 19-year-old son Brooklyn has released a book of photos titled What I See. And, Johnny Depp’s daughter Lily-Rose Depp models for Chanel because “Chanel has always been a part of my life,” she told British Vogue, adding, “There are pictures of me literally in diapers wearing her (her mother’s) Chanel pumps.”
If people truly have a problem with nepotism, don’t watch the next Tiger film, don’t listen to Miley Cyrus’ next album and don’t buy a magazine with Janhvi and Ishaan Khatter on the cover. We can’t wish away nepotism out of this industry, or any other one for that matter; if a large industrialist’s kids can inherit CEO positions without doing anything significant to earn it, how is this any different?
Bollywood’s grand tradition of nepotism is not going anywhere and this debate has run its course. It’s time to accept it and move on. Instead of trying to fix what is not broken, maybe we would focus our energies on issues of gender parity, credible award shows, sexual harassment or even on just making better films.