Nepotists or dynasts, the movies are better off without a sense of entitlement

Smugness comes easily to the supporters of nepotism, but it has infected the so-called outsiders too.

What a month it has been for the dynasts and outsiders of Bollywood. Ranbir Kapor’s latest movie Jagga Jasoos underperformed badly (Rs 50-odd crores against a rumoured Rs 130-crore budget). Second-generation filmmaker Karan Johar and actors Saif Ali Khan and Varun Dhawan had to backtrack from snarky comments made against Kangana Ranaut on the subject of nepotism at the recent Indian International Film Academy Awards in New York. Khan later held forth on the prevalence of nepotism beyond Bollywood, the importance of genetics and breeding thoroughbreds, and the validity of eugenics.

Neither eugenics nor genetics helped Jagga Jasoos, begging the difficult question – do audiences want to watch the fourth-generation Kapoor scion on the screen as much as the film industry that is in thrall to his family name?

Two other films featuring a mix of dynasts and outsiders were released on July 21 with different results. Munna Michael features Tiger Shroff, actor Jackie Shroff’s rubber-limbed son. Lipstick Under My Burkha has a few less obvious dynasts: director Alankrita Shrivastava is the daughter of producer Prakash Jha’s friend, while actors Ratna Pathak Shah and Konkona Sen Sharma descend from celebrity mothers (Dina Pathak and Aparna Sen, respectively). Sen Sharma is actually a third-generation film personality – her grandfather Chidananda Das Gupta was a renowned scholar and filmmaker. If we must complete the family tree, Das Gupta’s wife Supriya was the niece of eminent Bengali poet Jibananda Das.

Lipstick Under My Burkha won the week, totting up healthy returns and proving that a movie made with confidence and conviction and featuring an unusual theme and strong performances will work, whoever is involved.

The so-called outsiders didn’t do too well for themselves either. One of the outstanding members of this tribe who conquered the Hindi film industry without any connections had a rough weekend. Shah Rukh Khan’s ruffled romantic in the unfortunately named Jab Harry Met Sejal has its share of fans, but the road trip-themed movie is easily director Imtiaz Ali’s laziest effort. The film has another outsider, Anushka Sharma, who has been soaring ever since she made her debut with Khan in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi in 2008, but the underwhelming box office and trenchant reviews have added Jab Harry Met Sejal to the pile of the year’s also-rans.

Khan is now in the unthinkable and unenviable position of having to defend his stardom. Unlike the insiders, the descent of the media-savvy actor will be lonelier, with nobody to blame but himself.

Jab Harry Met Sejal.

Among the benefits of a nepotistic culture is that it gives failure a wider cushion to fall back on, and allows for the lessons of one generation to pass on to the other. The next-generation talents undoubtedly get a far longer rope to hang themselves than their no-name peers. In a country obsessed with social status and inherited achievement, past favours and IOUs always come handy.

One among numerous examples is Imran Khan, the nephew of Aamir Khan, himself the son of producer Tahir Husain and nephew of the 1970s hit machine Nasir Husain. Imran Khan was launched in a family production – Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na in 2008 – but his career ground to a halt after a few early successes. He perhaps got more chances than his peers, but the fame attached to his surname suffered the same fate as his 2009 dud Luck – it ran out.

Aamir Khan, on the other hand, recovered from a slump in the 2000s to emerge as a one-man studio, venerated for his box office smarts and acting abilities. Aamir Khan had some family history to draw on, perhaps, and had a long view of a notoriously fickle trade that the non-dynasts never will.

Old is gold

The comfort of dynasty extends beyond actors. The Hindi film industry is swarming with sons, daughters, nephews, nieces and the grandchildren of directors, producers, cinematographers, musicians, editors, distributors, singers and even publicists and journalists – proof of a feudal culture as well as evidence that a risk-laden business is not the warmest of places for rank outsiders.

Some of Hindi cinema’s family-friendly ways has to do with the way in which it emerged in the 1930s and ’40s. The early studio system in those decades notwithstanding, Hindi cinema was largely produced until the 1990s by enterprising individuals who steered small, closely-held companies through bad and good weather. Like the cinemas of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bengal, Karnataka and Kerala, Hindi cinema too has depended on and benefitted from these small units, which were operated by family members and faithful retainers, and which worked on the principle that since their financial risks were greater, the cinema would be more audience-friendly too.

Some of these companies are now among some of the most powerful names in the movie trade, and are the first ports of call for corporate studios. Nepotism is a relative term for the owners of these companies, who know that a favour to a son or a nephew will last only as long as the support of the box office.

Saif Ali Khan’s own professional ups and downs disprove his theories on eugenics and genetics. If Khan still has a career ahead, it is because he has been willing to reorient his career choices over the years rather than fall back on his putative throughbred status.

The Hindi film industry’s preference for its own has become more acute at a time when stars are marketed as relentlessly as commodities. Producers and publicists have borrowed tricks from advertising, such as innovative marketing and brand recall, to be noticed in a cluttered entertainment space. It’s easy – and lazy – to recruit actors with famous surnames rather than do the hard work of moulding a star out of nothing. It’s possible that some of these dynasts might actually have something going for them, but the reliance on allegedly good DNA can never ensure success if the movie isn’t worth the trouble.

On the flip side, outsiders don’t fade out in the dying light either. The Bollywood hustle ensures that non-dynasts quickly learn the tricks of the trade and inveigle themselves with stars to become insiders in their own right. Jab Harry Met Sejal’s mediocrity has nothing to do with family and everything to do with untrammeled smugness about the patience of audiences for poorly concocted material. Would the movie have worked if Ali had cast a second-generation star? It would have still reeked of staleness.

Perhaps it is just as bad being a nepotist as being an insider-outsider. Both involve an overweening sense of entitlement, which the movies are better off without.

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Ten awesome TV shows to get over your post-GoT blues

With those withdrawal symptoms kicking in, all you need is a good rebound show.

Hangovers tend to have a debilitating effect on various human faculties, but a timely cure can ease that hollow feeling generally felt in the pit of the stomach. The Game of Thrones Season 7 finale has left us with that similar empty feeling, worsened by an official statement on the 16-month-long wait to witness The Great War. That indeed is a long time away from our friends Dany, Jon, Queen C and even sweet, sweet Podrick. While nothing can quite replace the frosty thrill of Game of Thrones, here’s a list of awesome shows, several having won multiple Emmy awards, that are sure to vanquish those nasty withdrawal symptoms:

1. Billions

There is no better setting for high stakes white collar crime than the Big Apple. And featuring a suited-up Paul Giamatti going head-to-head with the rich and ruthless Damien Lewis in New York, what’s not to like? Only two seasons young, this ShowTime original series promises a wolf-of-wall-street style showcase of power, corruption and untold riches. Billions is a great high-octane drama option if you want to keep the momentum going post GoT.

Watch Billions Now

2. Westworld

What do you get when the makers of the Dark Knight Trilogy and the studio behind Game of Thrones collaborate to remake a Michael Crichton classic? Westworld brings together two worlds: an imagined future and the old American West, with cowboys, gun slingers - the works. This sci-fi series manages to hold on to a dark secret by wrapping it with the excitement and adventure of the wild west. Once the plot is unwrapped, the secret reveals itself as a genius interpretation of human nature and what it means to be human. Regardless of what headspace you’re in, this Emmy-nominated series will absorb you in its expansive and futuristic world. If you don’t find all of the above compelling enough, you may want to watch Westworld simply because George RR Martin himself recommends it! Westworld will return for season 2 in the spring of 2018.

Watch Westworld Now

3. Big Little Lies

It’s a distinct possibility that your first impressions of this show, whether you form those from the trailer or opening sequence, will make you think this is just another sun-kissed and glossy Californian drama. Until, the dark theme of BLL descends like an eerie mist, that is. With the serious acting chops of Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman as leads, this murder mystery is one of a kind. Adapted from author Liane Moriarty’s book, this female-led show has received accolades for shattering the one-dimensional portrayal of women on TV. Despite the stellar star cast, this Emmy-nominated show wasn’t easy to make. You should watch Big Little Lies if only for Reese Witherspoon’s long struggle to get it off the ground.

Watch Big Little Lies Now

4. The Night of

The Night Of is one of the few crime dramas featuring South Asians without resorting to tired stereotypes. It’s the kind of show that will keep you in its grip with its mysterious plotline, have you rooting for its characters and leave you devastated and furious. While the narrative revolves around a murder and the mystery that surrounds it, its undertones raises questions on racial, class and courtroom politics. If you’re a fan of True Detective or Law & Order and are looking for something serious and thoughtful, look no further than this series of critical acclaim.

Watch The Night Of Now

5. American Horror Story

As the name suggests, AHS is a horror anthology for those who can stomach some gore and more. In its 6 seasons, the show has covered a wide range of horror settings like a murder house, freak shows, asylums etc. and the latest season is set to explore cults. Fans of Sarah Paulson and Jessica Lange are in for a treat, as are Lady Gaga’s fans. If you pride yourself on not being weak of the heart, give American Horror Story a try.

Watch American Horror Story Now

6. Empire

At its heart, Empire is a simple show about a family business. It just so happens that this family business is a bit different from the sort you are probably accustomed to, because this business entails running a record label, managing artistes and when push comes to shove, dealing with rivals in a permanent sort of manner. Empire treads some unique ground as a fairly violent show that also happens to be a musical. Lead actors Taraji P Henson and Terrence Howard certainly make it worth your while to visit this universe, but it’s the constantly evolving interpersonal relations and bevy of cameo appearances that’ll make you stay. If you’re a fan of hip hop, you’ll enjoy a peek into the world that makes it happen. Hey, even if you aren’t one, you might just grow fond of rap and hip hop.

Watch Empire Now

7. Modern Family

When everything else fails, it’s comforting to know that the family will always be there to lift your spirits and keep you chuckling. And by the family we mean the Dunphys, Pritchetts and Tuckers, obviously. Modern Family portrays the hues of familial bonds with an honesty that most family shows would gloss over. Eight seasons in, the show’s characters like Gloria and Phil Dunphy have taken on legendary proportions in their fans’ minds as they navigate their relationships with relentless bumbling humour. If you’re tired of irritating one-liners or shows that try too hard, a Modern Family marathon is in order. This multiple-Emmy-winning sitcom is worth revisiting, especially since the brand new season 9 premiers on 28th September 2017.

Watch Modern Family Now

8. The Deuce

Headlined by James Franco and Maggi Gyllenhaal, The Deuce is not just about the dazzle of the 1970s, with the hippest New York crowd dancing to disco in gloriously flamboyant outfits. What it IS about is the city’s nooks and crannies that contain its underbelly thriving on a drug epidemic. The series portrays the harsh reality of New York city in the 70s following the legalisation of the porn industry intertwined with the turbulence caused by mob violence. You’ll be hooked if you are a fan of The Wire and American Hustle, but keep in mind it’s grimmer and grittier. The Deuce offers a turbulent ride which will leave you wanting more.

Watch The Deuce Now

9. Dexter

In case you’re feeling vengeful, you can always get the spite out of your system vicariously by watching Dexter, our favourite serial killer. This vigilante killer doesn’t hide behind a mask or a costume, but sneaks around like a criminal, targeting the bad guys that have slipped through the justice system. From its premier in 2006 to its series finale in 2013, the Emmy-nominated Michael C Hall, as Dexter, has kept fans in awe of the scientific precision in which he conducts his kills. For those who haven’t seen the show, the opening credits give an accurate glimpse of how captivating the next 45 minutes will be. If it’s been a while since you watched in awe as the opening credits rolled, maybe you should revisit the world’s most loved psychopath for nostalgia’s sake.

Available starting October

10. Rome

If you’re still craving an epic drama with extensive settings and a grandiose plot and sub-plots, Rome, co-produced by HBO and BBC, is where your search stops. Rome is a historical drama that takes you through an overwhelming journey of Ancient Rome’s transition from a republic to an empire. And when it comes to tastes, this series provides the similar full-bodied flavour that you’ve grown to love about Game of Thrones. There’s a lot to take away for those who grew up quoting Julius Caesar, and for those looking for a realistic depiction of the legendary gladiators. If you’re a history buff, give this Emmy-winning show a try.

Watch Rome Now

For your next obsession, Hotstar Premium has you covered with its wide collection of the most watched shows in the world. Apart from the ones we’ve recommended, Indian viewers can now easily watch other universally loved shows such as Silicon Valley and Prison Break, and movies including all titles from the Marvel and Disney universe. So take control of your life again post the Game of Thrones gloom and sign up for the Hotstar Premium membership here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.