By Siddharth Srivastava
NEW DELHI: Beyond political dynasties, family connections are keys to success in Bollywood too. I have been counting the recent crop of India heroes and heroines being talked about with strong familial links to India’s film industry. The list is quite long – Alia Bhat, Ranbir Kapoor, Varun Dhawan, Sonakshi Sinha, Sonam Kapoor, Arjun Kapoor, Neil Mukesh and more.
There are many more waiting in the sidelines to make a mark, armed with support of their doting parents, uncles and aunts. In the last couple of weeks itself, I have read interviews of Sonakshi, Alia and Sonam alongside their dads.
Taking a cue perhaps, there was also an interview of Deepika Padukone with her dad Prakash Padukone who everybody knows was India’s first world class badminton player. The next filmi son to be launched is Tiger Shroff, with papa Jackie Shroff keeping a close tab. Some Bollywood A-listers, who are obviously Jackie’s friends, have declared junior Shroff has the makings of a star. Some have said he is already a star that the world will find out about soon.
Similar proclamations were made for other star sons and daughters earlier, many of whom have gone on to do well for themselves while others have faded away. Some present day superstars, top film directors have also found their first footholds in Bollywood courtesy their kin. They have made the best of initial breaks and platforms to sustain careers, which is not easy at all.
The names include Salman Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Sanjay Dutt, Kareena Kapoor, Emraan Hashmi, Kajol, Rani Mukherjee, Ajay Devgn, Karan Johar, Aditya Chopra among others. Going back further, greats of Hindi cinema such as Shashi Kapoor or Shammi Kapoor too boasted a rich Bollywood lineage.
Like films, multiple generations have found their calling in politics such as Gandhi-Nehru, Gowda, Scindia, Pilot, Pawar, Abdullah, Yadav (Lalu and Mulayam of the boys make mistakes like raping women, ill-fame), Karunanidhi, Patnaik, Badal and many more.
Unfortunately, unlike in films, many of our political leaders have misused their exalted positions to build personal business or real estate empires by short changing the people of the country, flouting rules and playing around with tax payers money.
Contacts, networks, advise, exposure, training obviously goes some way in creating Bollywood or political success stories. Yet, both films and politics there are those who have made it via perseverance, hard work, talent and luck.
Admittedly, the path is more difficult, crowded and competitive. The success stories include Shahrukh Khan, Katrina Kaif, Aishwarya Rai, Vidya Balan, Anushka Sharma, Sushmita Sen and lately “Queen” Kangana Ranaut and even “Baby Doll” Sunny Leone, an ideal candidate for Ekta Kapoor genre of sexed up movies. Earlier stalwart’s who made it due to mix of luck, hard work and talent, include Dev Anand, Rajesh Khanna, Dharamendra etc.
One may or may not be a supporter of Narendra Modi, Arvind Kejriwal, Mayawati, Manmohan Singh, Pranab Mukherjee, P Chidambaram or Mamata Banerjee who occupy top political space in the country. There is no doubt these leaders have risen from the ranks due to many years of grass root work or professional achievement. Some are born luckier than others just as some are rich or poor. I have no problems with either model of progress, inherited or self made, whether in business, politics, sport or films. Ultimately it is the audience that judges a movie or the people who vote in a democracy to accept or reject a politician, dynast or self made.
However, I do have issues with sycophants, crony capitalists, criminals, practitioners of identity politics and opportunists in our midst. Such individuals, as we know, have proliferated in Indian politics to the detriment of our country. In this context, it is important for the system to offer fair and equitable opportunities to weed out the unwanted.
Good sound education, for example, is one crucial tool for progress. Cricket, though, is a different ball game. I am unable to spot any member of the cricket team, present or recent past, who made it due to family – not Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Rahul Dravid or Sachin Tendulkar.
But, then the real sharks of Indian cricket are not found amongst the players who have to perform or perish. The big fight is to control cash-rich BCCI. Industrialists, bureaucrats, politicians, film stars and lately fixers and bookies constantly slug it out to access the money and perks of cash cow BCCI. Here, the game is not played fairly at all.
(A former journalist with the Times of India in Delhi, Siddharth Srivastava is the author of best-selling reality fiction novel An Offbeat Story)