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The 'K' Ring Circus

Friday, March 10, 2017
By Deepa Gahlot

Actress Kangana Ranaut and director Karan Johar's war of words is entertaining people more than many recent films. On Karan’s TV show Kangana accused him of nepotism. She said, “In my biopic if it is ever made, you will play this stereotypical Bollywood biggie who is very snooty and completely intolerant to outsiders and flag bearer of nepotism, the movie mafia. You will have a huge part to play in my biopic. I like the antagonist in you in my biopic.”

Karan told her to quit the industry if it was such a horrible place, and accused her of playing the “woman card and victim card”, at which Kangana lashed out again for trying to shame her.

The fact is, it’s not just the film industry, India runs on nepotism and that is evident in the political and business scenario. It is very much a part of our society, that if one person makes it big in any field, he or she opens doors for siblings, kids, relatives and even fellow villagers. In our country, it is accepted and understood that a child will take over the parent’s business. If the movies are considered a business then that principle obviously applies.

A producer once honestly said, "If I have to spend money discovering and grooming a new actor, why should I not launch my own son or a star's son? At least audiences will be curious about watching them." (It took film industry patriarchs many years to let their daughters come into the industry since they knew exactly how muddy the waters were.)

In Hollywood too, many film kids follow their parents into movies, but their stardom is not a given; they have to audition like any other. The media may take a little more interest if the actor is a major star’s kid, but they don’t get more than a couple of opportunities. Here, sometimes, even a dud keeps getting films, while a talented ‘outsider’ will be made to struggle for years.

Kangana Ranaut is undoubtedly one of the gutsy, persistent and talented outsiders who managed to make it this far, and she still carries the chip of past rejections on her shoulder. It’s also tough for a man to get a decent break without industry connections. It is not imperative for big production houses like Karan Johar’s to hunt for talent from outside the industry pool, but, of course, it is easier and perhaps more cost effective. It is also true that pedigree does not always guarantee success, as so many industry kids have fallen by the wayside.

Both Kangana and Karan need to calm down and show some maturity. If she was once rejected and ridiculed by Karan, some other filmmakers did give her the opportunity to shine. And there is no need for Karan to get so defensive—nobody is forcing him to shun industry kids.

The exploitation, sexism, ageism and other biases women face in show business is another story altogether.

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