By Vinod Mirani
Mumbai: Since the demise of young and promising actor, Sushant Singh Rajput, nepotism is one word that is much in currency. Does nepotism really exist in the film industry? And if it does, can it make or mar a career? Can nepotism lead a person to end his life?
Nepotism as described in dictionary is: the practice among those with power or influence of favouring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs.
Okay, so nepotism has been in existence all over the world but was so taken a given. Probably still is, even in the age of qualified management graduates. These, the qualified lot is used only as subordinates even when an enterprise grows too big, say, like a corporate business house.
In the film industry, nobody, no production house, no enterprise ever grows so big to need to outsource the management of business. The recent trend of the corporate houses entering film business on the strength of management wizards has not been very successful. It is still a one man show.
All over, it is always the next of kin who inherits a business and it is called as a family business.
So, why has the word nepotism suddenly become operative in relation to the film industry? And, do the accusations of nepotism bear so true to lead to the suicide of a young actor?
Favouring one over the other is a human nature with each with its own reason. Favouritism has been a way of life since birth, in family, with parents, with kin and at school as well as at the place of work. Nobody ends life because a mother or a father finds a favourite in another kin, and the same goes when it comes to a school teacher or the boss at work.
Not being a parents’ or teacher’s or a boss’ favourite has never ruined a person’s prospects, let alone lead to suicide!
The media in India, the electronic kind, decided to sit in judgement and decided that prevailing nepotism in the film industry was the cause of Sushant’s death. That he was driven to it. The channels ran a tirade on prime time TV debates. The panelists consisted of some film-related persons who had not been able to make a mark — mostly film industry rejects.
In a debate, both sides should be represented as in ones who are accused of nepotism as well as those who accuse them in keeping with the channel’s view. The funny thing about these panelists was that, each of them thought they had got into Rajput’s mind and come back. Not only that, they talked as if all of them had a first-hand experience of committing suicide!
Hindi film industry
Coming back to nepotism, the Hindi film industry has never been run by a single producer’s body, which would look after the sector’s interests. It has as many as four bodies representing the production sector. And we have just about half a dozen major production houses. As things stand now, these production houses have actors on their rosters. Like the oldtime studio system, their careers are managed by these production houses. In that case, it is obvious that these producers would promote only their in-house artistes.
Film producers are a selfish lot. They chase only successful stars who land a face value and, who, they think will assure guaranteed returns. The same producers who ran after Rajesh Khanna were soon chasing Amitabh Bachchan. That is the way it works.
The filmmakers seek the reigning stars. Yash Raj Films was launched with “Daag”, a film with the then superstar, Rajesh Khanna. Don’t know if that is why the company’s name includes the word Raj. “Daag” was a blockbuster but this was just around the time when Khanna’s career had started tapering. The choice shifted to Amitabh Bachchan, and later to Shah Rukh Khan. It was all about worshipping the rising sun.
Sajid Nadiadwala, one of the most successful makers, made films with Salman Khan and the combination worked wonders for both. A few years back, I asked Sajid how things were different, now that he was a big maker with many hits and enjoying a great rapport with Salman!
What he said, was sort of a statement on how things worked in the film industry. Sajid said, earlier I used to take a rickshaw to go to Salman’s house for dates and wait for four hours for him to meet me; now I go in my Bentley to meet and seek dates from him and wait for four hours.
Karan Johar, another big name in today’s scheme of things, swore by Shah Rukh Khan. One saw his pictures in papers like family with the Khan family kids. It looked like a big brotherhood and a lifelong bond of loyalty. After all, Shah Rukh was the reigning superstar and a deity who helped build the empire, miniscule though it may be in terms of real money outside of the film industry.
So, who was it who could have been a threat to the career of Sushant, enough for him to take that drastic step of ending his life?
Akshay Kumar is the reigning superstar of the day. Yash Raj made just one film with him at the beginning of his career, Karan Johar never made a film with him till recently and Sajid Nadiadwala, though Akshay’s schoolmate and a family friend, started working with Akshay only after working with Salman was no longer possible. Yet, Akshay has been around for 30 years now, Yash Raj or not, Karan Johar or not!
Sushant Singh Rajput
Sushant had been around for seven years with 11 films to his credit, which is not bad by any standards. He was on his way to the top. And, nepotism and favouritism notwithstanding, the makers would have come to him eventually.
Money did not seem to be a problem with Sushant considering he paid a few lakh in rent for his sea-facing apartment, equipped with all things dear to him including a professional telescope to gaze at the galaxy, his prime interest. Sushant had also recently made donations of Rs 1.25 crore each to the flood relief funds of Nagaland and Kerala. He was generous with his charity work despite his aspirations to own a house of his own. Besides, he did not seek publicity for his charity work.
There was no dearth of offers, even from reputed filmmakers, and Sushant was known to refuse many despite lucrative offers. Depression strikes to those who have been on the top say, like Manmohan Desai, Prakash Mehra and such who saw the real glory to finally sit at home alone. Rising stars can’t afford depression.
Nepotism is a much-abused word lately, and the media, with its limited vocabulary, loves to flash it — be it politics, sports or films.
(Vinod Mirani is a veteran film writer and box office analyst. The views expressed are personal)