QUEEN’S ROAD: The idea of entitlement is not new to the Indian film industry. Nor is the hegemony fuelled by privileged stars and their coteries. So it took someone of Nawazuddin Siddqui’s talent, 15 years to land his first solo lead in Manjhi (though he played a pivotal part in Gangs of Wasseypur) but all it took Sooraj Pancholi to bag his big break was a godfather. And the life changing advice he got from him, "As long as you keep your jeans on your a... you will do fine.”
While Sooraj's "difficult times’’ post the death of Jiah Khan are being discussed in the publicity drive leading to Hero, his debut vehicle, Nawaz’s struggle is the stuff nightmares and impossible fairy tales are made of. He has done cameos without credit, and then roles that did not begin to tap his potential and then performance-based appearances in films like Talaash, Kahaani and The Lunchbox that changed our perception of him.
Today he is considered to be one of the finest actors in the industry and is taking up roles only he can do but a star father supposedly commented recently that he was too dark and ordinary to play a leading man. The same star father who was launched by his father in a tailor-made love story and then saw his own son being launched in a grand way by a big name.
In the meantime Salman Khan is overlooking every detail of Hero which will also launch Athiya, Suneil Shetty’s daughter. And Aamir Khan sat on the edit of Katti Batti to ensure that his nephew Imran’s come-back film does not fail to revive his career. Such privileges are not meant for everyone in the industry if you discount someone like Anurag Kashyap who saw a rough cut of Kangana Ranaut’s Queen and then sat on the edit to ensure that both the actor and the film sparkled to perfection.
But mostly, unbridled arrogance is displayed by the star infested industry while dealing with unvarnished talent of ‘outsiders’ unless an outsider becomes a Shahrukh Khan, Akshay Kumar or Amitabh Bachchan and then new centres of power are created within the system and the gravity shifts a little. But observe the nonchalance with which it treats the success of someone like Irrfan Khan who started as a bit player in the early nineties and is today one of India’s most valuable talent exports. His recent international release Jurassic World has grossed over $1 billion worldwide. With global hits like Life of Pi, Slumdog Millionaire, The Namesake and counting, he is way ahead of the short-sighted 100 crore clubs in Bollywood but he will never be treated with the slavish servility that is displayed by the industry while dealing with other Khans. For one, he is way too secure as an actor to play oneupman ship games and secondly, his body of work speaks for itself.
Like Anil Kapoor who rambunctiously claimed the right to draw attention on international red carpets post Slumdog....Irrfan stays detached from the frills of his success. Unlike Priyanka Chopra and Anil again, he never boasted about landing a key role in an American TV show when he appeared in In Treatment, in 2010.
How gene deep is a sense of entitlement and arrogance in the industry is visible in shows like Koffee With Karan where privileged babas and babies take pot shots at their rivals. So we heard Kajol responding to why she did not do realistic roles with, “I don’t look poor. I look rich.” And of course Sonam Kapoor who said that good looking actors are not taken seriously and bad looking actors are credited with talent because everyone feels sorry for them! She also said, that just because you look like you have come from a pind (village), it doesn’t mean you can act. And yet, in this brigade, there are party poopers like Kangna Ranaut, Nawaz, Richa Chadda and so many more actors hungry not just for product endorsements but great roles. And they are slowly but surely if not changing power equations, then redefining them.