While the debate on nepotism in the film industry, especially Bollywood, has been growing bigger with celebrities taking sides and airing their opinions publically, national-award winner and outspoken veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah has surprised everyone with his views.
According to news reports, Shah, whose sons Imaad and Vivaan are also actors, says it is only natural that actor parents support their kids, and that singling out people from the entertainment industry over nepotism is not justified.
He also went on to say that that people in other industries do it (nepotism) as well and one doesn’t see anyone losing sleep over it when businessmen put their children in charge of their business or when politicians help their kids enter politics.
The comments trivialising nepotism from an (arguably) self-made and famously outspoken man of his stature, comes as a shock.
The theatre and film actor had joined the National School of Drama and studied at the Film and Television Institute of India despite pressure from his father (who is not from the film industry) to not pursue the craft. He started his film career with movies of Shyam Benegal, Saeed Mirza and Sai Paranjpai - eventually becoming the poster boy of the parallel cinema movement in the 1970s.
The recent debate on nepotism was sparked when actress Kangana Ranaut accused filmmaker Karan Johar of working with star kids and encouraging nepotism. She had called him the ‘flag bearer of nepotism’. The issue escalated after Karan Johar, Varun Dhawan and Saif Ali Khan targeted the actress over her comments on nepotism, performing a skit during the IIFA Awards (July 15, 2017) in New York.
The public did not take the gig lightly, and this prompted Karan Johar and Varun Dhawan to issue apologies. ‘Prince’ Saif Ali Khan, however, wrote a public letter defending nepotism, even going so far as to compare artistes following the ‘family profession’ with the race-horses being bred from the finest studs and mares.
Kangana, unfazed, wrote an open letter in response.
The ’Queen’ actress said that if it were left to the genes to choose an individual’s profession, she would have been a farmer. She criticised how Saif, by using words like eugenics and genetics in his letter, had justified nepotism and questioned how someone could compare hybrid racehorses to artistes.
Naseeruddin Shah’s comments brings Kangana Ranaut’s reply to Saif Ali Khan back to focus.
This excerpt from her reply sums it up all:
“In fact, the subtext of all my talk on this subject has been to encourage outsiders to take the path less travelled.
Bullying, jealousy, nepotism and territorial human tendencies are all part of the entertainment industry, much like any other. If you don’t find acceptance in the mainstream, go offbeat—there are so many ways of doing the same thing.
I think the privileged are the least to be blamed in this debate, since they are part of the system, which is set around chain reactions. Change can only be caused by those who want it. It is the prerogative of the dreamer who learns to take his or her due, and not ask for it.”
Another famously self-made and ‘outsider’ actor, Shah Rukh Khan had recently said that he didn’t have an opinion in the (nepotism) debate because he doesn’t ‘understand’ the discussions surrounding it.
“I don’t understand this (nepotism). How can I understand it? I am a Delhi boy, who went to Mumbai at the age of 25.
There everybody loved me and accepted me. So, I don’t understand this talk,” Shah Rukh had told IANS.