As you must have heard since IIFA happened, Nepotism made a comeback. We have to thank Kangana Ranaut for that. She made it possible for everyone in Bollywood to talk about nepotism. The IIFA incident showed that star kids are truly privileged despite what they say about nepotism. The ones, who pretend to be down to earth and all that crap are the ones actually laughing at Kangana and her nepotism battle. Saif Ali Khan, Varun Dhawan and Karan Johar all made a joke on nepotism at IIFA and for some reason, Kangana’s name was mentioned. They all had fun on that stage and got in the moment. What they didn’t see coming was the backlash that people threw at them on Twitter. As usual, celebrities get scared about their reputations and the fact that their movies will suffer at the box office. Let’s not forget how journalists will keep asking them about the same incident for years. So Varun and Karan apologised. That was it. It ended there.
For some reason, Saif Ali Khan thought he should come out with his version and explanation of what happened: he wrote an open letter! Like you would think a middle aged man with a small baby and a pouting
daughter wife would have better things to do than to sit around and care about all this? And it’s not like this is the first time he’s been involved in a controversy, so why the need to speak out now? Also, why does he look like a grandpa holding his grandchild? We have once seen a blind grandmother holding her grandchild and she held him better than Saifu is holding his kid in this picture. Apparently, Saifu, Bebola and Taimur are all on their way to Switzerland for their vacation. The whole open letter backlash was too much for them to take, so they had to chill for a while.
Saif Ali Khan‘s Open Letter
To whomsoever it may concern,
Over the last few days, a lot has been said and written about the skit on the IIFA stage by Karan Johar, Varun Dhawan and yours truly. Let’s first see what happened here. “Nepotism Rocks was a joke on stage. It’s not something that I wrote or something I believe in. It was a joke on ourselves, between Varun (Dhawan), Karan (Johar) and me. It was not supposed to be a big deal, but I realised at some point, that it might have offended Kangana (Ranaut). I called her and apologised personally. That should be the end of it. Everybody needs to take a chill pill and back off.
However, in today’s world, apologies are made through Twitter or though some other social media platform. That, is basically apologising to your fans and the world in general, instead of apologising to the person concerned, because you don’t want to lose support. These are the times we live in. We wish each other happy birthday or offer condolences on social media. This is another reason I don’t want to be on any social media platform it feels fake. As far as the issue of saying something stupid on stage goes, I’m sure it’s not the first or the last time I’m going to say something stupid in an attempt to be funny. And I apologised to Kangana, so I don’t owe anybody else an explanation. The issue is over.
What I can’t seem to understand are some of the media reactions to this. While most people have been sensible, three reporters from the websites BollywoodLife, The Quint and Elle India, made a point of saying that all I did was use big words like eugenics and genetics. I think it’s extremely relevant in a conversation on nepotism, which means family favouritism, to talk about genetics and eugenics. Eugenics means well born and in a movie context, the genes (the DNA we’re born with, not the blue trousers we wear) of, let’s say Dharmendra’s son or Amitabh Bachchan‘s son or for that matter, Sharmila Tagore’s son come into play.
Because people are interested in what their children will be like and whether they will have the genes of their parents, in terms of their talent. If you need another example, then take race horses. We take a derby winner, mate him with the right mate and see if we can create another grand national winner. So, in that sense, this is the relationship between genetics and star kids. Hope that’s clear? As for the girl from Elle: I’m sorry you found words like eugenics in a conversation about nepotism misplaced. Perhaps if you got your head out of the hemline of the actress of the month and read a book, your vocabulary might improve.
The real flagbearer of nepotism, I’d say is the media. Look at how they treat Taimur, Shahid’s daughter Misha or even Shah Rukh’s son AbRam. They photograph them and hype them up to be the next big thing and the child has no choice. From a young age they have to deal with being celebrities, which they don’t really deserve, before they can even speak or talk, leave alone understand what is happening.
So, what is nepotism? I think nepotism means when you give somebody from your family a job that somebody else is better suited for. But, is that what happens in movies? Is that what people mean when they say that there is lot of nepotism in film industry? I think perhaps what Kangana means (and again I’m only assuming here) by nepotism is that people from Dharma or Yashraj are against people like her, who have come up the hard way without their support and that they only support their own people. Whether that is true or not I have no idea and it’s none of my business.
Nepotism is probably least prevalent in the movie industry and rampant in politics and business. Nepotism in dynastic politics is a well-known and unspoken truth. It’s the same in business. But nobody talks about that. Nepotism is Donald Trump putting his daughter in the White House rather than someone who is better qualified. Actors are the soft targets. So if you say star kids have an advantage, of course, they do. It’s an advantage created by the press because people are interested in them. There is a curiosity to see Taimur, Sara or Ibrahim. It’s supply and demand. People want it, media serves it. So we’re all part of the same vicious circle in that sense.
What’s at play here are three systems. Aristocracy, the rule of the best, which is what this industry is. Ruled by the best. Also, meritocracy. It is ruled by the people with the most talent and it’s also ultimately tempered by democracy, which is people power. Nepotism cannot work in the film industry because it is a democracy. The film industry is the most fair line of work. So yes, maybe I got a chance because of my mother, but that is more genetics than nepotism. It’s a genetic investment that the producer was making.
Compared to an outsider, maybe I had a better chance of meeting people, but Akshay is also an outsider. When people saw him, they gave him a chance rather than give me one because they are businessmen who can spot talent. And when a hero walks in, they know. They want to imagine me as a privileged prince and so, it’s nice to pull me down once in a while, I imagine. For every star kid, there are many guys and girls from total non-filmi backgrounds. Take Shah Rukh Khan, Sridevi, Madhuri Dixit-Nene, Jackie Shroff… it’s an endless list. Everyone knows this is the only industry where a spotboy can become a superstar. And to the idiot who gave the example of Arjun Kapoor for nepotism, I would just like to say that every film he has done, has worked. He should be an inspiration as an unlikely hero, not pulled down for nepotism. And that is the reason he is here. Not because of his father or uncle. It’s the audience that makes a film a hit, not the family members, otherwise all kinds of people would be ruling the roost.
Lastly, Johnny Depp once told Kate Moss and I have forgotten his advice and I’m never going to forget it again Never complain and never explain. That’s good advice, I think.
Saif is rambling on like your father does when he’s giving you a lecture about something. You tend to go off to your own thoughts and when you come back to what your dad is saying, he’s talking about how his pet goat died when he was a kid and you realise, “How in the world did it get to this?” You are afraid to ask because then you are going to get another lecture. That’s what it feels like reading Saifu’s thesis on Nepotism. In his own words, Saifu said “And I apologised to Kangana, so I don’t owe anybody else an explanation. The issue is over.” So why in the world did he write this letter? Why invite trouble? We all know how Kangana takes everything related to nepotism personally and was bound to write her own version of things. He thought she won’t take him on because he mentioned her name in the letter? No, he ended up walking right into her trap! This is what Kangana lives for. Ever since she started doing it and she enjoyed all the accolades and applause that the media has bestowed upon her. Her dedication to pen open letters is just astounding. We think if she had put the same focus and dedication while she was in school, she would have managed to get herself a PHD. Why waste her time in Bollywood? She could have been a damn good lawyer fighing for women’s rights! Think about it.
Saif’s open letter on the meaning of nepotism was what started the countdown to Kangana’s open letter on nepotism.
Kangana Ranaut’s Open Letter
All the debate and exchange of thoughts on nepotism is exasperating but healthy. While I enjoyed some of the perspectives on this subject, I did find a few disturbing ones. This morning, I woke up to one such open letter (circulating online), written by Saif Ali Khan.
The last time I was deeply pained and upset about this issue was when Mr Karan Johar wrote a blog on it, and even once declared in an interview that there are many criteria for excelling in the film business. Talent is not one of them.
I don’t know if he was being misinformed, or simply naïve, but to discredit the likes of Mr Dilip Kumar, Mr K Asif, Mr Bimal Roy, Mr Satyajit Ray, Mr Guru Dutt, and many more, whose talent and exceptional abilities have formed the spine of our contemporary film business, is absolutely bizarre.
Even in today’s times, there are plenty of examples where it has repeatedly been proven that beyond the superficiality of branded clothes, polished accents, and a sanitised upbringing, exists grit, genuine hard-work, diligence, eagerness to learn, and the gigantic power of the human spirit. Many examples, all over the world, in every field, are a testimony to that. My dear friend Saif has written a letter on this topic and I would like to share my perspective. My request is that people must not misconstrue this and pit us against each other.
This is just a healthy exchange of ideas and not a clash between individuals.
Saif, in your letter you mentioned that, “I apologised to Kangana, and I don’t owe anyone any explanation, and this issue is over.” But this is not my issue alone. Nepotism is a practice where people tend to act upon temperamental human emotions, rather than intellectual tendencies. Businesses that are run by human emotions and not by great value-systems, might gain superficial profits. However, they cannot be truly productive and tap into the true potential of a nation of more than 1.3 billion people.
Nepotism, on many levels, fails the test of objectivity and rationale. I have acquired these values from the ones who have found great success and discovered a higher truth, much before me. These values are in the public domain, and no one has a copyright on them.
Greats like Vivekananda, Einstein and Shakespeare didn’t belong to a select few. They belonged to collective humanity. Their work has shaped our future, and our work will shape the future of the coming generations.
Today, I can afford to have the willpower to stand for these values, but tomorrow, I might fail, and help my own children realise their dreams of stardom. In that case, I believe that I would have failed as an individual. But the values will never fail. They will continue to stand tall and strong, long after we are gone.
So, we owe an explanation to everyone who either owns or wants to own these values. Like I said, we are the ones who will shape the future of the coming generations.
In another part of your letter, you talked about the relationship between genetics and star kids, where you emphasised on nepotism being an investment on tried and tested genes. I have spent a significant part of my life studying genetics. But, I fail to understand how you can compare genetically hybrid racehorses to artistes!
Are you implying that artistic skills, hard-work, experience, concentration spans, enthusiasm, eagerness, discipline and love, can be inherited through family genes? If your point was true, I would be a farmer back home. I wonder which gene from my gene-pool gave me the keenness to observe my environment, and the dedication to interpret and pursue my interests.
You also spoke of eugenics — which means controlled breeding of the human race. So far, I believe that the human race hasn’t found the DNA that can pass on greatness and excellence. If it had, we would’ve loved to repeat the greatness of Einstein, Da Vinci, Shakespeare, Vivekananda, Stephen Hawking, Terence Tao, Daniel Day-Lewis, or Gerhard Richter.
You also said that the media is to be blamed, since it is the real flag-bearer of nepotism. That makes it sound like a crime, which is far from the truth. Nepotism is merely a weakness of the human nature; it takes a great deal of willpower and strength to rise above our intrinsic nature — sometimes we excel, sometimes we don’t. No one is putting a gun to anyone’s head to hire the talent they don’t believe in. So, there is no need to get defensive about one’s choices.
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 off beat — 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.
You are absolutely right — there is a lot of excitement and admiration for the lives of the rich and famous. But at the same time, our creative industry gets this love from our countrymen, because we are like a mirror to them — whether it’s Langda Tyagi from Omkara or Rani from Queen, we are loved for the extraordinary portrayal of the ordinary.
So, should we make peace with nepotism? The ones who think it works for them can make peace with it. In my opinion, that is an extremely pessimistic attitude for a Third World country, where many people don’t have access to food, shelter, clothing, and education. The world is not an ideal place, and it might never be. That is why we have the industry of arts. In a way, we are the flag-bearers of hope.
You know during times like these, we can’t help but think about Vidya Balan and how she has conducted herself throughout her career. You all know Vidya and her struggle to overcome what Bollywood people thought of her. Heck, Shah Rukh Khan and Saif Ali Khan made fun of her at an awards show and how did she respond to them? By churning out hits after hits and making them stand up to notice her and her talent. Yes, she’s going through a bad phase now but from the beginning to now, through her successes and failures, Vidya has been the same person. We don’t know why we are thinking of her in this situation, but she truly hsa been a class act.