Clear and present outrage 

ByShruti Das

Jul 10, 2020

With the tragic demise of talented actor Sushant Singh Rajput, the debate on nepotism and power play in the Bollywood film industry gains momentum

Flashback to 2017:  It was on the infamous “coffee couch” where actor Kangana Ranaut made history. She called out Karan Johar (on his own show) for promoting ‘nepotism’. “Flag bearer of nepotism”, “movie mafia” – these are the words she used for Johar. And thereby began the debate on nepotism, and lobbying or monopoly of Bollywood bigwigs.

Cut to 2020: Tragic death of a young, talented actor – an outsider who managed to make his mark in Bollywood – Sushant Singh Rajput shocked the industry, as well as the entire nation. Many theories started doing the rounds. ‘He lost several films in the last few months;’ ‘He was contract bound with YRF (Yash Raj Films) and they exploited him;’ ‘He was bullied by the biggies of the industry’ — all these presumptions were being made.

Amid all this, the conversation surrounding nepotism and power play gained momentum – yet again. And this time several well-known actors who came up with their stories. Again, the first person who came out and criticised certain “groups” for trying to malign Sushant’s public image was none other than Ranaut herself.

A host of actors took this opportunity to finally address the elephant in the room. Abhay Deol shared how after the release of his film Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011), he and Farhan Akhtar were demoted by award functions as “supporting actors,” whereas Hrithik Roshan and Katrina Kaif were nominated as “actors in a leading role”.

“So by the industry’s own logic, this was a film about a man and a woman falling in love, with the man supported by his friends for whatever decisions he takes. There are many covert and overt ways in which people in the industry lobby against you. In this case it was shamelessly overt. I of course boycotted the awards but Farhan was ok with it. #familyfareawards,” tweeted Deol.

“Made fun of, been removed from films by heroes, their girlfriends, journo chamchas and their career-destroying fake media stories. Sometimes careers are destroyed. You struggle to keep afloat. Fight back. Some survive, some don’t,” Raveena Tandon tweeted, “When you speak the truth, you are branded a liar.”

Actor Manoj Bajpayee opened up as well, and shared on his social media account: “I have said it before that this industry has wasted talent; so much that in any other country those talents who have not been given their due here, would have been known as the best actors of the world.”

He further added, “I am not blaming anyone. I am a part of this industry. This is why I said in my past interviews that we have to look inward and rectify that. Rectify, or you will keep getting flak for it, cursed for it and will keep on losing respect of the common people.”

In a recent interview to a news website, Tapsee Pannu said, “it is difficult for an outsider to survive in Bollywood without a contact or a godfather.” Filmmaker Anubhav Sinha, who has seldom shied away from voicing his opinion on several issues, took to Twitter as well. “The Bollywood Privilege Club must sit down and think hard tonight. PS – Now don’t ask me to elaborate any further,” he tweeted after Rajput’s death.

Celina Jaitely, who left the film industry years back after a short stint, also came ahead and said that the issue is about lack of opportunities in the industry because whatever constructive roles and films are made, they are given to star kids or people with contacts.

Actor Shekhar Suman called this “gangism” and said, “What happens in Bollywood isn’t nepotism, it’s gangism. There’s a cartel, a syndicate, mafia…They control the industry and decide the fate of new talent. It’s a gang of vested interests so that their production houses grow.” He visited Sushant’s home in Patna and met his father. Suman also claimed that he is going to delve deep into the cause behind the young actor’s death to bring forth justice.

Similarly, many other actors went on to share their stories. In the past also, actors like Ayushmann Khurrana, Rajkummar Rao, Kriti Sanon, Tapsee Pannu, Siddhant Chaturvedi, among many others – had taken a stand against nepotism prevailing within the industry.

Netizens, especially after Sushant’s tragic death, started accusing and calling out Bollywood bigwigs like Karan Johar, Yash Raj Films, the Khans, star kids like Alia Bhatt, Sonakshi Sinha, Sonam Kapoor and so on. Social media also was flooding with #BoycottBollywood and many such hashtags. Some even shared lists of names – which included big production houses, stars and filmmakers – whose film should be boycotted by Indian audiences.

As a result, some of those who were under attack deactivated their Twitter account. Among them are actors Sonakshi Sinha and Aayush Sharma. Sonam Kapoor, shared a screenshot of the hate comments she has been receiving on social media.

Karan Johar, who has been receiving massive backlash after Sushant’s death, has not commented on this matter. He has been unfollowed by more than 5 lakh users on Instagram. He, on the other hand, unfollowed all his celebrity friends including Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan, among many. Now, Johar only follows eight Twitter accounts.

Vishal Kirti, Sushant Singh Rajput’s brother-in-law, recently launched Nepometer, a platform that will provide rating for movies and tv shows based on how nepotistic or independent the cast and crew is. “Fight Bollywood Nepotism with information. We will provide rating for movies based on how nepotistic or independent the movie crew is. If the Nepometer is high, then it’s time to boycott Bollywood nepotism,” his tweet mentioned.

Another recent incident added further fuel to this debate. OTT platform Disney+Hotstar announced  seven Bollywood films — late actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s Dil Bechara, Akshay Kumar’s Laxmmi Bomb, Alia Bhatt’s Sadak 2, Ajay Devgn’s Bhuj, Abhishek Bachchan’s The Big Bull, Vidyut Jammwal’s Khuda Hafiz and Kunal Khemu’s Lootcase will premiere on the ‘Multiplex’ tab of its platform. The online launch event had all the actors whose films are to release except Vidyut Jamwal and Kunal Khemu.

This, naturally, did not go well and both took to Twitter to express their angst. “7 films scheduled for release but only 5 are deemed worthy of representation. 2 films receive no invitation or intimation,” wrote Jammwal.

Izzat aur pyaar maanga nahi kamaya jaata hai. Koi na de toh usse hum chhote nahi hote. Bas maidaan khelne ke liye barabar de do chhalaang hum bhi oonchi laga sakte hai. (Respect and love are not asked for, they are earned. If someone doesn’t give it to us, it doesn’t make us any smaller. Just give us a fair field to play and we too can take a high leap),” tweeted Khemu.