Are we empowering New bullies to replace the Old Mafia of Bollywood?

 image credit to India.com

Very detailed blow-by-blow account by an aspiring “outsider”…unpacking the Nepotism debate & asking pointed questions to the people at Bollywood’s top echelons..

To start-off:

  • I really want justice for Sushant Singh Rajput.
  • As an outsider, I aspire for level playing field & equity in Bollywood & more streamlined channels based on meritocracy need to be opened for outsiders.
  • Hence I call for introspection for us as a society collectively (as Bollywood is also a part of society at large)

Let this high decibel call-out disrupt the existing power structures, and create a level-playing-field for equity, and yet not erect new fiefdoms. Let this churn lead to soul searching by one and all of us.

I think in the last few days, I have seen it all in Bollywood. From the utmost important cause of #CBIEnquiry4Sushant to cat-fights among leading actresses, to name-calling within many groups and persons for unfair treatment and deals. It really evoked all my psychological senses ranging from amusement to sadness to introspection.

Sushant Singh Rajput’s unfortunate demise has struck a chord, a tipping point reached for all of us to introspect our position of power & the privileges we have with it.  Though none of us knows exactly how and in what circumstances this death happened (murder or suicide). But snuffing out of a young life has let everyone wash the dirty linen of Bollywood in the public, as if it was on the brink of a burst.

The Nepotism debate spread like wildfire with the explosive & controversial interview of Kangana Ranaut with Arnab Goswami. What is amazing is the support that Kangana has received on social media, which was so noticeable that even other outsiders like Taapsee Pannu & Swara Bhaskar drew a lot of flak.

Are the issues raised by Kangana important?

Absolutely & vociferously, YES. We may find her ways eccentric but her questions are not trivial. Actually, in this noisy world, what catches attention & TRPs is not the sane or logical way of communication, but the loud, comic and nasty way.

The Bolly-Mire: The pertinent issues of Nepotism, favoritism for star kids in general, snatching away credits, cutting roles, replacing actors unprofessionally at the last moment, harsh blinds by film critics are not condone-able anymore. The vanity industry being vanity ridden, reeks of issues of casting couch, mental harassment, underworld money and promotion of anti-Hindu bias in subtle ways.

Every industry which has so much money and fame riding on it is bound to be deep into shit, right? But should this New India take it? 

Not at all. WE should raise our voice at every level. 

Kangana, I have not lived your journey but I really empathize with your initial struggles -coming to a new city & chasing your dreams on your own. Being made fun of for not knowing fluent English. Being tormented at every step. 

Only now, we as a country are going through this process of decolonization where we are now starting to take pride in our heritage and culture and hero-sagas. We are slowly realizing that English is just a language and not a measure of finesse.

I really pity all those who made fun of you (in real life or in Koffee with Karan) because of their colonized mind. We should excuse these people because they are also part of the same colonized society and are only gradually getting unshackled.

In the same breath, kudos to the kindness of the many people who helped you to reach where you are.

Power in Kangana’s message & branding of Kangana as a person made this message stick with the audience

Why is it that some messages catch up like wildfire and become the talk of the town.. ?

The message of Nepotism resonated so much across every socio-economic cross-section that it became the top trending news on Twitter for 2 days. Everyone had an opinion on it.

It is so easy to feel to be a part of this debate as we all must have faced Nepotism or favoritism against us somewhere in our lives. Hence, to channel our frustrations vicariously is too tempting to resist.

Moreover, in a David Vs Goliath fight, human desire has always been found rooting for David, as somebody fighting on their behalf with the biggies.

Kangana’s description of the situation has also been on similar lines, where she has shown herself fighting against the rest of the crowd (although she may have many personal biases). This clear positioning & binaries of black and white maintains the cognitive economy of the information-consumer, and is hence easy to relate with.

The market is for righteousness & not for nuance right now as 1 word ‘Nepotism’  becomes easily digestible. Lines are clearly drawn. Lone-warrior taking on Bollywood Mafia & “Chaploos” outsiders (Kangana’s words).

However, the Ultimate casualty here is Nuance. 

Anybody who is following Bollywood can notice palpably the evolution of Kangana from a beef-eater and a drug-addict character artist (in Gangster & Fashion) to a cow-worshiper ‘Jhansi ki Rani’ image.

The personal brand of Kangana has also evolved and has played a very important role in the virality of her message. Since she has related herself with the causes of nationalism and Justice for Sushant, she got unflinching support from the people despite her own hypocrisies in pulling down people when she had the power to call shots.

Last decade has also been the time of transition from dynasty-ruled India to aspirational-India with Modi at the helm.

The empowerment of crores of voices through social media & access to online information allowed the common citizen to put his/her views in the universe. 

It also coincided with the time of pushback from Hindi-speaking Bharat to the elite English-conscious crowd and resurgence of nationalism. “Hawa hi badal gayi deshki.”

However, the point of modern propaganda is not only to misinform and push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth. – Gary Kasprov

We should ask ourselves that in this fight to bring down old power structures, are we creating a new monster?

Incidents showing Kangana’s own hypocrisy during this journey 

  1. Many videos of Kangana floated around in which her own stand on Nepotism has evolved. Fair enough ! With more experience and knowledge, our views change.
  2. Kangana calling other newcomers chota-mota actors  [Interview in Arnab’s Court Martial Republic Bharat].
  3. Kangana was accused of hijacking the Manikarnika project by “outsider” Director Krish & reducing the screen-time of her co-stars (Sonu Sood, Mishti Chakraborty) to make it solely about herself.
  4. If Karan Johar’s promotion of star kids & Salman Khan’s favoritism make me feel bad, is it acceptable for me as an outsider to see Kangana become a new snob and outsider-bully?
  5. In Kangana & Hrithik spat, Hrithik gave a detailed interviews to Arnab Goswami and to Bhupender Choubey:
  6. Not a single picture of the 7-year-old intense affair. The one morphed picture that was posted by Rangoli was also of a party in which Suzanne was there.
  7. Lie of fake Paris engagement perpetrated by one of Kangana’s close friends. Upon investigation it was revealed that Hrithik was not even out of India during that period.

I am not taking sides. What I am saying is we refuse to even give equal weightage to a guy’s version. 

Just because Hrithik is born in a filmi-family & maintained a dignified conduct during that time, are we supposed to pay less heed to his version?

Just because Kangana is a woman and kept on repeating the same stuff on multiple forums and has come from a non-filmi family, are we supposed to believe everything she says?

Hardly anyone except Farhan Akhtar came out in support for Hrithik Roshan.

  • Though she considers herself the epitome of feminism, she calls Taapsee & Swara B-grade, chaploos & chaatukaar, Alia “chillar”, use of Tum-tadaka for one and all (Karan Johar), degrading Gully Boy (which is also directed by a woman Director Zoya Akhtar) on National Prime TV

Raising issues is of utmost importance, but are we normalizing this new uncivil way?

The point made by Kangana’s critics is that since Kangana is doing Prasoon Joshi’s and government’s chaploosi&chaatukarita, she got Manikarnika& Judgemental Hai Kya screened in the RashtrapatiBhawan.

  • Once made fun of for her English, now Kangana herself has become the leading name in targeting other actors and humiliating them constantly using venomous, uncivilized & arrogant language (through Rangoli and Team Kangana Ranaut’s Twitter accounts).
  • If Kangana can openly say that she does not want to work with Khans, can the industry people say that they don’t want to work with Kangana? You have your own reasons, they may have their own.

Takeaways: 

  • Many correct issues have been raised & I give my thanks to Kangana for that!
  • Once the victim of mafia, she has turned into a new bully and is harassing a lot of people (whether outsiders or insiders)
  • In the name of feminism, she has used many slurs against her own contemporaries. “sasti copy, chillar, B-grade”
  • The framing of the debate as outsider/insider loses its steam as she has harassed insiders (Hritik) & many outsiders (during Manikarnika time)

Message to the Big Shots of Bollywood

To Dear Karan Johar –

I have grown up watching Kal Ho Na Ho. It metamorphosed my concept of love. Loving somebody eternally, that you seek happiness of the person even after you are no more. Thank you for that. 

As the junta that is supporting Kangana has accepted her follies and has given her the benefit of evolution (over 10 years), I would not dehumanize you just because you are a privileged person and own a very successful production house. 

As Kangana faced discrimination for her being an outsider, you must have faced discrimination because of homosexuality. Fact is, we all face our share of shit in life.

And since you are an articulate & influential producer and director, you WILL be targeted even now, rightly or wrongly.

Lemme talk to you directly. 

I do not understand the business. But still as a paying consumer of your content & an aware citizen of the New India, I have some thoughts to share:

It is absolutely your prerogative to choose whomever you want to in your movies (you can very well say it’s your investment risk and you will take your call). You own a big production house which launches people and makes their careers. We do realize that you have not taken “theka” to promote talent from outside, and no one can force you at gunpoint to cast a newcomer. You might be comfortable/at ease with some people. All that is given and logical.

We just expect that people in positions of power to be more conscious of the sentiment of many ‘have nots’.  Maybe we have dehumanized you in this whole debate because we very much look forward to idolizing you (the people with privilege) if we see you casting outside talents.

Baakiyadi Outsider Kanganaapna prerogative maantihai when she took shots on people during Manikarnika time, aapko hum kyabolsaktehai?  

Actually “paanisar se upar hi chalagaya”. Line-se you have put forward Varun, Alia, Jhanvi, Ananya… and then awards bhiinko hi. 

So the people who don’t have access to these opportunities and run from pillar to post in Mumbai despite having talent, dilmeindardtohhoga hi.

On top of that, when we see someone like Hussain Haidry writing dialogues for your magnum opus ‘Takht’, one who has openly displayed his hatred for Hindus on Twitter, we are concerned about what the final product will come about.

To Dear Alia Bhatt –

I personally really love your acting though I still envy your privilege and the amount of work you get for being a part of the bolly-fam clique. I totally agree that it’s not your fault to be born in a filmi family. You clinched all opportunities (as anybody else who is as ambitious and talented as you would do) and worked hard on them. 

We as the audience accepted and appreciated your work. You had the luxury of choosing which type of roles you wanted, took many challenging ones, and prevailed, with a huge audience applause.

However, you must also realize that your career is heavily endowed to your industry Godfathers. And the outsiders not having such privilege should not become a lifelong “Fault of their stars”. You can also feel the heat of Nepotism if tomorrow Karan Johar starts favouring SRK’s daughter over you. Nepotism is all good till one is the beneficiary.

I am extremely sensitive to Shaheen’s depression journey and strongly condemn the hatred and rape threats that she is getting post SSR’s death. But as a woman you should get up and raise your voice against your own father Mahesh Bhatt with so many videos of him floating around where he is touching Rhea Chakroborthy and Jiah Khan inappropriately. After all, “Woh bhi kisi ki betiyan hain”. 

You can’t do anything about your privilege of being born with a silver spoon but you can stop the likes of your father from misusing it. Eliminating ‘casting couch’ and sexual predators will go a long way in making outsider gals feel safe in Bollywood, and our journeys will be much less stressful.

And of course, if I don’t judge Kangana’s views on nepotism from her 10-year-old video, I won’t judge you from what you said in a game of Kill, Marry, Hook up in Koffee With Karan Show.

To Dear Salman Khan –

You are lucky to be the least talked about in the Bollywood Mafia clique. Your misuse of influence & ganging up on people is very infamous.

Did your fallout with Arijit Singh, Vivek Oberoi and Aishwarya Rai let them lose onto opportunities as reported in the media? Maybe…

Surprisingly, you escaped the wrath of our warrior Kangana. Wonder why.

However, why will you care, when you know there are no consequences. We as audiences empowered you by making Dabangg& Sultan blockbusters. Because you know all this Twitter rage dies down and does not translate into anything at the ticket-window.

To Dear Taapsee Pannu –

Kudos to you for your journey and your acting skills. Loved your acting skills in many movies.

I totally condemn Kangana setting the grades for others and discrediting people left, right and center and portraying herself as the only righteous female. She never spoke up when Deepika was given rape threats during Padmaavat & you were ousted from Pati, Patni Aur Woh. So much for feminism & outsiders.

But you also did not speak up for SSR’s justice from the start. Though you don’t know him well, but still he was a part of your community. One does not need to criticize biggies to ask for justice.

You were once a supporter of  Kangana’s feminism. Did you care to listen to Hritik’s views when he was being harassed? Maybe Not.

“Aaj apne pe bani hai toh sab bol rahein hai” because now Kangana has turned into a harasser?”

To Dear Bolly Critics – 

Reading many critics’ blinds on SSR was really gut-wrenching and heart-breaking.

Please don’t write harsh blinds on outsiders and insiders for readership. Criticism can be constructive instead of being just slander and debasement. Just because somebody is born in a filmi family does not mean that he can’t suffer harassment and depression.

People who are making on their own are already struggling with ‘n’ number of problems. Kindly don’t pile your vile onto that. 

To, Dear Me –

As an outsider, If I can point fingers out everywhere, it will be unfair if I don’t let myself & the Indian society I come from pass through the same scrutiny.

Promotion of celebrity culture by Media ends up promoting Nepotism

Clicking star kids, bombarding people with Taimur’s & Abram’s pictures, giving unnecessary coverage to star kids’ launch, all are also part of the feedback-loop which feeds into the privilege and ego of star kids. You are starting your own self-fulfilling prophecy. Why won’t Taimur be cast by some Director/Producer when he is 18?

MySelf: I come from an upper middle class family, and am also at a position of privilege wrt somebody lesser privileged.

In corporate jobs, we see people forwarding resumes of relatives and friends and college-mates, and recommending them based on basic jaan-pehchaan, is that ok? 

Basically jis se jitna horaha hai woh utna Nepotism kar raha hai, but Karan Johar ka nepotism kharab hai. Not sure why. He is a reflection of this society only. As much as we take our privileges and prerogatives for granted, he also does.

Only difference is that he and his cinema affects a large number of people. He should introspect, and so should we all. 

We as a society need to see that we do not promote Nepotism/favoritism. So that a level playing field is created for meritorious people. It is a fight against human nature which acts differently when it accumulates power. But still it’s worth it to become conscious of our failings and do some corrective soul-searching.

Conclusion

How much power does the audience have?

  • We can be more sensitive to where we spend our money. 

But when the content is good, do we really care who is acting/ producing or directing that movie?

  • Till what time should I call somebody an outsider? Should SRK or Akshay Kumar be called an outsider forever? After 15+ years, should Kangana be called an outsider? All have formed their own niche. Isn’t it time to see new outsiders?
  • I support Justice for Sushant. CBI inquiry for Sushant. I really wished we all had come forward for him when he was alive and not let him go through any suffering. Did we make his movie Sonchirya hit despite it being a really good movie? No, we did not.

Actor is also a product of the choices he/she makes. A relevant point made by Anurag Kashyap in an NDTV interview: “Actors also seek validation from big brands. Tum log line hi wahan lagate ho (outside Big production Houses). Humare ghar ke bahar line lagao. Hum dete hai newcomers ko chance’’ So we cannot see this debate devoid of that.

  • We should take a stand for the people/newcomers who are getting victimized or graded by any camp (be it Kangana or YRF or Dharma or Bhaijaan)

To the likes of Anurag Kashyaps, Zoya Akhtars, Farhan Akhtars, Kangana Ranauts, Karan Johars, Aditya Chopras of Bollywood

As an outsider, what hope do I have now after all this churn?

Even with everybody settling individual scores, at the end of the end this debate is for us, the outsiders.

I understand every outsider cannot be a lead actor / actress. But testing their potential is paramount to maybe take a bet on the person later.

Hope with OTT platforms, we see more democratization of roles of actors, producers & directors.

As you are seeing, the hawa seems to be in favour of outsiders. Does this open a path for me so that I get a fair shot without mental harassment & exploitation? Fingers Crossed !

Submitted By : Disha Kanwar

Disha Kanwar

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