In the seemingly never-ending saga Bollywood's trouble with nepotism, Kajol has decided to weigh in. And disappointingly, her views are as self-absorbed as most of her colleagues.
Speaking to PTI, she called nepotism a "moot point", claiming that people in the film industry have succeeded purely because of hard work and talent, not family lineage. That's rich, coming from her -- daughter of renowned actress Tanuja and niece of Nutan -- for whom the doors of Bollywood were flung wide open. Incidentally, her own mother and aunt's careers were launched by their actor-director-producer mother, Kajol's grandmother, Shobhna Samarth. (So much for family lineage not playing a part in kickstarting Kajol's journey to success.) Kajol's own debut film, Bekhudi, also had her mother Tanuja in a starring role. We are assuming that was just a co-incidence, of course.
The 42-year-old actress goes on to say, "I think it is a debate brought on by two personalities (referring to the very public Karan Johar-Kangana Ranaut kerfuffle) who have decided to quote-unquote each other. I honestly think it's a moot point because every child wants to grow up and be like their parents. Lawyers' children grow up and become lawyers, and doctors' children grow up and become doctors. And sometimes both of their children become actors. (sic)"
That was not all.
"It is an open world. It is a free space. Anybody can become anything that they want to become. The people who succeeded in the industry, and by example you can take any name if you want. They have succeeded because of their talent and sheer hard work. I don't think all the people who have succeeded have that much to claim over their bloodline (sic)," she added.
It would be amusing, if it wasn't also faintly revolting, how almost everyone who comes from a Bollywood family wants to talk almost exclusively about success, while being perfectly happy to ignore the looming elephant in the room: access.
Yes, yes, Kajol (and Sonam Kapoor, and Alia Bhatt, and Varun Dhawan, and Saif Ali Khan... the list is endless) we know that talent is the ultimate barometer of success; but if talent was as big a hukum ka ikka, as you'd have us believe, the resolutely talentless Tanishaa Mukherji, Kajol's sister, wouldn't still be lurking around on the fringes of celebrityhood.
Any other newbie's career would have come to a grinding and permanent halt after the disaster that was Neal 'N' Nikki, but not when you're Kajol's sister.
Sure, Mukherji may not be successful or relevant by most yardsticks, but it is only thanks to her filmi connections that she sits, front and centre, at an inordinate number of film award functions. Any other newbie's career would have come to a grinding and permanent halt after the disaster that was Neal 'N' Nikki, but not when the leading stars are Kajol's sister and Aditya Chopra's brother (Uday Chopra). They simply move on to reality shows or film courses at fancy foreign universities.
It is mind-boggling that so many presumably intelligent, astute filmi folks find it so hard to comprehend what lies at the heart of the nepotism debate — the privilege of unfettered access.
How can it be so hard to acknowledge the existence of something that exists in such plain sight? And why are these people unable to accept their good fortune with some degree of grace and humility? Most of us are willing to shrug off a lot of their rote recitations of the drivel manufactured by their PR machineries; but are we really expected to agree, without blinking, that an Athiya Shetty deserves to be an actor, minus the Shetty nametag?
Unlike what the perpetually butt-hurt Bollywood kids like to believe, no one resents them the lucky accident of their births. As people on the outside looking in, sure there will be those who will envy the lives of the rich and famous, but no one is stupid enough to think that if life has presented them with a golden plate and a silver spoon, they're not going to eat off of it.
It is a particularly distressing rejection of reality when the Kapoors and Khans of Bollywood whine about having it just as hard as a newcomer from, say, Bareilly.
Life is full of fair and unfair advantages, and when you're born into a family with a VIP entry pass into the coveted world of Bollywood, of course you're going to use it to prop yourself up; but it is a particularly distressing rejection of reality when the Kapoors and Khans (among others) of Bollywood whinge and whine about having it just as hard as a newcomer from, say, Bareilly. All the brouhaha and outrage is simply to let them know that the BS they've been happily spewing has gone stale; that they need a new narrative, hopefully one that's more rooted in reality.
No Kajol, there is a BIG difference in what happens when a doctor's child wants to be a doctor and an actor's child wants to be an actor. A doctor can set up a clinic, and call up their doctor buddies to land plum internships for their doctor offspring, but their children still have to appear for fiercely competitive exams and go through years of grinding, backbreaking work before they can even earn the prefix of 'doctor'. Same goes for a lawyer, or a CA, or an IAS officer, or a defence officer, or an engineer. They don't get to just tumble out of bed one fine day and fall into a project being helmed by mummy, daddy or one of their best friends.
If ever a day comes when you're called upon to help launch your own offspring, teach them to carry that knowledge with a little bit of dignity and a lot of respect.
It might not be fair, but that's how the world works and that's fine; which parent can resist the urge to remove the roadblocks in their child's path, after all? But if ever a day comes when you're called upon to help launch your own offspring, even as you do it (as you may well), try and teach them to carry that knowledge with a little bit of dignity and a lot of respect for all the people who won't have it quite that easy -- because their mother and father are not Kajol and Ajay Devgn.
They may or may not be as talented and successful as you and your husband are, but it really isn't too big an ask for fully-functioning adults to not be so drunk on their sense of self-importance that they honestly can't see why the struggles of people who spend years upon bleak years living in tiny apartments, picking up embarrassing bit parts just to sustain themselves in the exacting city of dreams, are so much bigger, harder, more crushing than what they will ever experience from their cushy, unchallenged places on the inside.
That's all anyone is asking for, really.
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