Family privilege exists in films

Director Saad Khan talks about his love, hate and indifference to nepotism

It was just before the film ‘Refugee’ was going to hit the screens that I heard of the word nepotism for the first time.

Abhishek Bachchan was a new face at that time. The movie didn’t do that well and no one gave him a chance. He had a couple of more flops and most people only spoke about how he couldn’t replicate the charm of his father, Amitabh Bachchan. 

For me, nepotism was more prevalent when I was working with Ashutosh Gowarikar. My last name caused many people to guess or ask me which Khan I was related to. I played along and kept them guessing for a few months after which I finally told them that I wasn’t connected to any of the big Khan names in the industry. Most of the team thought that I was lying; it was shocking for them.      

It was understood then that if one was assisting an A-list director, one had to be an actor’s or director’s son or a fading actor’s nephew. I was wondering about the concept of merit then. 

It was interesting to see how some of the associate directors would come to the sets in their Mercedes or have someone drive them while here I was taking the Metro or hitching a ride. This is when I realised that it helps to be an important person’s son or daughter. It really does!

This realisation changed when I realised that nepotism applies to other industries also. Businessmen, especially people who were holding high positions like a vice-president in a company, are not immune to this. A renowned classical dancer’s son or daughter stands a chance to get a stage show faster than someone who has been ardently practising for years together.

But ask me if nepotism is bad and I wonder. I am still figuring out the grey area in it. One can feel a bit short-changed. There are times that soon-to-be actors come to sets to assist directors. They are not interested in direction but were advised by someone that this would help. After all, Ranbir Kapoor also assisted directors, right?

Once, a parent of a budding actor (whose grandfather is a prominent producer) called from Mumbai. She said, “My child wants to attend some workshops but I want her to attend a course where the course conductors will be harsh with her. I hope you know what I am talking about it.” I did know what she was talking about.

If one says that the film industry is about talent only, then they are kidding themselves. After all, how can one do a series of flops and then still get a chance to explore something? On the other hand, there is Nawazudin Siddiqui who did a role in ‘Sarfarosh’ and then had to wait for more than a decade to get a notable role in ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’. But that amount of a time is not a variable for someone who has a backing. 

Not everyone takes it lightly though. There are actors like Ranbir Kapoor, who changed his trajectory soon after. 

Nepotism brings many things to my mind: love, hate and indifference to the concept.

It is a very open-ended conversation. Anytime the word is posted on social media, there are conversations for and against it. I saw an example of this in the recently released ‘Dhadak’; I personally feel that it is unfair to compare people. 

There are movies which just don’t make any sense yet are released just because a somebody’s somebody is being launched through it. There are directors who are writing scripts for these people. 

Nepotism is definitely a privilege. But it always pays to be humble, whatever your roots may be.  

Saad Khan
 

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Family privilege exists in films

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