Coffee With Karan- A Few Thoughts From The Show.
Recently I was watching a few episodes of Karan Johar’s “Coffee with Karan” chat show now showing a mash up of all the “important” moments on the show of last season and one fact which took me by surprise was how many of today’s Bollywood actresses and actors were second generation. Everyone from horse-faced Kareena to chai-bai Parineeti, not to mention Sonam who looks just like her dad in drag, almost every single one of them is a scion of some Bollywood family or the other. The only interesting individual I came across during the entire season of the show was surprise, surprise -Nargis Fakhri who given the cliché of models being airheads was surprisingly witty and well informed especially when contrasted to someone like Aalia who has all the intelligence of someone who never graduated past kindergarten (and never will). And the less said about the men the better, Uday Chopra anyone?
Anyway it pains me to see that even the film world like everything else – every other profession in India is a closed shop nowadays with a selected few families ruling the roost and giving umpteen number of chances to their untalented offspring in a mutual you scratch my back I scratch yours formula. Come to think of it, the last independent guy- with no godfather and no family background to come up big time was Shah Rukh Khan- not only India’s Biggest Star but a self made one at that (clap/clap). Everyone else seems to depend on family name and connections- which proves that there are millions of people out there, ordinary people who can be better actors than the limited pool who now rule the roost and everyone goes ga-ga about as great actors – I mean people like Ranbir or Hrithik – the best of the average list.
But unfortunately like in all things in India – without a pedigree or a famous surname or a doting father to give you a mega launch vehicle there is no hope for a newcomer to crash into the closed shop of Bollywood and a million dreams die out there unfulfilled. A fact which makes less and less sense when you realize that internationally the movie industry depends on two sets of people- the beautiful and the talented. But it’s a peculiar fact of Bollywood – a perversion even of the international norms- that ugly women become heroines and wooden puppets turn heroes and not even a six pack or a hot bod can compensate for a paralysed face with no acting chops – unless the movie is called the Mask of Zordar or something like that.
Thankfully the scene down south is somewhat better. The South Indian movie industry- collectively called Kollywood, Tollywood, Mollyood, Sandalwood etc actively encourages new comers to show their talent in movies. Any North Indian girl with skin a rich milky shade can turn heroine easily in a South Indian film but of course, only if she is willing to strip to her bikini bottoms and drape herself over a Hero old enough to be her grandfather – at least in dream song sequences, the rest of the movie she should be seen but not heard – which is fortuitous in a way as she won’t know any other Indian language except her default Hindi. And so there are droves of women coming down from Punjab and Gujarat to do just that – willing to act in any movie to achieve stardom. And when TamilNadu Chief Minister Madam Jayalalitha says that she has created more job opportunities than Gujarat Chief minister Mister Modi – she means exactly that- all those Gujju girls coming down south to act in Tamil movies.
So in a way the South Indian film industry is not only helping the nation’s economy by providing jobs to people from other states but also helping national integration by making sure that north Indian heroines like Tamannah Bhatia, Kajal Agarwal and Tapsee Pannu learn Tamil and Telugu. Now isnt that a worthwhile achievement? When you consider the fact that the average North Indian tourist travelling even in the deep south of India talks to the local citizens only in Hindi and expects everyone else around him to understand and reply back in the same language, then you can appreciate the magnitude of the achievement of the film industry when Ileana D’Cruz talks in fluent Telugu to her adoring fans. So the language struggle of the 60’s against Hindi domination is no longer relevant- you want our jobs, you speak our language becomes the moot point.
Anyway to come back to the original premise of this post I wrote this primarily to express my sadness at all these wasted careers. If only these people had not succumbed to the lure of the family profession and taken the easy way out but had made the choice to work hard and carve an independent career (in their field of choice) for themselves not only would they have been happier but we too. As they shared on the show with Karan- their dreams and earlier careers- Parineeti Chopra who worked in sales and marketing might have become another Indra Nooyi or Kiran Mazumdar. Sonam Kapoor could have become a widely read, super popular author- another Shobha De or Chetan Bhagat. And Aalia Bhatt could have passed school. But it was not to be- the lure of nepotism was too high. And hence all these blighted geniuses of other fields are now restricted to wearing bikinis and prancing around in the arms of a hero. Makes you wonder doesn’t it? Is the price of public recognition worth any sacrifice? Or humiliation? I have no answers, do you reader?
P.S. Another cautionary tale comes straight from Hollywood- Will Smith who has pretensions of being another Tom Cruise or Bruce Willis- borrowed a leaf from Bollywood and tried to make an action hero of his talentless son, Jaden. The result was the biggest flop of Will’s career- After Earth- a movie which set Hollywood records for losses. I think Will might have learnt his lesson and send the young man to school after all.