By Sweta Kaushal
Mumbai: Three privileged men gang up at an international stage to take digs at a woman who is absent. The high and mighty of Bollywood were at their juvenile worst on Sunday evening when three A-listers of the industry tried to crack a joke at the expense of one of the most vocal and opinionated actors in the industry: Kangana Ranaut. Only, they didn’t realize the joke was on them.
It was a shocking and sad moment during the recently-concluded IIFA 2017, where Karan Johar, Saif Ali Khan and Varun Dhawan ganged up at the New York stage of the festival and made fun of Kangana Ranaut’s nepotism statements.
The pointlessness of the “joke” does not deserve to be explained. What is shockingly petty and mean is the perpetrators’ profile. The incident only makes Kangana’s side stronger.
Karan Johar got his first film because he was the son of one of most dominant filmmakers in the industry. Varun has been bagging roles after roles, thanks to his director-dad, David Dhawan.
It wasn’t before Sriram Raghavan’s Badlapur that Varun could properly establish his credentials as an actor. But did that stop directors from offering films or did that stop him from churning out films after films? No.
After KJo’s Student of The Year, Varun featured in three films over three years before he delivered the power-packed performance in Badlapur.
As for Saif, he played the lead in four films before he tasted commercial success with Yeh Dillagi (1994). He featured in at least 20 movies before he was recognized for his acting in Aamir Khan’s Dil Chahta Hai and later received major critical appreciation in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Omkara (2006).
The ‘Chote Nawab’ was even given the National Award in 2005 for his role in Hum Tum. It is said that his mother Sharmila Tagore, who was the Censor Board chief that year, may have influenced the jury.
Can we name a single outsider who was given the lead roles despite box office failures as well as mediocre acting?
Kangana, on the other hand, received appreciation and awards for her debut film, Gangster (2006). She had two box office duds before she featured in Madhur Bhandarkar’s Fashion (2008) that also bagged her first National Award.
She has been proving her mettle with a diverse filmography that not only includes critically acclaimed performances (Queen, 2014) but also box office hits (Tanu Weds Manu films, 2011 and 2015).
And Karan, Saif and Varun performed the juvenile act at an award where, as Pahlaj Nihalani pointed out, the likes of Aamir Khan’s Dangal did not even feature in the nominations while Ranbir Kapoor’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Salman Khan’s Sultan featured in all sections.
For the uninitiated, here’s what happened at the IIFA stage on July 16 evening:
Karan and Saif, who were hosting the gala, revisited the much-talked about issue that started in Bollywood when Rangoon actress Kangana Ranaut branded Karan as a “flag-bearer of nepotism” on his chat show Koffee With Karan.
When Varun joined the two actors on the stage at the Metlife Stadium to receive the Best Performance in a Comic Role for Dishoom, Saif joked that the actor had made it big in the industry because of his father, director David Dhawan.
“You are here because of your papa,” Saif quipped.
Varun replied: “And you’re here because of your mummy (veteran actress Sharmila Tagore).”
Karan then promptly added: “I am here because of my papa (late filmmaker Yash Johar),” following which the three said in unison: “Nepotism rocks”.
We can all agree that being star kids carries a certain pressure — that of expectation. But to equate it to the hardships of outsider artistes in the industry is completely insensitive.
Karan’s sad reaction to allegations of nepotism is not even school-level rationalism — in an interview and later in a blog, he claimed that all these star kids get the roles because they deserve it!
Despite a series of flops, star kids continue getting films, and big projects while outsiders are left to prove themselves over and over again for years before a “big” filmmaker even recognizes his/her presence on the screen.
By Sweta Kaushal