Paurush Kumar examines the plight of nepotism and its effect on the world of film.
Nepotism exists everywhere, but one industry in which it is visible for all to see is cinema. Whereas stars like Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Will Smith, Shah Rukh Khan are all self-made actors, the filmmakers and the casting directors today have started to rely on their children, who are commonly called ‘star kids’ in Bollywood. This phenomenon is not limited to Bollywood and can be clearly seen also in the Western hemisphere.
‘Star kids’ does not solely refer to the children of actors, but also those of filmmakers and producers. They appear to have everything on a platter. A call to a filmmaker/producer and the ‘star kid’ has landed themselves a role. This is the sad reality of what goes on whenever a newbie is launched into the world of cinema.
Gone are the days when a normal Joe Soap could make it big in the world of cinema.
It could be argued that social media gives these children a platform early in life and their famous parents give them a name that gets attention on these platforms. Thus, these ‘star kids’ are made stars before they ever appear in a film. Gone are the days when a normal Joe Soap could make it big in the world of cinema. The industry is on its way to completely ‘banning’ the entry of outsiders whose talents may be better than most of the ‘star kids’ being launched today.
It could be argued that social media gives these kids a platform early in life and their famous parents give them a name that gets attention on these platforms.
A friendly neighborhood superhero once said, “with great powers come great responsibility,” so these ‘star kids’ have a lot to carry on their shoulders. They have their parent’s image and legacy to carry on. They have to deliver to the expectations of the trade and critics alike. The 2013 film After Earth had one of the best actors of recent decades, Will Smith, who launched his son Jayden Smith with the movie. Not only did the film turn out to be a critical and commercial failure, but also people questioned Jayden Smith’s acting credibility.
Of course, there are benefits to having a ‘star kid’ in your film. Producers like it because money matters most nowadays and debuting a ‘star kid’ can draw a lot of buzz, especially from a company’s stakeholders. Not to mention all the promotion and publicity that the kid and their famous parent will be able to provide for the film.
The recently released Midnight Sun, which stars Arnold Schwarzenegger’s son Patrick Schwarzenegger, opened to bad reviews. Criticism has been directed at Schwarzenegger’s performance for not being emotive and the movie has since tanked at the box office. Producers should realise the importance of critical reviews and positive word-of-mouth. Without these, it doesn’t matter how famous the parent of a ‘star kid’ is.
However, exceptions do exist. Think of Chris Pine (son of actor Robert Pine), Angelina Jolie (daughter of Jon Voight), Gwyneth Paltrow (daughter of actress Blythe Danner and film producer-director Bruce Paltrow), Michael Douglas (son of actors Kirk Douglas and Diana Dill), and Jennifer Aniston (daughter of actors John Aniston and Nancy Dow). These actors not only went on to win commercial success, but have successfully managed to carry forward their families’ legacy. There have also been actors like Mamie Gummer (daughter of Meryl Streep) and Colin Hanks (son of Tom Hanks) who were successful in their own right but have yet to carve a niche for themselves.
Where these ‘star kids’ tried and succeeded at carrying forward their parent’s name, there are also kids like Connor Cruise and Scout Willis, who despite a dream debut, failed to make it big in the film industry, suggesting that no matter how strong a backing a ‘star kid’ may have, it is the talent that matters.
Even if talent is what decides the career of a ‘star kid,’ getting the big break into the film industry is what matters. In today’s world of cinema, catching a break in the industry is hard because of the ongoing nepotism. Recently, Karan Johar, a Bollywood actor, pointed out to a director stating: “You’ll play that stereotypical world of cinema biggie, who is like, you know very snooty and completely intolerant to outsiders… and flag bearer of nepotism, the movie mafia,” on a famous talk show. This line perhaps has a lot of truth about today’s world of cinema.
Even after this caused an awakening in the masses about nepotism, there seems to be little to no change. With more ‘star kids’ polluting the industry, it seems that the film industry is soon going to be more of a family business rather than a secular world like it used to be, back in the early 80s and 90s. The dreams and aspirations of all those who desire to enter the world of cinema amidst this era of nepotism lie in a bleak future.