Tickets to Bollywood

It is every child’s dream at some point to be in a movie scene. Many even harbour intentions of becoming actors and some go through with it. Everyone wants to be a part of Bollywood but not everyone can. Amrah Ashraf writes about Andheri, where the common folk go to get sprung into the world of Bollywood, “Most hopefuls set out at daybreak, hopping between studios in Mhada to Shreeji Studio to Aram Nagar in search of that elusive role that will catapult them to stardom, or their next meal.” People wait for long hours in the hot, blazing sun for audition after audition waiting for their big break. Everyone wants to be the next Nawazuddin Siddiqui.

While talking about entry barriers and how some have it easier than others, Kangana Ranaut cannot be left out as she started the whole debate on her Koffee With Karan interview. She said, “that the ‘privileged’ star kids effortlessly get audience and critics from the very beginning of their career, whereas, it takes a lifetime for an outsider to reach that starting point.” As Sidharth Malhotra said in an interview with Rediff, “If you are from the industry, you know people, you know how the industry functions, you know who to meet and it becomes much easier to get a meeting because your family knows them.” It’s a huge level up if you have been surrounded by the film fraternity, and they’ve been to your every birthday party and you refer to Bollywood bigwigs as “uncle” and “aunty”.

In a response to a question (in a Q&A session in FLAME University) about how he knew he wanted to be an actor, Tiger Shroff said, “I wanted to be a sportsman, I wanted to be a football player.” The fact that he could choose his career as if it was different brands of cheap candy is amusing. He said he considered taking the sportsman discipline and putting it into acting and “got lucky”.  Tiger’s background let him make acting a second choice. He let his lack of academic qualification stop him from making football a career but, didn’t hesitate to march into Bollywood without any technical knowledge. He didn’t get lucky; the word he is looking for is ‘privileged’. It probably helped a little bit that his father was Jackie Shroff, a well-established actor who has been in the industry for almost forty years now.

The offers kept coming. In 2009, he declined the lead role in the remake of the TV show Fauji. In 2010, Tiger got an offer to be launched in Subash Ghai’s remake of Hero (Jackie’s 1983 film). His background places him multiple levels above his peers outside the industry who show, quite possibly, more promise. Tiger was born with Bollywood offered to him on a plate, like when his mother Ayesha shared, “When Tiger was born, Subhashji (Subhash Ghai) placed a gold coin in his hand and said, yeh iska pehla signing amount hai (this is his first signing amount).”

One critic felt that “Heropanti’s sole purpose is to let us know there’s a new actor on the entertainment scene.” And another described it as a “launchpad for Tiger Shroff” and Anupama Chopra wrote, “Heropanti is designed to do exactly one thing — make us like Tiger Shroff.” It also hinges on the nostalgia element to work, as it frequently plays Jackie Shroff’s old movie’s whistle tune in the background.

The statement is not that he has zero talent. You need some amount to stay afloat. But, Bollywood kids make do with lesser. Anupama Chopra says that Tiger is “an incredible acrobat who does backflips in dance sequences and effortlessly leaps off walls in action scenes”. However, his acting skills do have to be scrutinized. As one critic says, “Tiger Shroff can pull off stunts but that’s about it”. Many critics found his acting “unconvincing” and dialogue delivery “off” in his debut film, Heropanti “His expressions wobble in dramatic scenes”, says another about Baaghi, his second film. “Ask him to act, and that’s where everything falls apart”, quips another about his Baaghi performance.

All this questioning leads us to question whether we should take a second look at casting star kids just because they are star kids. As they are forgiven for failure after failure and put in big-budget film after big-budget film (some produced by their own big families), could some other potential be discovered through that money? Some star kids have struggled and genuinely worked hard but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t privileged in the first place and that they didn’t have that platform that is unavailable to so many others. We should acknowledge it and not discount it. We cannot say like Disha Patani said in response to a question about leaving college and joining Bollywood, “If your heart says something and you want to do it, just do it.” It takes a lot more than just heart to be in a big, bustling world like Bollywood and it’s time we stopped shying away from recognizing it.


Author: Gopika Kumaran

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