Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide has reopened the debate on nepotism and campism, that is believed to be rampant in the big bad Bollywood world. In a recent interview, director Onir has vehemently called out this ‘campism’ that he says has existed and still does within the industry. Being Pride month, the director not only shared the illusion of ‘inclusivity’ but has also turned the spotlight onto the film industry and production houses for “always marginalising” the LGBTQIA+ community and outsiders.

Shedding light on the dark side of B-town, he said, “In the last few days, people have been talking about nepotism, campism, and I feel that has existed and still exists. And that’s why voices which have actually been speaking up are still not finding space to speak up.”
“Today at the end of it when every platform is talking about ‘My Brother Nikhil’, the fact remains that none of them are actually working with me or working on any LGBTQ+ films. When they are celebrating my films, why are they not celebrating me?” he asks.

I got two national awards My Brother Nikhil, but it was ignored by every other Indian film industry award. So even after winning the national awards, it was not that I was empowered. There is this whole thing of empowerment of people who are like me, ‘outsiders’, and out and proud; but somehow we have not been empowered to tell our stories. Someone else is telling it for us. Why?

Onir on the existing campism in Bollywood

Taking a page out of his own book, he said, “This is what this industry does! When I made ‘My Brother Nikhil’, it was my debut film, it was not nominated and I was not nominated as a director and neither were my actors nominated in any of the mainstream Indian awards. I got two national awards (for the film), but it was ignored by every other Indian film industry award. So even after winning the national awards, it was not that I was empowered. There is this whole thing of empowerment of people who are like me, ‘outsiders’, and out and proud; but somehow we have not been empowered to tell our stories. Someone else is telling it for us. Why?”
He went on to discuss how his 2015 critically acclaimed film is still considered as one of the best films on LGBTQ IA+ in India, “but still, when I send proposals anywhere, they all refused,” he says.

This industry has been deaf to us, it has always marginalised us. Everything is limited to a group. Of course, once in a while, there is breaking through. That would be absurd if it doesn’t happen.

Onir on preferential treatment

When asked if he spoke out about the vicious system, Onir said, “I have always been speaking out about the system, but it doesn’t change. This industry has been deaf to us, it has always marginalized us. Everything is limited to a group. Of course, once in a while, there is breaking through. That would be absurd if it doesn’t happen.”
Speaking up about the limited talent pool in Bollywood, he drew a comparison to Hollywood and said, “If you’re looking for a 20-year-old actress, you are left with 20 options. If you’re looking for a 30-year-old actress, you’ll have 20 options. Same with actors right? But in Bollywood where are the options? Don’t tell me this country doesn’t have talent, this industry refuses to nurture talent that is not in their space. It actually silences those talents, be it filmmakers or actors. But a lot of us learn how to fight and survive.”

Don’t tell me this country doesn’t have talent, this industry refuses to nurture talent that is not in their space. It actually silences those talents, be it filmmakers or actors. But a lot of us learn how to fight and survive.

Onir on nepotism

SSR’s death has reopened this uncomfortable discussion within the industry once again and when asked about his thoughts about the possibility of a positive outcome, he shared, “When the Me Too movement discussion happened, it did not radically change everything. Because you see, there is always this constant group of people who are empowering those who have been part of humiliating, terrorizing and harassing people. I understand that no one should be penalised for life. Even criminals have this chance of becoming better change, but that effort is not made for the survivor. People are always trying to empower the one who has actually harmed someone else. I feel, of course, there is a little bit more awareness. I feel that this blatant obvious campism that is nurtured by studios and platforms everywhere. It’s not one person, it’s about a whole collective way of working.”

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