Patriarchy: The losers’ war cry (Column: B-Town)

What has been known as a tradition, and is practiced all over the world, be it a trader, industrialist or a professional, is that the next of generation is expected to follow. Then, why is it suddenly looked down upon when it comes to the film industry?

A son or a daughter wanting to follow in the footsteps of the parents into their profession has been a way of life for centuries. In fact, there are phrases in English as well as Hindi like ‘Following in father’s footsteps’ or ‘Ma-baap ke nakshe kadam par chalna’.

A lawyer’s son or a doctor’s son or daughter may aspire to become a lawyer or a doctor. Similarly, an industrialist or a trader’s son is expected to take over from father when ready and that is considered the norm. Why the son? Because, he is the one expected to stick with the family but it is not as if a daughter cannot or is discouraged.

But, when it comes to the film industry, if an actor’s son wants to become an actor, why is it called patriarchy? Strange, but nobody accuses a producer’s son or a director’s son of patriarchy, just actors!

In the last couple of years, this patriarchy gang had carried out a huge campaign against star sons. So, what would they call actors who followed in the footsteps of their actor mother and entered films?! But then, the thriving social media is used by many losers and film rejects to vent their frustrations. They never aspire to emulate someone’s success, instead they hate it.

Having observed the social media and this hate brigade create a patriarchy bogey, it is not that these people who dislike another’s success were deprived of a break. They got their opportunities but failed. Of course, one more thing that matters and counts much in the entertainment industry is attitude. That helps one not only get work but also survive longer. Negativism does not help and, if you follow them on social media, such people are full of negativity. Also, a lot of failed actors become self-styled film critics. Every Friday, when a new film releases in cinema halls, they rarely find a good thing to say about the film or its performers!

Is it enough to be a star son to make it big in the film industry? It is not as simple as taking over a family shop or industry? More than anything, the goodwill works and that has been earned by the family. It worked for a few in 1970s and ’80s. Sunny Deol and Anil Kapoor were accepted, but so was Jackie Shroff, a rank outsider. The industry has always been open to all.

The film industry has never been identified with patriarchy. From the time I started observing, the films had Shammi Kapoor, Dev Anand, Dharmendra, Rajendra Kumar, Sunil Dutt, Manoj Kumar, Shashi Kapoor, Feroze Khan, Sanjay Khan, Biswajeet, Rajkumar, Dilip Kumar — all of whom made it in films on their own with no film family background.

Thereafter, we had Rajesh Khanna, Shatrughan Sinha, Mithun Chakraborty, Vinod Khanna, Jeetendra, Sanjeev Kumar, Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Farooq Shaikh, Amol Plekar, Anupam Kher, Amitabh Bachchan, Danny among others. All who made it on merit.

Most actors who came from filmi families were launched by producers who were not related to the family. Those who were launched by the family, had risked their own money or by creating a liability against their properties. All the movies, as a rule, were produced on borrowed monies and borrowing did not come against word of mouth.

Raj Kapoor, I think, must be one of the first to launch his son Rishi Kapoor. A near-broke Raj Kapoor, facing bankruptcy, decided to launch Rishi Kapoor, a chubby young lad, who could hardly fit into the people’s idea of a film hero! Patriarchy?

Success is not assured by following in a parent’s footsteps. Like any other aspirant, a star son also needs to prove himself. The same Raj Kapoor’s other sons, Randhir Kapoor enjoyed only a limited run for a while. For Rajeev Kapoor, being Raj Kapoor’s son did not help.

Similar cases abound. Anil Kapoor still enjoys a successful run while his brother Sanjay Kapoor could not make it. Sunny Deol was a success while his brother Bobby Deol was not so. If patriarchy worked, these star kids would have all been still working: Mithun Chakraborty’s son Mimoh, Anil Kapoor’s son Harsh Varrdhan and daughter Sonam, Sunny Deol’s son, Karan, Boney Kapoor’s daughter Janhvi and son Arjun, Shatrughan Sinha’s son Luv, Manoj Kumar’s son Kunal, and Raj Babbar’s son Arya would all have ruled the screens. The list can go on.

When it comes to acceptance, the viewer does not use a different yardstick, the people accept or reject on an actor’s delivery, and an actor has to meet the expectations.

Who among today’s reigning stars is a patriarchal product? We had Sushant Singh Rajput, a talented actor who could have succeeded in any other field he chose, but opted for films and was on the way to greater glories. Akshay Kumar, Suniel Shetty, Govinda, John Abraham, Arjun Rampal, Ranveer Singh, Randeep Hooda, Ayushmann Khurrana, Rajkummar Rao, Kartik Aaryan — who among these has used family ties to make it in films?

Yes, Ranbir Kapoor is a fourth-generation actor. Is he being forced on the audience or should he have gone looking for a job in a corporate house? What about the star daughters taking to acting? Because, nobody ever mentioned matriarchy! Few make it to the top but then, the same can also be said for those who are outsiders coming in to try their luck, and not all of them succeed. That does not mean only patriarchy spells success.

Then there are acclaimed performers who not only made it into films but created a fan following among the viewers as well as critics, like Pankaj Tripathi, Sanjay Mishra, Irrfan, Manoj Bajpayee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Brijendra Kala, Deepak Dobriyal, Piyush Mishra, Rajpal Yadav and Jimmy Sheirgill. They struggled for a long time instead of venting frustrations on the social media.

Ranting on social media may keep them in the news but that approach does not work. What works is that you make news because of your films and performances, your work. The paying public creates a star, not family name.

(Vinod Mirani is a veteran film writer and box office analyst. The views expressed are personal)