Sun, moon and star sons!
Everyone says Abhishek Bachchan is a lambi race ka ghoda.
Which is a polite way of saying that the kid needs to improve a lot. But since he has the right genes, he will eventually take over the mantle from his superstar dad (notice how he is Aby's baby, not so much Jaya's? But then, our industry is a strong bastion of patriarchy).
This is filmi optimism as its best since lambi race ka ghoda is the best compliment an industrywallah can come up with. As a rule, they don't say nice things about anyone and worship only today's rising star.
But it also makes you wonder.
WOULD the industry and media have been so kind to an actor who wasn't an industry kid? Would an outsider even get a second chance? Forget second chance, would he/she even get a toe in the door?
Observe how, in recent times, more and more stars coming into films are industry kids.
Today, except for Shah Rukh Khan, Sunil Shetty and Akshay Kumar, all top film heroes are industry sons. Most of the top heroines are industry daughters, too. Admittedly, it is a fairly recent development in this male-dominated industry.
Movielore was once made up of charming and inspiring stories of struggle, of discovery of a talent by a movie mogul -- Ashok Kumar discovered in a lab, Dev Anand outside Filmistan Studios -- a passion for films that led to enormous effort and wonderful works of art in cinema.
Nothing was handed down to the great actors, directors, producers and writers on a platter, so they valued what they had earned by sheer dint of talent and hard work. They were creators and artists, not like today's proposal makers.
That old magic and romance has gone out of the business of filmmaking.
NOW, films are made by directors who are subservient to actors (that is if they are not sons of producers and directors) who run the show.
Plots have to suit the actor's image and ability and his flaws have to be camouflaged or worked around somehow. A writer could come up with the best story ever told, but if the actor can't handle intensity or comedy or whatever the film requires, the scenes will be changed and the original story mangled beyond recognition.
STAR fathers launching their sons will pack the film with 'item' scenes and songs that show off the brat's best side.
Acting? Who even knows what that is any more.
The audiences are happy with so little -- a bit of spectacle, a bit of action-emotion-comedy -- they don't care.
Producers have too much at stake. So who is going to tell a star kid that he cannot act to save his life? Like who would tell the emperor that he wore no clothes.
The media? They have too much riding on stars, too. If they can't find anything nice to say about a star kid, how about pointing out that he has a dazzling smile? Or great legs? Just skirt round the real point that he/she has no talent!
ASK the guys who put in money, and they'll say, well, we have to look for new faces and scout for talent all the time. When we find a new face, we have to groom him/her.
If so much money must be spent, why not on our own sons and daughters? And next, why not on star sons and daughters who come in with built in publicity value and goodwill of their star parents.
Even as you argue that talent is not genetic, almost every star offspring is into gotten into films. Already waiting in the wings are Tushar Kapoor (Jeetendra's son), Yash Chopra's son Uday, Dharmendra-Hema Malini's daughter Esha. And then Rishi Kapoor wants his son to become an actor.
Many filmmakers' kids have become producers and directors.
Now, music composers' kids are becoming composers too.
ONE big question is, where is talent to be found if not in industry homes?
Since the Film and Television Institute of India discontinued its acting course (which produced actors like Jaya Bachchan, Shatrughan Sinha, Mithun Chakraborty, Danny Dengzonpa to name a few), there is no proper training school for actors.
There are a few courses run mostly by failed actors. The way things are, if aspirants learn dancing, riding, swimming, take some speech lessons and join a gym, that's all they need. The kind of acting Hindi films require today doesn't call for training in Method or any other discipline.
And if nothing else works, copying Dilip Kumar surely will!
SO if a director needs new faces, why would he (it is still mostly he), want to search the streets of India -- and everybody in India thinks he/she can be a star --when he can narrow down his search to industry kids?
With a bit of training, a bit of grooming, loads of luck and perseverance, anyone can be a star. Never mind whether or not they can act. With so much money invested on non-actors and mediocre directors, films have to be dumbed down to fit their limited capabilities. The result is there to see week after week.
INTERESTINGLY, there is a strange trend to be discerned when it comes to star sons. With a couple of exceptions, the sons of the really big stars haven't made it, and the sons of the lesser stars have.
Hrithik Roshan is the best example. Rajendra Kumar's sonKumar Gaurav flopped, Manoj Kumar's son Kunal Goswami flopped, Dev Anand's son Suneil didn't make it, Shashi Kapoor's sons Kunal and Karan didn't either.
While the son of an obscure actor Arun Ahuja became a star called Govinda. Ajay Devgan is the son of a fight master, Aamir Khan is the son of a not-so-major producer and Salman Khan made it when his father Salim's career as a writer was going downhill.
Maybe there is some justice after all!
Email Deepa Gahlot
Deepa Gahlot is a well-known film critic