In the first place, there should have been no debate about nepotism in Bollywood. Everybody knows that nepotism exists and nobody really disagrees with it. What people disagree with, is the fact that star kids have their stardom on a platter. It is because stardom comes from your fans, the more the number of fans and admirers, the bigger star you are. Mass appeal and stardom are directly proportional. So, most argue that star kids should not get their stardom served to them but need to toil hard for it.
So, if you really look closer to the whole nepotism debate, you will notice that the two warring camps are talking about two really different topics.
Those who speak for the motion, say that nepotism is an incurable disease and that starkids get their launch-pads served to them on a golden plate. Those against, say that stardom isn't really available on a platter and starkids never have it easy in Bollywood.
The producers on the other hand justify that 'Nepotism' is a good business decision. They say that star kids are accessible, the audience is super inquisitive about them and parents (as well as their extended friend circles) are always available to support the launch. Money, publicity, influence are all available on a platter if you are launching a star kid. Things are equally hard, if you are launching a newcomer.
So, of course, it makes better business sense to launch a newcomer than a struggler. Well, nobody is really countering the above view, because to be honest, it really makes sense. But what nobody talks about is the "Hierarchy of Nepotism" in Bollywood. Yes, nepotism has a hierarchy too.
Allow me a moment to explain what I am saying here.
Look at the Vogue India cover with Suhana Khan, Shah Rukh Khan's daughter. The cover introduces her as a student. Yes, just a student, who's a theatre lover and then the cover goes on to declare her as a future star. Remember, she hasn't even signed her first film!
On the contrary, when Janhvi Kapoor got her Vogue India cover, her first film was on the verge of releasing. So, the debate is not actually between the platform that is denied to a newcomer and wrapped in silk for a starkid. The debate is the difference in treatment between starkids.
Yes, being a star kid is NOT a guarantee that you will get a platform. Or, to be specific, you will get a dream platform. The platform that a starkid will get is again directly proportional to what or how his or her parents are doing in life. Let me paraphrase what a producer told me over the phone this morning. "What we are looking at is return on investment or RoI. My RoI looks good if I get a daughter or son of a big star. Make no mistake that most big stars have children who are looking for a break. But if I get a Suhana Khan to do my film, it is a jackpot for me in terms of RoI," he said. I asked him to explain his RoI concept if we have Suhana Khan on board for a film.
"Okay, I explain it to you in broader terms. The moment Suhana is on board, the interest in my film will peak because she is SRK's daughter. SRK will tweet about my film from time to time. It will have a reaction all over the world because SRK will be promoting my film actively because he wants his daughter's first film to be a super-duper hit (SRK launched the Vogue cover too). The star father might help me with anything I need regarding promotions and even come on board as a producer also. Let me not mention the enormous support I will receive from his well-wishers in the industry. As I said, getting Suhana Khan to sign your film as a debut is a jackpot," the producer said.
Well, he informed that he won't be lucky because the industry knows that Karan Johar will most probably have the honour to launch Suhana Khan given how close KJo and the Khans are. Karan was among the prominent industry names to have lauded the cover.
But that's not the point. The point is: The same kind of treatment won't be available to you if you are the daughter or a son of a lesser star. You might have to struggle more than an average newcomer to get your first break. "If you are a son or a daughter of a smaller star, you might be carrying a baggage of your star father or mother. Chances are, I need to be convinced that taking you won't hamper my film," he added.
He is not wrong, look at the debut of the "lesser known" star kids. They never had it easy and often started with small budget films or multi-starrers. Take for example, Shahid Kapoor (in the early 2000s, Varun Dhawan Alia Bhatt (who went on to prove themselves with their work), Shraddha Kapoor and the like.
That is exactly what we call the Hierarchy of Nepotism. Bollywood never talks about it!