FAMOUS LAST NAMES
GIFTED WITH GREAT GENES, POPULAR ON SOCIAL MEDIA AND CONNECTED TO THE MOVIE NETWORK, BOLLYWOOD’S NEXT GENERATION IS READY FOR ITS CLOSE-UP
it DIDN’T TAKE A FILM FOR SARA ALI KHAN TO announce her arrival to Bollywood. Daughter of Saif Ali Khan and Amrita Singh, the 22-year-old’s appearance at stepmom Kareena Kapoor Khan’s birthday bash in a crop top, showing off her toned midriff, was declaration enough. Sara, who may or may not make her debut opposite Hrithik Roshan in a Karan Johar produced film or Zoya Akhtar-directed Gully Boy, isn’t the only one whose celebrity ranking is determined by her appearance or where she hangs out. A graduate of Columbia University with experience in theatre in US, Sara doesn’t have an Instagram account like Boney Kapoor and Sridevi’s elder daughter, the 19-year-old Janhvi Kapoor, with thousands of followers. Instead she is following her dad’s advice and staying off social
media: “Everybody talks here, but silence is very interesting in Bollyood.” But like Janhvi, she has a legion of admirers who share her pictures—whether pouting with friends or mirror selfies—constantly on social media. Through these fan accounts, many now know about the amorous adventures of these young ladies.
They are just two of the new faces that Bollywood will welcome into its fold soon. They all have one thing in common: they are born with the Bollywood gene, which gets them an all-access pass to one of the biggest entertainment industries.
They are not alone. Suniel Shetty’s son Ahan makes his debut in a Sajid Nadiadwala production; Raj Kapoor’s grandson Aadar Jain has a film with the Yash Raj banner; Shahid Kapoor’s younger brother Ishaan Khattar is expected to get his big break opposite Janhvi in a Dharma production, and Sunny Deol’s son Karan will have the family banner unveil him to the world. An estimated Rs 350 crore will be invested to present the next generation, says an industry insider. This new batch of star children will have some of the biggest banners launching them and talent agencies managing them. “The children are itching to find their own space in the universe,” says Prabhat Choudhary of Spice, one of the leading public relations agencies. “They have seen and experienced fame thanks to their parents. So aspiring for all that is but natural.” Thanks to their family’s prestige or in some cases their sibling’s power ranking, these youngsters have already acquired fame without the lights, camera, action.
THE AGE OF CLICKS AND LIKES
Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter offer a glimpse of the person behind the personality. Sartorial choices at soirees and candid photos on holidays have replaced the look test. What these youngsters share online constitutes news. While Ishaan Khattar still has a public account on Instagram on which he shares pictures of his grandmother, dubsmash videos showcasing his thespian talent and pictures of his stint as an assistant director on Udta Punjab, Ahan, Aadar and Karan have private accounts, perhaps a sign of flying below the radar before their debut.
The four young men are unlike each other. Ishaan has been a regular at the Mumbai film festival, consuming world cinema with his friends and mother, Neelima Azim; Ahan is a gym rat who, before signing his first film, uploaded post-workout pictures; Karan is low-key like his father whose films he has assisted, while Aadar, who like
I will definitely tell these children not to put up something they would want to delete later. The less the person is seen, the more interesting he or she is for sure SHANOO SHARMA, Casting Director, YRF
his cousin Ranbir Kapoor studied at the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute, was an assistant director on Ae Dil Hai Mushkil.
Shanoo Sharma, casting director of Yash Raj Films (YRF), who auditioned Aadar, checks out social media to spot new faces, a definite change from the time she discovered Ranveer Singh, at a party hosted by filmmaker Shaad Ali. “I’m not a hypocrite,” says Sharma. “I and my assistants do go online to seek talent. If someone likes my picture, I may see their profile and check if they are actors.” Pictures online may act as the new portfolio, but there’s always a caveat. Says Sharma, “Today’s youngsters are intelligent, responsible and know what works and what doesn’t. But I will definitely tell them that they shouldn’t put something up that they would want to delete later. The less the person is seen, the more interesting he or she is for sure.” Among the new crop of stars, Sharma cites Amitabh Bachchan’s granddaughter Navya Naveli Nanda and Shah Rukh Khan’s daughter Suhana as star children who stand out from the pack. “Navya is absolutely gorgeous, but I don’t know if she wants to be in films,” she says. “From what I’ve seen of Suhana on social media, she is very confident and unconventionally beautiful, which I find very attractive.”
Navya, Suhana and Aryan, already internet sensations, are expected to carry on the family tradition. Even if Shweta Bachchan Nanda writes that her Kardashians loving daughter “doesn’t have any particular interest in acting”, Navya’s Instagram feed is enough for many to declare her as the next big thing. Navya and Aryan, both 19, first caught eyeballs for letting their hair down with batchmates of Sevenoaks High School in Kent, England. Even as Navya continues to post pictures with family, and a few with her tongue out, Aryan—who demonstrated his athletic skills by doing a handstand on a hoverboard— recently deleted his Instagram account, bewildering many in the process. Was it because he wanted to focus on film studies at the University of South California? Or was it in response to his father’s request for privacy for his kids when a picture of Suhana in a bikini was shared widely?
At best, social media is a necessary evil, it keeps one in the news. But the image created and circulated is not of one’s own making. “You have to be substantive, not inyour-face all the time,” says Anirban Blah, founder and managing director of CAA Kwan, a leading talent management agency whose clientele includes newcomers Sara and Harshvardhan Kapoor. Blah also flags the danger of oversaturation with the use of social media. “If you want to be a celebrity like Kim Kardashian, then it is fine,” he says. “But if you want to be a star like Scarlett Johansson or Anne Hathaway, then some element of mystery is needed.”
THE TIMES, THEY ARE A-CHANGIN
Gone are the days when an actor is shielded from the spotlight like Sonakshi Sinha or Ranbir Kapoor were. “In today’s social media overdrive, it’s almost impossible to be invisible,” says renowned photographer Atul Kasbekar, chairman and managing director of Bling Entertainment Solutions who turned producer with 2016 hit Neerja. “As with everything other than taxes and death, there is no certainty and a ‘formula 44’ to any of this.”
Not everyone in the new generation has a social media following or shutterbugs tracking them. There are a few aspirants who are lying low, like Vinod Khanna’s son Sakshi, an assistant to Sanjay Leela Bhansali on Bajirao Mastani, and Chunky Pandey’s nephew, also named Ahaan. (Expect a name or orthographical change to happen soon.) Sakshi, with just over 3,000 followers on Instagram, likes to have inspirational quotations or lyrics for captions and professes his love for both Arsenal FC and actress Amyra Dastur. Their entry may be big but their stay in Bollywood will be determined solely by their talent and the success of their films. They may as well follow superstar Ranbir Kapoor’s lead who opts to stay offline telling Blah of CAA Kwan that he has “nothing interesting or of consequence to share”.
FAMILY MATTERS BUT JUST ABOUT
“You may get great launches with a lot of hype but ultimately there is no substitute for talent,” adds Blah. “Alia Bhatt is extraordinary. It does not matter who her parents
are.” Aditya Chopra, honcho at YRF, wants Shanoo Sharma to get out of the industry and seek actors who come out of nowhere. Blah praises outsiders such as Jhataleka Malhotra, the 2014 Miss India International winner who carries Preity Zinta’s “high-energy, spunky” urban woman vibe, and Bengaluru lass Nidhhi Agerwal, 23, a business graduate who makes her debut alongside Tiger Shroff in Munna Michael, for having a combination “of beauty, acting and dance not seen since Deepika [Padukone]”. “You should know your strength and space, and focus on them,” he adds. Harshvardhan Kapoor needs to find his niche just like Tiger Shroff has as India’s answer to Bruce Lee.
Now, more than ever, Hindi film audiences have made it clear that they aren’t entirely swept away by the lineage of the new kids on the block. The poor showing of films like Hero (Sooraj Pancholi and Athiya Shetty) and Mirzya (Saiyami Kher and Harshvardhan Kapoor) shows that despite a big launch pad, the ride is not always smooth for industry kids. “There is definitely some curiosity for the son or daughter of someone famous that will definitely give the star child their first ‘shot at the title’, but after that you’re in the arena with everybody else,” says Kasbekar whose client roster includes both insiders such as Dilip Kumar’s grandniece Sayyeshaa Saigal (Shivaay) as well as non-industry actors such as Pooja Hegde (Mohenjo Daro).
Nepotism is an integral, and inescapable, part of Bollywood and a producer or an actor parent will go all out to enable the child to pursue the ultimate dream. “It’s not a business transaction, it’s an emotional investment,” says the industry insider. “Sonia Gandhi cannot think whether I will be in profit or loss if Rahul Gandhi is elected president of Congress.” The surge of these star children means that outsiders find it harder, with opportunities few and far between. “The fact is the film industry has always been a bit of a club and a bit incestuous at that,” says Kasbekar. “It is, however, a bit easier for women to get a debut, but very difficult for male stars to get an opportunity to make their mark. You get one ‘outsider’ every decade, if that.” Adds Shanoo Sharma, “I’d love for a child of a junior artiste or a choreographer or someone who has been behind the scenes and who comes out of nowhere to be a star some day.”
Fewer outsiders vying for the big role is likely but there are a few who have already managed to get a foot into the movie business. Eros recently signed Nidhhi Agerwal for a threefilm deal; Yash Raj Talent has got Delhi girl Anya Singh on board for a three-film contract. Phantom is looking to back young new faces and not necessarily those from the industry. These opportunities, though, are not a sureshot ticket to success, for ultimately the final verdict lies with the audience. As an industry insider puts it, “They are all applicants taking an exam and that opportunity in itself confirms their privilege. Now we will see if the audience passes them or not. Not all of them will survive.”
In today’s social media overdrive it’s impossible to be invisible. There is no formula 44 to any of this ATUL KASBEKAR, CMD, Bling
CAST IN BOLLYWOOD MOULD SHAHID KAPOOR’S YOUNGER BROTHER ISHAAN KHATTAR (FAR LEFT); NAVYA NAVELI WITH GRANDPA AMITABH; VINOD KHANNA’S SON SAKSHI (BELOW, DELHI GIRL ANYA SINGH AND SUNIEL SHETTY’S SON AHAN
NEO FIGHTERS BENGALURU GIRL NIDHHI AGERWAL WILL MAKE HER DEBUT OPPOSITE TIGER SHROFF IN MUNNA MICHAEL; SUNNY DEOL’S ELDER SON KARAN