India Today - - STAR CHILDREN - By Suhani Singh

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.


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.”


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”.


“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

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