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Remove the “Outsider” tag for new entrants in Bollywood

There are lots of youngsters who dare not share the troubles they are facing with their families to save them from the possibilities of embarrassment, dishonour and being shouted or hit at. 

Before you start thinking that this is yet another article on bashing the deeply-entrenched culture of nepotism in the Hindi film industry, self-touted as “Bollywood,” please let me assure you that this isn’t.

It’s about fresh talent spending an unfair amount of their lives, resources and even their senses of dignity, ethos and self-esteem on a dream that’s actually quite simple: to entertain audiences. These people know they’re new to the industry and know that they’re not from it, but they are unfairly marginalised by being mislabelled as “Outsiders”, as if this in itself is a fault.

As someone who is based abroad India and watches Bollywood films and some Indian television for entertainment purposes, the recent, incessant, outpouring of anger, angst and anguish about what actually goes on in this industry has truly left me aghast and rather perplexed.

For one thing, why are new entrants into the industry – both on camera and off – called “Outsiders” – even after managing to be a part of a film?

These talented, hardworking people have enough to prove already: i.e. they have to prove to us as audiences that they can entertain us. They need to prove their mettle via auditions, which should be a fair way of hiring a team; but we are now finding out that there’s an awful lot more that goes on behind the curtains that not only depletes them of everything they have, but also makes them lose the will to live.

As is the case of 34-year-old, Sushant Singh Rajput: an intelligent, educated and versatile actor who still had so much more to offer us, but whose life has been cruelly cut short, leaving audiences in India and abroad reeling with a seismic anger that is currently mired Bollywood in a confusing cloud of chaos.

Just google the word “Bollywood” now and you will be bombarded with umpteen articles, videos, social media posts about what Rajput’s death has unleashed. I’ve sifted through a lot of this and wish to use this platform to begin a discussion on how the industry and us audiences could take this opportunity to evolve from this aftermath.

It’s all about the family…but should it be?

Family is not a mere social construct in India and Indian culture. The world over knows the significance and centrality Indians place on the family: it’s an institution unto itself. We are raised to respect our elders, be courteous to our older siblings and care for the youngsters. Our identities stem from our families, so much so that if people go wayward or if they fail to achieve something, their family reputation comes under question.

Some Indian families place baffling pressures on their offspring to always be “successful”, whether this is financial or social in nature. Some families consider marrying the one you’re in love with to be unacceptable, while others consider being made unemployed an embarrassment.

With more academic and cultural education, some families have evolved from these archaic modes of thinking and living, but many haven’t. There are lots of youngsters who dare not share the troubles they are facing with their families to save them from the possibilities of embarrassment, dishonour and being shouted or hit at.

Imagine then, dear reader, if a budding youngster coming from this sort of an environment, dares to dream of becoming a Bollywood movie star. He/she manages to somehow gather some resources to embark on this path only to find that the doors are closed to him/her because the industry is perceptibly owned by four or five family-run production houses.

Quite a few foreigners have made it big in Bollywood, so it would be wrong of me to say that the industry is not entirely open to “outsiders”. There have been some with highly questionable acting skills, but are from abroad India, who get to work on big-budget movies; whilst there have been other remarkably talented actors who haven’t been supported by the powers that be because they’re a) not from within the families who own the production houses, b) not from outside India, c) not connected in any way with the people who run the industry.

I guffaw at this as I write this. People wonder why Bollywood never gets the global recognition and adulation that it truly deserves, because despite this absurdly nepotistic culture, some of its movies aren’t half bad.

To the outside world, however, the general image that Bollywood projects is along the lines of “Oh yes, there’s a lot of talent there, but …”

But what? You ask, well, can this industry be taken seriously?

Let Rajput’s death be the last cue (there have, most unfortunately, been many others before him) for the industry and us as audiences to shake things up, break up this toxic attitude of marginalising fresh talent, welcoming them in, working with them and allowing them to change things for the better. Make this unimaginable scenario fully possible and prime them and the industry for a global evolution.

 

The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.

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The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
This post was created with our nice and easy submission form. Create your post!

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