How many of you have watched the BBC (faux) quiz show Have I Got News for You? Every time I watch an episode of it, I am reminded how thin-skinned we Indians are when it comes to laughing at ourselves. The question about freedom of speech aside, this lack of ability to laugh at oneself is a very Indian trait. Because, watch American or British TV and you can see how talk show hosts are, even in these rather scary times, making fun of Trump or Theresa May, openly and with admirable impunity. In the BBC show mentioned above, Ian Hislop and Paul Merton regularly make fun of even the Queen, likening her face to that of a horse. The Queen, the politicians, the celebrities, no one takes umbrage.
Queen. Yes, that is my point. I loved Kangana in the movie and thought she was brilliant. I saw it 3 times. I have always admired her acting, always felt she is immensely talented and her career trajectory has been phenomenal, especially given how she had no big family name or money to back her. In an industry which is nepotistic and incestuous, it is no mean feat and she deserves all the kudos she gets. But rather unfortunately, her stronger footing within the industry did not translate into courage of her convictions. Because if you were strong, you would not have to resort to subterfuge, you would not need to appropriate someone else’s work as your own.
Talent is as talent does. You are a wonderful actress. You have directorial aspirations. Fair enough. But in your rush to reach whatever heights you want to reach – most of it well deserved – you cannot trample the aspirations of others in your hurried scramble to be there on top.
Karan, Saif and Varun’s jibes at Kangana were extremely distasteful and completely unnecessary. And expectedly, much of social media lit up pretty much instantly in righteous outrage. We then read about all three of them biting dust about making the nepotism jokes. Digging a deeper grave, Saif went into a bizarre discussion on genetics and eugenics and worse, then had to explain why he spoke of eugenics etc. Yes, very convoluted. Several lady actors spoke in solidarity with Kangana, which was nice. Social media was ablaze with feminists all rallying behind Kangana, which was nice (and expected) too.
Over the last few months, Apurva Asrani has, in his quiet and civilized way, been writing about the raw deal he got from Hansal Mehta and Kangana in the credits of the upcoming movie Simran. In fact, to this day, he still is averse to blaming Hansal Mehta with anything nasty, because he maintains he has a lot of affection for the man. Here’s what Apurva has to say about the IFFA fracas- “I think the IFFA gag was in bad taste and people are right in condemning it. But the nepotism debate must move beyond making villains out of the privileged. It is a problem with the system, across all sectors and we need to realize that we are all guilty of it. When we hire our trusted family members and friends, use our clout to refer a friend, we are all nepotistic”
He is right. The film industry has as much right to be nepotistic as everyone else. Karan’s flabber was truly gasted in that show and everyone loved watching him being ripped apart by Kangana. And what she said felt so right. But it also says something for the man that he still chose to air the show, you have to grant him that. I don’t watch TV and only saw YouTube clips without sound but words written down by weird people who have nothing better to do with their time save think of people like me who can’t watch TV.
You could be pretty, smart and talented and genuinely deserving of your success, but it never pays to be mean. Just as it did not pay the trio being mean to her in the IFFA night.
And the cycle of bitter nastiness can whirl quite out of control. After Apurva’s very controlled interview about nepotism vis-à-vis Ms Ranaut, where he questions why it is not nepotism when the boot is on the other foot, Kangana’s sister springs to her sibling’s side, battle-lines all drawn, and makes this into a tirade, where she is the victim (which she is, of a tragic acid attack, out of which Kangana drew her). But Apurva did not have anything to do with the acid attack and her victimhood does not automatically attach any virtue to her. Or it shouldn’t.
And it is feminism gone all wrong when you have to back someone up simply because she is a woman, fighting a battle against a man, any man. She tweets, “I am her sister and I am with her in that capacity”. Well, guess what, Karan Johar is his father’s son and owns everything in that capacity. Same difference. Weird, how some people care only about themselves, understanding their troubles and seeing only their perspective. Apurva has already got way more than his Warholian 15 minutes of fame, and he does not crave for it.
There are way more reasons for Apurva Asrani to be outraged by what is, for lack of a more appropriate word, fraud. Or actually, appropriating (bad punning, but well…) someone else’s work as one’s own. Kangana did that with what is (and Apurva has enough proof of that) Apurva’s work of 2 nearly two years. After having written an entire script, to have it snatched away and no one daring to say a word because she is a star, and the entire set of people just watching from the sidelines and doing nothing about it, that is misusing your privilege and speaks volumes about the double standards in Bollywood and in all of us who grab the stories. Kangana wanted to become “director” and suggested some line changes, (which were accepted by Apurva in good faith and with grace) voila, she claims co-writing it Apurva’s script. And what is worse, gets her name before Apurva’s in posters which came out. Every other person involved, maintain a deafening silence.
So, nepotism vs fraud. You take your pick, which is a worse thing to confront?
For nepotism to work beyond a certain level, one needs hard work, which many of our star children do put in. Nobody can argue that while Ranbir Kapoor might have got his first entry in that immensely forgettable movie (yes, I have forgotten the name of it), he has risen to where he is by dint of his hard work and talent. And we know plenty who did not work out, despite big names and families behind them. But the campaign happening around Apurva, which is being quietly engineered by many misguided feminists, is what happens when a toxic person cannot control you and tries to control how others see you. It is completely unfair, and words echo around till they begin to feel like the truth to everyone except the wronged one. Many people have told Apurva to remain calm, to not let negative people occupy space in his head, but endless destructive conversations circling the air makes it really difficult to do that.
But. Blowing out someone else’s candle doesn’t make yours shine any brighter.