A viewpoint on the nurturing nepotism in Pakistan’s entertainment industry

  • 21 Apr - 27 Apr, 2018
  • Rabia Mushtaq
  • Feature

Around three months ago, I happened to attend Karachi Literature Festival in the garden area of a picturesque venue that was chosen for a panel discussion on the topic ‘Generation and Genres: The Drama and Change’ featuring some of the bigwigs of our entertainment industry and their offsprings. It was the third and last day of the festival and the session was, indeed, crowd-pulling. A couple of panel members were missing but those present were enough to attract all the attention.

The panel discussed various aspects of the subject matter and also spoke at length about how their families have contributed in flourishing the entertainment industry, as well as their present generations’ input in with-holding their traditions.

It may, otherwise, appear like any other panel discussion where industry giants share the stage with their offsprings. But as someone who propagates merit in all walks of life, what left one wondering was whether we, as a nation, can ever do something praiseworthy without having accusations of nepotism, parchi or sifarish thrown at us. One needs to question that in a country where from politicians to actors to sports persons, almost every other known face is a product of nepotism, who would speak against the issue at large?

One of the gentlemen on the panel tried to nullify the existence of nepotism, saying that it can’t work in Pakistan’s entertainment industry and went on to share an example of how Abhishek Bachchan would have been a ‘superstar’ if the concept of parchi worked in Bollywood. I wouldn’t call it wise for a celebrity to quote an example of another celebrity (read: star kid) – who is, in fact, popular regardless of his talent – and certainly does not justify their stance on the existence of nepotism in the local realm.

It may not be as prevalent as one considers it to be, but the menace of nepotism has, nevertheless, seeped into our society with politics taking centre stage, while those associated with sports and entertainment can be easily pin pointed, as they happen to come under the limelight more so than others. Here, we talk about how relationships, friendships and of course, kinships play a role in propagating nepotism in an industry which must thrive on nothing else but talent. Sadly, it isn’t the case for many who do have what it takes to be deemed successful but are shoved aside by the industry’s machinery merely because they aren’t a part of the ‘IT’ crowd.

So, why in Pakistan do we not hear many raising questions on the privileged celeb class, where every other celebrity or at least most of them are star kids, or better yet ‘actors’ because apparently ‘talent’ runs in their blood? Without having to name anyone, one can easily go on counting the many ‘actors’ who are, unabashedly, a part of the entertainment business accredited by their relationships and friendships, for those in the ‘IT’ crowd possess the edge of being someone’s child, nephew, niece, husband, wife, brother, or sister.

Ironically, the scribe happened to interview one of the panel members – actor/director/screenwriter Sarmad Khoosat – who is indeed, immensely talented, but a star kid, after all – and asked if the term ‘nepotism’ needs to be argued upon in our part of the world. Sarmad, however, played safe and counter-questioned me, instead. “Do we (ever) object on children carrying their parent’s legacy in other disciplines?” Even though one may agree with his viewpoint to an extent, but does that mean that the privileged celebrity culture in Pakistan needs to be normalised? Sarmad then went on to tell how “we’ll be outnumbered if one counts, we’re very few,” and added a rather contrary response to the actual question raised. “Where do we get people from? If I’m making a project and I know an actor or their sibling/children who I would want to work with, I don’t find it to be wrong either,” Sarmad said, and later spoke about the struggles he went through to get where he is today. Even though one genuinely acknowledges his hard work but denouncing something that exists kills the purpose of expelling favouritism.

It’s hard to switch on the television and not find a face who is a son, daughter, brother, sister or spouse of a celebrity. In this rampant display of preferential treatment, there are however, some faces that have stood against the odds to claim their existence in the competitive entertainment business. There are examples of people who started from scratch to become the successful beings that they are today. One does agree that Pakistan entertainment industry possesses talented individuals in every field who have nothing to do with the favourite families of film, television and music but the issue of being handpicked against merit still lingers among celeb circles.

Despite having bland, expressionless faces and not-so-powerful vocals, some not-so-talented individuals are given exposure every now and then, and the industry’s bigwigs are responsible for nurturing this nepotism and that too, quite blatantly. Until and unless equality is visible on-screen and otherwise, one can never be convinced that it does not exist in the realm of show business.

There was a reason why Bollywood had to surrender in front of a talented actress like Kangana Ranuat who wasn’t afraid to call a spade, a spade. One wonders when a Pakistani Kangana will decide to take a stand.