On June 25, Disney+Hotstar announced that Sushant Singh Rajput-starrer, Dil Bechara, would stream for free for everyone. It was the company’s initiative to honour the memories of the young actor’s final film, taking place in an environment charged with the insider vs outsider debate after his unfortunate passing. While the likes of Kangana Ranaut & co. added more fuel to fire and strange conspiracy theories emerged on social media, one got the sense that a streaming service would be a level-playing field of merit, and the thoughtful gesture around Sushant Singh Rajput’s final film was proof.
Three days later, the same company put out a poster teasing a ‘mega announcement’ about some of the biggest stars going live from their platform, announcing their respective films slated to premiere later in the year.
Monday shaam ki chai, stars ke saath. The biggest Bollywood stars are bringing you the biggest news! Mark your calendars for June 29, 4:30 PM.@akshaykumar @ajaydevgn @aliaa08 @Varun_dvn @juniorbachchan pic.twitter.com/BAwRQEOnXN
— Disney+HotstarVIP (@DisneyplusHSVIP) June 28, 2020
The poster for the event showed Varun Dhawan, Ajay Devgn, Akshay Kumar, Alia Bhatt and Abhishek Bachchan. These were stars from five of the seven films slated to be announced. The other two films Vidyut Jammwal’s Khuda Haafiz and Kunal Kemmu’s Lootcase, even though announced as a part of the line-up, didn’t seem important enough to be intimated and (at the very least) invited to the event. The two actors took to their respective Twitter accounts and expressed their disappointment in a system that didn’t even consider them worthy enough of some formal politeness. And here lies the problem of Bollywood’s clique culture.
A BIG announcement for sure!!
7 films scheduled for release but only 5 are deemed worthy of representation. 2 films, receive no invitation or intimation. It’s a long road ahead. THE CYCLE CONTINUES https://t.co/rWfHBy2d77
— Vidyut Jammwal (@VidyutJammwal) June 29, 2020
Showbiz is infamous for deifying the successful, and for forgetting its not-so-successful products. But Bollywood adds another layer on top of this atrocity, where A-listers and insiders continue to get preferential treatment, no matter what stage of their career they might be in. Someone like Abhishek Bachchan, whose last successful solo film was more than a decade ago, still gets the ‘star treatment’ presumably because of his surname. Similarly with Sanjay Dutt, who also hasn’t played a significant part in a successful film since 2006’s Lage Raho Munnabhai, is spoken of in a manner where everyone simply seems to be ignoring the number of flops he has delivered in the last 14 years. Probably because he’s the son of the late Sunil Dutt & Nargis, and he’s been raised as an insider.
This refusal to acknowledge Kemmu and Jammwal on a poster might seem like a ‘simple oversight’, but it’s also indicative of the rot at the heart of this fraternity. It’s a clique of self-serving individuals, who will not allow you to sit at the same table as them, unless you surpass the height of success (also prescribed by them) or are born into a family whose privilege can make up for the next generation’s lack of success too. A narrative is assigned to everyone, and where people don’t fit into the mould are discarded faster than you can spell ‘N-E-P-O-T-I-S-M’.
Izzat aur pyaar maanga nahi kamaya jaata hai. Koi na de toh usse hum chhote nahi hote. Bas maidaan khelne ke liye barabar de do chhalaang hum bhi oonchi laga sakte hai
— kunal kemmu (@kunalkemmu) June 29, 2020
This is not to restart a debate about Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, and his label of an ‘outsider’. It’s reductive to attribute a death to an industry’s petty behaviour. But what this incident can also remind us is how blatant this clique culture is. Where everyone wants to put you in a camp. Where merit is effortlessly forgotten. Where individuality is crushed. Where… you’re reminded how you don’t belong, through ‘inadvertent’ mistakes like someone forgetting to send an invitation.
**7 Bollywood films, including Dil Bechara (July 24), will stream on Disney+Hotstar in the coming months**