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The coronavirus pandemic has also unleashed a rash of viral memes. My favourite is one which has a patient asking a doctor when he thinks the scourge will end. “I don’t know,” says the doctor. “I am not a journalist.”

It is with that sobering thought that I dare to wade into the story of actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, and what it tells us about Bollywood. Now, I know you could turn around and confront me with that same meme: You think you can hold forth on cinema just because you are a journalist?

I speak from experience. One reason I love my job is the diversity of experiences it provides, and the fascinating people I interact with.

I have hardly ever written about a film, except for the sociology of the odd remarkable one like Dil Chahta Hai (2001) and Masaan (2015). But, having to shepherd India’s premier film awards (Screen Awards, owned by The Indian Express Group when I also functioned as the company’s CEO between 2000-2013, besides editor-in-chief) exposes you to this incredible universe.

Incredible, because for something so public, open, and dependent on the wishes of crores of ticket-buying people, or ‘bums-on-the-seats’ in the insiders’ language, it is also the most opaque business you can find. Any outsider would find it impregnable and suffer many heartbreaks, as even one as successful as Sushant probably did.

It has everything: Glamour, fame, money, power, hormones, cliques, dynasties. It is also, generally, a meritocracy. After all, four children of Dharmendra’s, including two with Hema Malini, only collected middling Sunny Deol-sized success between them, besides three Parliament seats from the BJP. Abhishek Bachchan, despite his super-famous and powerful parents, spouse, talent and demeanour of maturity not widespread in the film world, has struggled.

So, if Bollywood has all this, what is it that it lacks? What is it that breaks an outsider as talented and successful as Sushant Singh Rajput? The short answer is one word: Respect.

Although grandly called ‘industry’, this world has no centre of gravity. It can’t have any if no one there respects any individual, institution, organisation, government, media, nothing. Everyone within is a rival or an ally. Everyone outside can be bought or arm-twisted (especially media and film critics), or charmed, as in politicians. It is a very lonely place. And the most selfish I have seen. Mind you, I’ve made my living over four decades covering Indian politics.


Also read:Bollywood’s Royals: Brave heroes on screen, spineless zeroes off it


What makes Bollywood a world so unfair to the outsider so much isn’t just the dynasties and cliques. It is essentially the fact that it is a brutally competitive game with no umpires, adjudicators or whistle-blowers.

Every year for the Screen Awards, my primary responsibility was to let the formidable editor of Screen (Bhawana Somaiya, and later, Priyanka Sinha Jha) set up a jury, and let them decide without any interference. To that extent, we were successful. Neither the management of the Express Group, nor its owner or his family ever called us to ‘suggest’ anything. The pressures, however, came once the awards list became known.

The days leading up to the glittering awards evening in Mumbai, each January, was a nightmare. Because film awards in India are no longer just awards and speeches like the Oscars. These are multi-hour television shows paid for by the host channel which, in turn, collects from the sponsors. That needs ratings. Which is ensured in two ways: Get top stars to perform on stage, ideally to a hit song of each one from that year, and to fill in your star enclosure with the most popular faces. The first was easy, if expensive. The second was the trouble.

Because, a star attending or not would depend on whether he/she was getting an award or not. If we couldn’t ensure an award (which we never did or would), not only would the star boycott, but also the entire clique or dynasty around him/her. I forget precise dates and regret my poor GK on movies, but the first experience was a boycott by the entire Bachchan clan, maybe in 2004, because of one such dissatisfaction.

There was an incident every year. I am choosing the few here to illustrate the power of every possible element: A dynasty, a clique or an individual star. In the 2011 awards (for 2010 releases), My Name is Khan was apparently the biggest hit. It did not get nominated in any category. Right or wrong, we wouldn’t know, because we let the jury be. And the jury that year was headed by someone as widely respected and accomplished as Amol Palekar. Shah Rukh Khan was also a contracted performer and a stage presenter.

Trouble began three days earlier, as usual. There were threats of a boycott. I never heard this from Shah Rukh — before, during the awards or later, to be fair. But from people “around the film”. There was panic and I had to field long, pained, hurt calls from Karan Johar, who simply wouldn’t accept that the jury had not found the film worthy of an award.

I was told dark theories on why poor Palekar might dislike those who made “the greatest hit in years”. How dare he choose instead a “marginal film” like Vikramaditya Motwane’s Udaan! There were threats of a boycott not just “by us, but the entire industry”. We held our nerve again, and a breather came as the viewers’ choice award, based on an internet poll conducted by our host TV channel, went to the film. We were satisfied because it wasn’t a jury award and our process was clean.


Also read:Nepotistic privilege should be a matter of social shame. It holds India back


Year 2012 was my last Screen Awards ordeal. The best film was shared between Vidya Balan-starrer Dirty Picture and multi-starrer Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (ZNMD). So far, so good. But again, in its wisdom, the jury chose Milan Luthria (Dirty Picture) for best director, and not Zoya Akhtar (ZNMD).

On the day of the awards, Priyanka called in panic as usual. The cast and crew of ZNMD, she said, were boycotting. Now, how do you run an awards evening if nobody appears on the stage to accept ‘best film’. We again started diplomacy. But it wasn’t working. Not only was nobody from the film turning up, they had also persuaded all their friends.

At one point that evening, I got desperate enough to even call Javed Akhtar to plead with him. I did get a call back from Farhan. He turned up, sullen and in a black tee. He said while he might have come there out of respect (not for the jury), he wouldn’t accept the award on the stage. He left in a few minutes.

In the front rows, I spotted Krishika Lulla, whose company Eros held the worldwide rights to the film, and requested her to come and accept the award for the film. The temperature dropped to minus-30; she froze. How could any producer risk the ire of multiple dynasties, stars and a sizeable clique all rolled together? We had to finally get one of our staff members to take the award on the film’s behalf.

There were more. And you might find those in my memoir someday. But, notably, in 2007, there was Hrithik Roshan, chosen best actor (male) for Krrish, so far, so good. He was also contracted to perform on stage. He sent word an hour before the event that he would come and perform as contracted, but wouldn’t accept the award.

Why? Because how could he give legitimacy “to a jury that did not recognise the phenomenal talent of his father”? Rakesh Roshan was the film’s director. Hrithik did finally relent, but boycotted at least the customary post-awards star party.

And then, in 2010, when Katrina Kaif was to perform, paid fully in advance, she threw a tantrum minutes before her performance as she wasn’t being given any award. I was taken to her vanity van to plead with her.

Katrina was all dressed and painted up to perform. And then, the outburst. Why do they always call me but give me no awards? I said that was never the deal, you have a contract to perform. But by now, tears were streaming down her face, taking much of the make-up in their wake. Again, we invented a popular choice award.

It is well known that Aamir Khan never attends awards functions because he says they are fixed. Every year I’d call him and ask him if he didn’t trust even me to keep our awards clean. But he kept telling me, you get off this kerb. You will not be able to do this. A totally fair awards process is impossible here. I said my jury awards were clean, ‘popular choice’ ones we had nothing to do with, so we were at least 90 per cent clean. He said, I told you so.

The reason I bare all this now, is because it helps us imagine how lonely and stressed a rank outsider could get in this environment. Already, the stars buy coverage in the biggest newspapers with money. The number of ‘stars’ rating in a film review comes at a negotiable price in much powerful media (with exceptions); awards are fixed using the clout of established stardom, dynasties, cliques. There is nobody who can blow the whistle. No elder statesman, no institution like an association or an Academy, few journalists who carry credibility as well as weight, no whistle-blowers. It is a very, very stressful place for an outsider. Because the system can be turned on you. Not even a newspaper group like the Express was spared.

Postscript: I’m old-fashioned. I called the Chairman of the Express Group, Viveck Goenka, to inform him I was writing this. He is fine with it.

This article has been updated to correct the year of Katrina Kaif’s performance at Screen awards and the inaccurate reference to Lagaan instead of Masaan. The errors are regretted.


Also read: Bollywood’s nepotism didn’t start with Karan Johar. But it must end with Sushant Singh Rajput


 

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83 Comments Share Your Views

83 COMMENTS

  1. The only sense I get with this article how helpless the stars and the related media actually are. Living off each other and still trying to pretend to be friends. It’s a tragedy that we have to live a friendless and make believe life.

    It’s natural for some children to gravitate towards their parents profession. It’s natural for parents to support their children. Why shouldn’t they?

    It’s natural for others with less parental support to feel neglected and disadvantaged. The problem is not what is natural. The problem is what is unnatural and inhuman. It takes place everyday. To disrespect the disadvantaged or devalue them. Talk shows which devalue people have to be censored. So too news channels spouting offensive comments about others. This article is well written but naming people who may have some relationship with you in the past feels like back stabbing even if they are popular figures.

    I

  2. Well written and thanks for providing insights into the brats of Bollywood..

    Still and all.. I fail to understand what this has to do with SSR or his suicide. Here are some facts: -Some 60% of Indias population (around 812 million people) currently live on $3.2 a day (BPL). Heres a good looking guy who is famous and rich (by “BPL” standards anyway) who chooses to end his life, selfishly leaving his family members presumably devastated. Sure,we can rant about depression due to unfair practices in the industry and so on till the cows come home. Show me one organization, one industry where its all milk and honey.. I’ll eat humble pie.

    if reports are to be believed, he had over 15 crores in his bank account. He could’ve just retired and lived off the interest alone (which would be around 1 lakh a month). Now that’s a princely sum that many people in our country don’t see in their lifetimes.
    The news flash here is that “life is a bitch” .. accept it, because somewhere in there, theres good too.

  3. I guess there was an exception. Aamir Khan did go to receive a award. Gollapudi memorial award. This was instituted by Gollapudi Maruti Rao in the memory of his son.

  4. Worst thing is after bjp is in power even national awards are “fixed” and nobody is pointing that out over in the comments too. We had national awards as a reply to this kind of this clan and mediocrity .it used to be something to look forward to. But look at all the awards nowadays. Joke!

    • Lolwa every award in India is just a tool to wild more power from ages, not after Bjp.Although will give Bjp credit for some not all awards(Huh Ekta,Karan) in Padmashri category as the nomination is now public on official website.You know this coupta,rajdeep,barkha have got Padma Shree from fawning to Madam Sonia.BTW the best Best Debut Film of a Director is one of the National Film Awards is called “Indira Gandhi Award for Best Debut Film of a Director ” since 1980 only similarity b/w Indiraji & cinema is both successfully fooled the public for ages(Garibi Hatao!). So don’t say after Bjp just for your agenda. Not in India from Nobel to Pulitzer. They gave Obama a Nobel peace prize after which he BOMBED 7 countries,was going to give to Manmohanji for demilitarizing Siachen. Gave Pulitzer to one journalist for Russian election reporting which turned out to be a Hoax. If not for the Internet Even WHO would have given an award to China for the best pandemic handling ability.😂😂

  5. CUTTHROAT COMPETITION IN EVERY FIELD WHETHER POLITICS, BUSINESS, CORPORATE, CREAM TYPE POSTINGS, CONTRACTORS, POSTING & TRANSFERS. WHY BLAME FILM INDUSTRY.

  6. I am surprised by Anurag Kashyap’s reaction and support for Karan Johar, and shaming the victim for not choosing to work with him. Given that he is such good friends with Karan Johar, it is impossible for him to not know. Thanks to this article it is now easier to understand how these stars and their cliques use their PR machinery. They are slowly developing a narrative, in this case using perception of Kashyap’s credibility, which is eroding fast. Kashyap is that uncle who comments on vulgarity while elbowing every lady in a crowded train (from arnab ray – greatbong’s timeline). It’s so hypocritical of the Aktars, Bhats, Johars pontificating about everything but running their fiefdoms.

  7. look who is talking! a lap dog of dynasties himself. Be it Gandhis, Bachhans or Khans! Shekhar Gupta has always been a part of the establishment and this whole media mafia circus- be it getting played by the industry stalwarts or ISI or China! Shekhar Gupta has been a leech! Did he ever write anything against Salman Khan in black buck case? In hit and run case? In any other case. His pen has always subtly protected the mighty. and that’s how he has reached where he has. Please do not assume that gangs exist only in Bollywood, news media is way worse. People like him suck balls of really dangerous men and intelligence agencies who can afford to bring him down any day. is only He made this video just to pretend as if he is not a part of this circus. BUT HE IS &
    HE HAS ALWAYS BEEN.

  8. Thanks to speak truth but you are late for this.
    Please Will support truth for others. We wanna Dil bechara will nominate for different awards because it deserves.

  9. Why I would not like to support this media group … It seems news industry has the tendency to move in the direction of the wind .. during UPA government same Indian express left no stone unturned to label India as fascist dominated country and run a minority centric propoganda .. towing Congress line .. it’s today during the age of social media where everything lays bare and no lie can be hidden for long they are claiming to be on moral high grounds by fair reporting .. they have been profittering for years and peddling lies … award function is classic example . These same.people who are preacing today where hand in glove with perpetrators …no sympathy for them sorry .. pay for your crimes

  10. I am a great fan of SG. While there exists good and bad everywhere, the film industry is no different. It’s unfortunate to note that bad gets highlighted, totally ignoring the good. In a nation, where unemployment is the major burning issue, the film industry generates employment to many. Films bring joy on faces which are overburdened with worries. Why do we tend to forget the good things.
    The industry cannot be shamed by few. There were greats in the past present and always.

  11. excellent@!!!!! especially naming names!!!! what a line up rittik roshan, farhan akhtar, the bachhans and of course the great Karan johar!!!!! emperors with no clothes? are they cringing? i suspect NOT. shows they hold the viewer in fairly low esteem.

    • Me Shekhar gupta, why did you not tell the story of threat by the Bachchan clan? Are you also scared of the so called “great actor” Amitabh Bachchan?

  12. Well, what are we complaining about?

    We reward bad storytelling, pathetic acting, mindless song and dance sequences with crores in box office collections. We get what we deserve.

    If the audience demands excellence instead of “nautanki”, our films would change too. And so would the overall environment for real talent.

    • look who is talking! a lap dog of dynasties himself. Be it Gandhis, Bachhans or Khans! Shekhar Gupta has always been a part of the establishment and this whole media mafia circus be it getting played by the industry stalwarts or ISI or China! Did he ever write anything against Salman Khan in black buck case? In hit and run case? In any other case. His pen has always subtly protected the mighty. and that’s how he has reached where he has. He made this video just to pretend as if he is not a part of this circus. BUT HE IS< HE HAS ALWAYS BEEN.

  13. There are exceptions even in this so called cut throat competitive film industry…..There are people here also who work for their own inner self satisfaction as an artist and don’t become desperate to go to any extent to reach the top…..Every dark cloud has a silver lining after all….its high time we should portray the positive sides n aspects too….For example Aftab Shivdasani is a true artist with a heart of gold….he never ever compromises for cheap materialistic returns n would never ever compromise in future too
    I still respect Bollywood n would in future live n die for it till my last breath come what may

  14. It is interesting to read this article for several reasons. First we get to hear backroom realities about stars whom we see all beautiful and smiling on stage. How it is considered an entitlement to win an award, as revealed by Katrina Kaif case. Or how Rittik Roshan can demand an award for his father or drop out of the show at the last minute. Have we forgotten that awards are won not demanded? My second revelation was hypocrisy our stars exhibit in public and how they behave behind the scene. Same Farhan Akhtar who was in a black tee shirt came to meet Sekher Gupta, had pontificate about goal of being an actor is not always to win an award. This gem he said to A hay Deol, post Sushant Singh suicide, when Abhay had complained about being left out of best actor slot in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Only Hritik and Katrina were selected. All said and done, when there is money, fame and future work is at stake, people will complain at being left out. Only way forward is to choose a clean jury against whom none could raise a finger, and hire a glib PR manager who can soothe bruised ego. Finally I am and was a fan of Sushant Rajput. But I despise how his death is being used to run down actors, directors producers and critics. In an industry where perception matters, there will be difference of opinion. We must learn to respect this difference. Sushant was not short on projects, he had rejected four films, he had enough money, may be not as much as Khans or Kumars, still much more than common folks. Office politics is a staple in a overpopulated resource starved country of ours. One has to grin and bear it.

  15. Frankly Speaking, NO ONE WATCHES these FAKE AWARD SHOWS …Everyone knows these awards are BOUGHT,Not GIVEN…So,In some time from Now, these FAKE AWARDS will cease to exist, as there will be no TAKERS…

  16. @Shekar Gupta… Sir…..is in any different in Hollywood or BAFTA or elsewhere….can you please throw some light

  17. Dear Mr Gupta,

    A few months back, when you were speaking about how the courts should get out of running cricket, you had mentioned that the Gov of India should get out of the awards business. Here you mention that there is no referee. National Film Awards conferred by the GoI should probably stay. At least it looks at the full gamut of films across India without leaning towards a language or region etc.

  18. There are so many other problems and shortcomings in country, facing the country. Instead of f
    Interest by Mr Skekhar Gupta ,Mr Swamy . and Shekhar Kapoor leaves a very puzzling thought.
    Especially when competition and undercutting is a norm no an exception in competitive scenario..

  19. How come ThePrint gives major space to so many journalists who only writes propaganda articles full of hate and anti-national views if Shekhar Gupta is clean journalists as he pretends to be. Shekhar Gupta can’t stand on two boats sailing in divergent directions. I guess he is clever enough to keep his cloths clean while his ThePrint throws mud on others.

    • True though S.G. is showing neutrality but all print articles are mostly anti national in nature.
      At least print should carry articles of all right, left. S.G. should conform the same.

  20. The fact that you have called out few big names is not just commendable its fearless. It is not easy to be fearless in this current times. I often wondered and in fact questioned so many of my friends and family members – why do we adore Bollywood so much? Are these people the most successful in this world that they have so many followers? I think Sushant’s death has brought out the ugly side of this gang-driven industry to the moviegoers. Success is bought here not achieved. Our country has so many talents in different fields, forget about following them, we don’t even take an ounce of energy to acknowledge them. I hope more kids realize thare are thousand ways to ear money, fame and success. What is success after all? who defines it? If you give a hit movie and and have two security personnel and walk around with a Gucci bag- is this the new parameter for success for us? Sadly, Sushant was brainwashed with this ideology. He had so much more potential than most to become anything he wanted. We lost a great soul and that’s fact. Hope all learns something from this tragic incident.

    • Contrary to what you say, Indians are fearless as never before.. It’s easy to be fearless since 2014 after the end of misrule of Congress. Now Anti-nationals can shout “Bharat Tere Tukade Honge” and a battalion of librandus come to their support freelessly. The recent anti-CAA protest is another case of how fearlessly Muslims can protest without any valid ground of grievances. In TV debates also I don’t see any fear even in those who wants destruction of India. India is now a vibrant democracy.

  21. Nothing new in this article. We know all about awards and how actors deals with it. The main issue is that in a place ruled by power and money you can’t solve any issue in a way or another the powerful will win and get what they want and paid media to talk about. Kangana didn’t say anything new to the media or industry but she is another face of paid media to get herself out there.

  22. Interesting! Is this a pitch to say the other popular awards (Read Filmfare) are biased and screen awards are not? Tough to believe this one, a poor attempt at declaring yourself clean

  23. Finally, a brave soul emerges. Thank you Mr. Shekhar Gupta for sharing this. It is evident, that a STAR like Sushant Singh Rajput who was way talented than the dumb asses and bhais of the industry was murdered. KARMA will prevail – it always has and the likes of this entire lobby be it karan johar, aditya chopra, salman khan, mukesh bhatt and the pancholis will suffer a fate a million times worse.

    To murder someone like this is not only unforgivable but horrendous. They envied him because he was a zillion times more talented than all them and their dumb heroes, was a zillion times more intelligent than the dumb shows / movies they make and was a determined and humble soul.

    May these murderers suffer like none else in the history of mankind

  24. Why would a noted publication declare anything but a list of nominations prior to the actual awards ceremony? Shouldn’t the process be more professional to begin with?

  25. First you say- “We held our nerve again, and a breather came as the viewers’ choice award, based on an internet poll conducted by our host TV channel, went to the film. We were satisfied because it wasn’t a jury award and our process was clean.” and then you say -“Again, we invented a popular choice award.”!

    • he is being brutally honest is not he? he need not ahve said anythig at all or just brushed this aside. he compromised.

  26. Bollywood is even dirtier than what has been written in this article. The cocaine dealers to Dawood’s aide.. bollywood is everything that you can never imagine. The Khans are running the show for Dawood and people like Akhtars are paid to create a narrative and form that #intolerance tribe. The. There is that casting couch pigs spread all across the industry.
    It is much more full of shit than you can ever imagine.

  27. Mr. Shekhar Gupta, How do people know who is going to get the award before the award ceremony? Don’t you think If you announce the award on stage you would never have to deal with so much pressure before the award show? Or is it that Jury is also compromised and they let the cat out.

  28. “…..I’d call him and ask him if he didn’t trust even me…”. You must be joking Mr. Gupta!!!!!!!! You also never stole money from someone’s wallet lying on the table. That doesn’t make you honest.

  29. All of this documentation is alright but I don’t see how this relates to Sushant Singh Rajput‘s suicide. Especially, when nobody on this god damn earth knows why he killed himself.

    All kinds of rubbish conspiracy theories being manufactured for “prime-time lockdown entertainment” as a coverup for the sorry state of our public healthcare system.

    How convenient!

  30. Nothing is going to come out of this
    Bollywood will continue to be the corrupt criminal den that it is right now. Barriers to entry will be even higher in future. Only consolation is all the insult and slander and shredding Karan Johar, YRF, salman, Aamir, Saif Tiger and the 1000s of other talntless nepo kids are experiencing right now.
    Kudos! Keep em coming! Humiliate and destroy them on SM.

    It will go on for as long as the theaters are closed and there is some sort of a lock down
    Well deserved! (WHO cares if its fair or not! All those that are demanding fairness where were they when SSR was alive? Too busy shining KJO’s boots?)

  31. Its audience who make them feel special its audience who make them big enough to have bargain cheap to trade off awards audience wont watch awards if top stars dont come. India as society love deification whether in politics or cricket ir star its result if that these star start living in a bubble where they think they can impose their will

  32. I fail to understand why a media group wants to organise award functions limited to Bollywood not in wider sectors such as education, health, public services etc. The sole reason is that media house wants to encash on glamour for its commercial benefits and since due to benefit and not for the purpose to recognise the talent, the other party will enforce its conditions.

  33. Wow ! What a brilliant news this news are fake this is not real I can’t believe that nobody believe that one …..

  34. The whole world is unfair whether it’s politics or business or any other profession. Bollywood is least professional of all and therefore cannot expect much. Constant crave for external approval or respect leads to a disaster when the approval or respect doesn’t come despite one’s best efforts. This is another reminder that to succeed in any field, in addition to talent one must have one’s own standards to excel instead of relying completely on external respect or approval.

  35. Thanks SG – for revealing open secrets! Even in these times when there is no public screening, the PVR cinema is doing well at the stock markets – in anticipation. Such is the power of cinema in India and probably the world over. Lately it is losing its sheen with the pervasive reach of digital media – TOT and what not.
    This matter of screen awards – all leading publishing houses want to hold film award functions. Is there a need? Should they be abetting the shenanigans of the make-believe tinsel world ?

  36. Why do they need so many award shows?? Why cant they just cancel all the awards when we know they all are rigged. I dont believe in National awards either. Is politics any better? one can buy a MP, MLA seat with money power..it applies to all parties. The sad part is there are millions of poor masses in India who like only Masala movies and make these stars demi gods. . They watch these silly movies to escape from sorrows and stress. . if they are educated enough may be they get better taste and appreciate good cinema. How ever Avengers, Fast and Furious type masala movies are equally enjoyed by educated??

  37. Honest arrival and gives idea about how bollywood really works n how dirty politics is played by so called stars and dyansties

  38. In the Hollywood Movie “Spotlight”, there is a situation towards the end that unless a lawyer who defended the pedophile clergies ratifies the list of clergy names found by the Boston Globe newspaper, there will be difficulty publishing the story. In a very poignant scene, the lawyer (who is incidentally the friend of the spotlight journalist) finally relents to endorse the list of culprit names. This made the story “viral”.

    What you did today is just that. You endorsed the story. To me, it is the single most boldest act I’ve seen and heard. And, it came from the top. After this, no other and anyone else’s pretentious talks will hold water.
    Sir, keep up the good work.

  39. shekarji
    kudos to you.
    my respect for you has gone up further today.
    long live your tribe.
    do you try to instill these values to your juniors?

  40. The topic, the disclosures, the naming….you sure have busted a few balls with this one, Mr. Gupta. Its important that the credible are not always discreet. thanks.

  41. The things you have written we already know. This is a very disappointing article with lots of ifs and buts and justifying everything. You have so much experience and you are using the word “90% clean??”
    We are living in a sad state where people re just so reluctant to talk about the truth. People like yourselves have been a part of this fake award shows and now you are writing a column to show us the dark sides.
    P.S I do not know the author. Just read the article and wanted to view my opinion. Have so much to say.

  42. We are destined to be ruled by the dynasts,whether we like it or not. The facts say so. Even our democracy has been moulded to promote ,serve and proliferate dynastic rule in politics. How can film industry either in Mumbai or Hyderabad can be an exception. The off-shoot of dynasts in politics and film industry are just continuation of same “mai-baap” mind-set well entrenched in our psyche ,whatever may our democratic pretentions be. Once a set of first generation members are entrenched,they fight hard to preserve the rights and privileges, be it politics,films or jobs.A lady from pigmy tribe of Gabon is said to have informed Late Nobel Laureate V.S.Naipaul that to be a healer ( healer is an elder who talks with his ancestor through skull and bones of his dead ancestor) one has to have a an ancestor somewhere in his past who was a healer, which effectively closes all doors for inclusion of ‘others ‘.

  43. While I agree with most of the points, I disagree that Bollywood is generally meritocracy. If it was, Abhishek Bachhan would not have acted in more than 50 movies, most of which has been flop. An outsider would never get so many opportunities.
    Here the entry of an outsider is itself is difficult. The dynasties are only competing among themselves. So some of them are bound to flop. Some of the shining examples of dynastic talentless actors are Varun Dhawan, Karishma, Kareena, Aditya Pancholi’s son, Athiya Shetty, Sara Ali Khan, etc.

  44. Best and fair article but for below(Hope it will be published)
    What use of your article with yourself so spineless for so long years and many deaths?
    What your nonsense seniority of 40 years as journalist if you cannot blow the whistle?
    Now also getting permission from owner and all concerned to write the article?!!!
    Now what is this “HOLIER -THAN -THOU OR ALL” article?
    Cinema, politics,delayed justice all are not dirty picture we see every day but gutters we live for whole life!
    i , fairly successfully worked from 1982 in Tamilnadu, Delhi,Near Australia and now in Dubai but i never compromised my honesty against any evil!
    Spinelessness is our Indian-ness! Kindly write any honest article within fair time!
    Thanks!

  45. The Postscript seems the ironic icing that a seasoned professional had to tolerate on a better tasting cake. Nevertheless, it has been my experience on multiple levels outside of systems, across the world, across cultures, in normal day to day life that we adult humans come in highly stratified mindsets. The strata does not get diffusive and hence objective even in the mature years of ones lifetime and in this regard I’ve come to understand and respect individuals who chose and continuously strive to have an objective view on aspects of life be they be from a struggling eco-sphere or a well looked after eco-sphere.

    All over, the entrapment of existence are much stronger as the life in general is based on show based example living rather than truthful living. It is within the system, it is always the responsible individuals today, ordinary individuals tomorrow. We as a human society are yet to make in great numbers right individuals in most places. My struggle and work continues.

  46. Best article by Shekhar Gupta in the recent times.. true inside account of bollywood awards! Thank you for thid piece! Thank you for staying honest to journalism.

  47. Wow, it is so hard to come across something written with such elan. Kudos to the writer for having the courage to call these people what they are – SPADES!

  48. As teenagers, we grew up reading Shobhaa De’s Stardust and Neeta’s Natter. This is a more somber portrayal of the film industry. All about creating magic in a darkened auditorium. Not sure how many of us would be interested in seeing the faces without their makeup.

  49. BRAVO BRAVO BRAVO

    THANK YOU SIR FOR THIS CANDID STORY! NOW if you’re labeled fake news, I will know why.

    Your words should sound an alarm bell in the hearts and minds of all deniers.

    This article reminds me of the classic story line of -‘ Jane bhi do yaaron’. Sadly, like in the movie, life to always kills its most interesting protagonists!

  50. Hands up for all those who will watch a Karan Johar, Aaliya, ranbir , n that Anil Kapoor spawn flick after this…corona virus, I can deal with you… Bollywood bachchaas, no freakin waaaaaayyy

  51. I agree with you really film industry is a cruel world. I am not seeing any improvement in near future although I really miss SSR by heart he was too young and talented actor.

  52. Thank you for this honest, introspective and insightful piece. It is about time that efforts are made to democratise an industry that builds name and fame on the backs of the paying public.

  53. When a group of entertainers get together, you know they will not celebrate intelligent thinking or indulge in discourses. From that point onward, it is known that the next pit stop would be a dark triad of human psychology: Narcissism. Not to say this in bad taste, but in such times of debate on whether it was the bat or the civet which spread the SARS-CoV2 virus, one fact that cannot be overruled that bats are reservoirs of viruses and highly paid film stars are reservoirs of narcissism, hedonism and the uncomfortable elephant in the room; Nepotism. It is that much unfair that only celebrities are called benefactors of nepotism, when in close scrutiny much of which has anything to deal with power,fame and glory will attract such facets of those entwined with it.

    It is the stroking of ego, which becomes an unsatisfied itch. There are countless instances and some glaringly revealed ones where, Bachchan Sr. has indulged into glaring excesses of arm-twisting others who was not able to fancy his towering persona. After all, he feels entitled to his his share of power,fame and allure. Because it is a cycle in continuum, with younger faces more than eager to take a share of the pie, it leaves the likes of Bachchans, Johars, Kapoors, Khans with no choice but to play ball. What choice do they have? Once if he doesn’t do it someone else will do the same, maybe in a more exhibited fashion. To make the situation more complicated, we have a force to reckon with these days. The daddy of all buzzwords: Dynasty. When dynasties meets entertainment meets politics; you know you have one strong drink to intoxicate almost anyone imbibing in it.

    However, there are causes which also leads to such factors. Not to state the obvious, but who can be so fallible to ignore them, than those who have more than others. In Bollywood, the class divide is stark and an open secret. The king and queen is of course the much loathed producer and leading actors. Those who are in the ministerial levels are the directors, editors, cameraman and the occasional sound man; that due which came only after Resul Pookutty got his Oscar from Academy of motion pictures in science and arts. And the pawns are easily the local talents whose positions are secured with threats from local political unions to amalgamated power structures behind the curtains. Each deriving power from their own caste, job role, and syndicated organizations. The pawns are the reality which the king and queen know exists, so in order to avoid being in their position, they would forge necessary alliances and coerce those who are outsiders to this kingdom, to be along the colonies of the former as the true center of gravity would remain with them. For survival of the rich, all rules are malleable.

    For all it’s star pageants and dizzying amounts of money, one can truly see what the quality of contents being churned out mindlessly are just fast food with a shining touch of plastic coated nutritional benefits as a sticker. The trope which goes to Cannes or Berlin film festivals where the who’s who of the cinema guild come together. While the range is diverse from seeing the latest auteur screenings to securing distribution rights, the Indian film delegation consists of pretty faces of Ms. Rai Bachchan and Mr. Bachchan Jr. to latest additions of Sonam Kapoor and Anurag Kashyap. One could almost call them ‘Models of Appearance, but not in a Bressonian way. But hypocrisy has a strange habit of sneaking in when the actors themselves proudly flaunt their double life. The same Kashyap who abused and sneered at the cream de la creme of Bollywood, have made films with the same lot he seemed to despise. And who could forget Kangana Ranaut? The poster child for being the most outspoken critic of nepotism has herself appointed her sister as her manager. She can try all her whatabbouttery in justifying that, as long as no one holds the mirror too long for it to be shattered. I have seen better quality of movies from postwar countries (Italy’s neo-realism), from harsh totalitarian ones(Iranian new wave), and cash strapped socialist cinemas(Brazil’s Cinema Novo) to be much superior in artistic merit than the current state of films being dished out by Bollywood. The latest in the menu: Nationalism!

  54. A good article bringing out what is talked in hushed tones. Also reinforces my thought that some bad films were awarded no matter what.All this is just masala/entertainment including the politics behind it. The fact that Bacchan clan also were part of boycotting is a surprise. Have they become better now ?
    Will wait for ur book.

  55. Shekhar is sucking up the ruling powers again. Very clever and very shady. Do you want to make Amit Shah and Kangana the whistleblowers for the industry?

    • NO We should make 10th fail Karan Johar the Prime Minister and Eugenics Professor Saifooo the Education Minister, his 3rd fail wife can be the Industry Minister!
      There!
      Fixed it for ya!

  56. The fact that Farhan Akhtar, Saif Ali Khan and likes can manage Padmashris despite their average work but Sushant Singh Rajput is declared a failure hurts. Karan Johar is pet dog of Shahrukh and Aditya Chopra thanks for revealing that. Alia bhatt is Karan Johar made star. Priyanka was boycotted so she chose Hollywood, good that it worked for her, else in all probability she would have got Sushant’s fate!

    • What? Are you mad? Where he is talk about that, Srk doesn’t have problem with not giving award to his film it was karan. I think you forgot priyanka is the one who is upset as she is not given award for barfi over vidya

    • Lol, where he reveal that karan is pet dog of srk and aditya in your dreams. Let me tell you it was not SRK but Karan was hurt. I think you don’t how priyanka said she deserve award for barfi over vidya kahani

  57. Male and female sized egos, minimum intelligence and empathy, unlimited money, fragile state of mind and starry-eyed fans looking for star kids and gossip…
    A dangerous cocktail which will only give you sadness when in the so-called Bollywood industry.

  58. None of this is a surprise. The problem lies partly in filmy culture but also partly because of multiplicity of bandwagons of award functions which many renowned entities seem to have lately jumped on to.

    On a more philosophical note, it exposes our failure in creating enduring institutions – institutions which are fair, effective in unearthing and rewarding new talent, accommodative of contrarian opinions and tastes, which can renew itself from time to time and which can command the respect of our own selves and the world. If such an award jury system existed, it would have substantially reduced Shekhar babu’s troubles.

    Indian cinema, Indian businesses, Indian politics, Indian public life – all have this glaring lacuna which drives the best and brightest away. No one seems to have got a handle on it – you can make out that someone like Kangana Ranaut is just looking to milk this issue for her own agenda without looking to substantially offer any lasting solutions.

    It brings me to my last point – poverty in places like India and the sub-continent in general is not due to simply lack of financial resources – it is a poverty of ideas, poverty of institutions and poverty of faith in the system. Hence even a (rich) system like film industry of India churns out poor products and cannot command the respect of world cinema fraternity.

    • The art of acting , dancing, singing is an age old culture of our Indian civilization… We have given the world “Natyashstra” written by Bharatmuni way back in 1st century BCE…the art of story telling should be celebrated as an way of expression of human existence….but unfortunately, some greedy minded people had made this art as sheer business…one should have guts to portray the real life character and not mere earnestly impossible larger than life picture….
      In the digital and globalised era our generation is exposed to plethora of good stories and performances across the globe….its now the responsibility of audience that we should appreciate only performances and stop herofying the nepo products who have nothing but mediocracy…if it can’t be done then we don’t have any right to ask why our films do not win Oscars.

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