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Suhana Khan on Vogue cover: Bollywood nepotism or talent-spotting?

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Vogue’s August edition cover featuring Shah Rukh Khan’s daughter Suhana Khan has created a controversy. The magazine has drawn flak for promoting nepotism, with some even asking “what has she done to deserve” this.

ThePrint asks – Suhana Khan on Vogue cover: Bollywood nepotism or talent-spotting?

Those acting holier than thou should reflect on their own privilege

Sudhir Mishra
Film maker

It is but natural that people would be interested to know about Suhana Khan. She is the daughter of a superstar actor and a famous producer. Vogue recognises this and has put her on the cover. It’s done. Now let the kid be.

Frankly speaking, the only reason such a question is being asked is because you too are interested in knowing about Suhana Khan.

She has gotten a head start, yes. Now let’s ask ourselves how many of us have had a similar head start in life because of our privilege? We must remember that privilege is always a relative factor. Most doctors and lawyers in India come from upper-middle or middle-class families. Every day we exist, we exercise our privilege which equals more access than what 60 per cent of this country has.

Isn’t it hypocrisy then to only call out Suhana Khan? Sunil Gavaskar’s son, Rohan Gavaskar, piqued interest for some time. But he eventually had to prove himself on the field.

Similarly, Suhana has made it to the cover, now she’ll have to show if she can act. We will have to wait and see. She will inevitably have to prove her merit. It is the audience that will take the final call on her capabilities. Those acting holier than thou on social media would do well to reflect on their own privilege in the meantime.

Debating on Vogue cover shows how vacuous and hollow we have become

Rohit Chawla

Nepotism is an intrinsic ugly truth in India, and part and parcel of being Indian. Practically every aspect of our cultural life – from politics to film – has nepotistic practices. Even journalism. It is so common that often it seems second nature to most of us.

Then why are we shocked by Vogue choosing Shah Rukh Khan’s daughter for their cover? Let’s not pretend to be so outraged by something as trivial as this cover. It’s is hardly surprising.

Vogue has made a smart move. They are playing on curiosity. It is part of their mandate to get icons and eyeballs. Clearly, they have managed to gain the traction they were looking for. The cover has generated a debate on social media and has become the talk of the town.

Honestly, are we so bereft of any real agenda that we must focus on this?

Vogue has made its choice. It has served its purpose. Let’s not get hung up on it. All the needless notice of it is entertainment to most ears.

Such debates only show what kind of vacuous and hollow society we have become, aided and abetted by social media which has lowered the bar for all conversations.

Vogue understands what its ‘elite’ readers want, and star kids make for flashy covers

Dilip Cherian
Communications consultant

The nepotism debate, never too deep below the surface in Bollywood, has gotten even more intense after Vogue featured Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s daughter Suhana on its current cover. This ‘manufactured outrage’ is unwarranted.

First, it’s not new. Bollywood is an industry run by family ‘firms’ – some being generations old. The cry of nepotism is raised by those who believe it’s unfair to those who are outsiders. But such outrage dies down equally quickly since neither Bollywood nor its audience really cares. Also, some brilliant outsiders keep hope alive for aspirants. They’re the shining stars that keep floods of talent flowing in.

These days, social media platforms have turned even children of famous film stars into minor celebrities. Fans are crazy curious about a star’s son or daughter, and this is one of the reasons why producers cash in on the kids’ “star” status because they believe the audiences would go along.

Meanwhile, why target Vogue? Magazines choose covers because they need to grab eyeballs. Shah Rukh’s daughter’s face will sell more copies for Vogue. The magazine understands what its ‘elite’ readers want, and star kids – even if they are too young to think of a filmy career – make for interesting and flashy covers. Vogue does not pretend to be a talent-spotting zone. It knows what will make readers reach out. Nepotism is not really an issue here for Bollywood or, for that matter, for doctors, lawyers, media folk either. So, let the whining stop. Let the “girl on the cover” be.

And don’t let this “Suhana suffer” carry on.

Instead of trying to ‘end’ nepotism, Bollywood needs to move beyond it

Harnidh Kaur
Poet and feminist

India makes gods out of celebrities, and by extension, godlings out of their children. The media laps them up and breathlessly projects everything from their social media updates to their educational qualifications as ‘entertainment news’. When they’re clearly so used to being on screen, and have their parents backing them up, there’s no surprise that they end up in big-budget movies. Suhana Khan isn’t an exception.

Her Vogue cover was easy to trash because of its lack of context. If she had a movie or an album coming up, she could have at least hooked the blatant nepotism to the idea of burgeoning talent.

Nepotism in Bollywood is not going to stop. It’s not going to disappear, but it can be handled with a lot more dignity and humility. Star kids need to realise their privilege and be less defensive about it, and they need to actually give returns on the investments made on them. Bollywood also needs to realise that instead of claiming an inability to distribute a single exposure-pie, it can bake a larger one. There is enough space for new talent, especially with so many new platforms and outlets. It needs to experiment more and be willing to push its stratified boundaries. Instead of trying to ‘end’ nepotism, it would be prudent to grow beyond it. This won’t happen by magic. It will take a conscious decision and a wish to be diverse and inclusive. It’s a long road, but we have to start now.

Brands like Vogue support the culture of nepotism in Bollywood

Aastha Singh

Suhana Khan, whose current fame primarily stems from her father’s decades-long career in the world’s largest film producing industry, has received substantial publicity after being on the August cover of Vogue.

The matter for concern here is not just nepotism but how someone’s ‘one day’ dream of getting into the film industry can result in such a massive marketing gig. According to this logic, there must be several thousands who are eligible to feature on a magazine cover.

In the past, we have seen newcomers like Janhvi Kapoor being featured on Vogue cover, but that still made sense because it was shot just before her film debut.

Suhana, as of now, is professionally incompetent and inexperienced.

Vogue today, unfortunately, prefers to launch star kids even before they have a dream of entering Bollywood. Stellar actors with multiple awards and powerhouse performances never make it to the cover of Vogue. Actors like Radhika Apte, Konkona Sen Sharma, Rajkummar Rao and Irrfan Khan are more worthy of such an opportunity.

I wonder if such star kids, although Janhvi has acknowledged this, realise the entry-level privilege they enjoy. It’s not just Bollywood that’s caught up in nepotism but brands like Vogue also help the industry carry the trend forward.

Compiled by Deeksha Bhardwaj, journalist at ThePrint. 

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