The death of the actor Sushant Singh Rajput sparked a row on Nepotism. However, let’s go to the root of Nepotism and analyze it objectively, especially in the Indian context.
Apparently, the greatest conflict to any civilization, the Mahabharata, directly resulted from Nepotism. It was Dhritarashtra’s blind ambition to coronate his son Duryodhana, at the cost of the more competent Pandavas, that destroyed civilization. Deep down, it is not Nepotism, but a sense of entitlement that creates problems. Had Duryodhana been more competent than the Pandavas, Dhritarashthra’s desire to coronate him would have been justified.
Nepotism is ‘the practice among those with power or influence of favouring relatives or friends.’ Is it wrong for a powerful person to favour or promote his or her son/friends/relatives? Practically, not at all. Every human being desires the well-being of his immediate families, friends or relatives. In fact, for thousands of years they have transferred skills through the gene pool; and that’s true in almost any field of human endeavour.
Nepotism in the world of Science
The world of Science has been free of Nepotism to a great extent. Though GP Thompson inherited the legacy of his father JJ Thompson, the discoverer of the electron, the latter did not push him undeservingly. In fact, the son contradicted the father’s particle theory of an electron. However, an influential father eased the way for GP Thompson. Closer to home, in India, the iconic Astrophysicist S Chandrashekhar was the nephew of the legendary Sir C. V. Raman, which eased his way to Cambridge at a very early age. It was the brilliant inventor Charles Wheatstone who trained and backed his nephew Oliver Heaviside, who went onto become one of the most resourceful engineers in history.
However, these men never had a sense of entitlement. Chandrashekhar’s ideas did not find acceptance for a long time. The scientific community treated Heaviside as an outcast for lack of formalization and rigour.
However, off late, the scientific and academic world is getting under the clutches of nepotism. But that discussion for another day.
Also read: Indian Heroes behind Black Holes
Nepotism in the world of business.
The world of business has traces of Nepotism too. In India, Dhirubhai Ambani’s sons have inherited his vast legacy. For generations, Tatas have run their empire through the bloodline. With the Ambanis, nepotism had both success and failure as Mukesh and Anil, respectively. Apparently, the world of business is quite fair. It rewards competence over entitlement since the customer is transactional. It values the quality of the product offered over the name behind it. That is the reason Anil Ambani failed, while his elder brother is the richest man in Asia.
Nepotism in Politics.
Ideally, even politics should be transactional, especially in modern-day democracies. A voter should vote only based on delivered results. However, since we have been living under feudalism for centuries, Nepotism plays a big and destructive role in politics. All over the world, including and especially India, we have seen political parties being run in a feudal fashion. Any outsider influence in that party is seen as a threat to the dynasty and treated with antipathy. No wonder we see the legacies of stalwarts being dismissed by the grand old party of India.
However, the voter is turning increasingly transactional rather than a loyalist. He values deliverables that could include a better economy, better national security etc. more than the gene pool. This has irked the dynasts, who have carried a sense of entitlement throughout. It comes out in an ugly fashion in terms of propaganda, which could even harm the nation. This frustration is obvious in one of the senior journalist, who assumed that only people of great lineage, erudition and influence may rule. Listen to that section here: Shashi Tharoor On Rahul Gandhi, Modi’s Win And The Future of The Congress
The Bollywood industry
Now, let us address the problem with which we started, i.e. nepotism in Bollywood. As said earlier, Nepotism will not vanish owing to human tendency. However, with Bollywood, the problem is deep. In other fields mentioned above, the consumer is critical along with being transactional. However, Indian audiences are quite non-critical of art. They look at movies as simple 2-hour entertainment. Hence, moviemakers can serve any crap to the audience and still earn money. This encourages them to cast sub-par actors, writers etc. thus leaving a big opening for nepotism to hold roots.
Over time, this has led to a sense of entitlement, which makes any newcomer outside these families/groups feel like a stranger.
The way out
Let us admit that Nepotism will stay. It serves its purpose. We have had instances where some capable people got an opportunity early in their lives owing to a good background. Please remember that we should not compromise the strong ones to protect the weaker ones. However, we need to make sure that the weaker (in terms of contacts and influence) should be protected. For this, we need to stop sustaining and celebrating mediocrity, be it business, politics or arts and entertainment. Change your taste for movies, music. Use logic over emotions to elect your leaders. Eventually, we don’t end up losing another Sushant Singh Rajput or PV Narasimha Rao’s legacy.