The Romantic director Smriti Mundhra on Nepotism: An important conversation to have
With The Romantics becoming a major conversation topic owing to its streaming success, director Smriti talks about the issue of nepotism through the series
The Romantics on Netflix has caught on, having trended globally on the OTT platform. This series chronicles the legacy of filmmaker Yash Chopra and brings an intimate story of Hindi movies over the decades through the Chopra family and their film friends. The series’ biggest coup has been to get Aditya Chopra, the reclusive chief of Yash Raj Films on camera. He has spoken candidly about almost everything for this series, including the nepotism debate that casts ‘Bollywood’ in a negative shade.
Smriti Mundhra, the creator of the super popular, debate-inducing show Indian Matchmaking, directs The Romantics. As the daughter of Jag Mundhra, who made films like Provoked and Bawander after running the first theatre in LA to show Hindi movies, Smriti wanted to address nepotism and its manifestation in detail. "It was important for me to address this in the series as it’s a big conversation that’s happening in recent years. It’s happening in Hollywood too. A major publication had a front page saying Nepo Babies. It’s an important conversation. It's not something to run away from. It’s absolutely true that there are many of us who have had huge advantages. I count myself among them," says Smriti. In The Romantics, Aditya Chopra owns up to the privilege of film families. "Even YRF, the biggest production company in India, couldn't make a success of Uday Chopra. It is ultimately an audience who chooses who they want to watch," says Aditya.
The nepotism debate has been raging in Hindi cinema for a long time now and triggered not just television news debates, but trolling on social media too. The chief accusation was that ‘they’ don’t let outsiders in nor do they let them succeed. But it is important to understand that in films there is no entrance exam or quality check test, and connections alone don’t ensure success for a film kid. But Smriti does agree that her father's achievements did benefit her path considerably. "My father passed away even before most of my career took off. But I benefit every day from the goodwill he generated in his career. He didn't have what I had. He was a middle-class boy from Kolkata, who got into engineering, went into IIT, and then to the US and hustled his way into filmmaking. As his daughter, I have benefitted from the strides he made," says the filmmaker.
As time has passed and Hindi cinema has been compelled to look inward on its creative quality, a bevy of star kids, with huge social media followings, wait in the wings to be launched soon. The sheer volume of film kids entering cinema makes Aditya Chopra’s explanation of nepotism a tad bit simplistic. But, as veteran filmmaker Sudhir Mishra stated, to say film kids make it with no merit can’t explain Alia Bhatt's or Ranbir Kapoor's achievements. Nepotism didn’t come into play in making Shah Rukh Khan a superstar, nor did it benefit actors like Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Anushka Sharma, or Rajkummar Rao.
"In The Romantics, Aditya Chopra acknowledges it; the reason he has been able to take the risks that he has taken and the advantages he’s had. Once you acknowledge it, you have to be a part of changing that or expanding these opportunities for others. I think that’s the best that we can do. And I hope that this will continue to happen in the future. You’re talking about an industry that is still so impenetrable. When you see somebody getting chances or getting uplifted by their birthright, it’s frustrating. Maybe just by taking it head on, hopefully, there is a meaningful change," signs off Smriti.