January 13, 2023
“Tu jaanta hai mera baap kaun hai?” Do you know who my father is? The line is most commonly associated with rogue sons of the rich and powerful. But if you ask the hyper-enthusiastic corners of social media, it’s also what they imagine bratty, entitled children of movie stars priming for cinematic stardom say to directors and producers on the regular. The discourse around how nepotism gives children of movie royalty easy access and multiple chances at cinematic success has gripped the attention of audiences in India and the Western hemisphere. Suddenly, moviegoers have gone from inquiring who is in the latest movie to wondering how they managed to land the role in the first place. Eager Wikipedia readers have taken to charting family genealogies to establish every rising cinema aspirant’s insider connection. The conversation has reached such a fever pitch that New York Magazine dedicated their December issue to Hollywood’s nepo babies. Their cover featured a graphic of diaper-clad newborns in a hospital nursery, their heads replaced by those of the offspring of erstwhile movie stars. The cover predictably went viral. But India’s obsession with tracking nepo babies is at least a few years older. While discourse around nepotism remains necessary in outlining how inaccessible the arts and cinema are to those without institutional support, the commentary has turned vitriolic and flattened the experience of watching cinema. More egregiously, the nepotism conversation fails to address the state’s responsibility.