Forget Nepotism, Why Is Bollywood Treating Talents Like Neena Gupta, AR Rahman, Resul Pookutty With Disdain?

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The last few months have been quite draining for various reasons. On social media, the toxicity and backlash have increased so much that one seems taking a break from it is the only solution available right now. However, as there are two sides to every coin, off late social media has helped me gain perspective on various issues.

Recently, I watched Neena Gupta’s semi-autobiographical series ‘Masaba Masaba’ and that reminded me how social media is a boon for all of us. Yes, if social media is the reason why we got to see Neena returning to the silver screen, then I will always be thankful for the connectivity this medium has provided us.

However, highlighting the positive aspects of social media is not my main concern right now. My worry is about what Bollywood is doing with its unmatchable talent. Recently, we saw Oscar-winning music composer AR Rahman and even sound designer Resul Pookutty coming forward and sharing how they were let down by Bollywood despite bagging some of the most prestigious national and international awards.

Since the past few months, we all are incessantly talking about nepotism and yet when the insider-outsider debate comes along we find that many supremely talented stars like Rahman, Neena and Resul are finding it difficult to get work. Mind you, these are not youngsters who are doing so in order to grab headlines!

Back in 2017, National Award-winning actress Neena Gupta, fed up with the lack of substantial offers coming her way took to Instagram and frankly asked for work. Yes, just like all other times, this time too Neena set a precedent and without making a mountain out of a molehill, showing the honesty that she always has, openly asked for work. For me, Neena has always been an epitome of bravery and honesty. Her move was lauded by everyone and thankfully good work came her way and then ‘Badhaai Ho’ happened.

While we all are extremely glad to see her back on the silver screen, what pains me is the fact that why did the industry push her to a point that she has to ask for work? The 61-year-old actress has not just one but two National awards to her credit and despite that, she had to beg for work?

We all know what a terrific actress and director she is, then why don’t we get to see her in more prominent roles. Neena is someone who is capable of delivering more than the stereotypical roles she has been offered in her career so far. Time and again, in most of her interviews, the veteran actress has said that her personal life got typecast into her professional life and she was mostly offered vampish roles. So are we as a society punishing her for being strong? Is being strong a crime?

If anything else, we need to celebrate talent like Neena Gupta. And not just cameos, she deserves more projects like ‘Masaba Masaba’ or maybe something like the remake of ‘Shaukeen’ with females in the lead (as mentioned in Masaba Masaba), or perhaps a show based entirely on her life. She is definitely our answer to Hollywood’s Meryl Streep. And I am pretty sure there’s no dearth of scripts that can have an actress of her age play the lead. But then we have films like ‘Saand Ki Aankh’, in which the makers prefer casting younger actresses rather than someone like Neena, who could have been the apt choice for it.

A few days before Sushant Singh Rajput‘s last film ‘Dil Bechara’s released, we saw Oscar-winning composer AR Rahman coming forward and revealing why he has composed music for fewer Bollywood films in the last few years. Speaking to Radio Mirchi, the immensely talented Rahman said, “I don’t say no to good movies, but I think there is a gang, which, due to misunderstandings, is spreading some false rumours. When Mukesh Chhabra came to me, I gave him four songs in two days. He told me, ‘Sir, how many people said don’t go, don’t go to him (AR Rahman) and they told me stories after stories.’ I heard that, and I realised, yeah okay, now I understand why I am doing less (work in Hindi films) and why the good movies are not coming to me. I am doing dark movies, because there is a whole gang working against me, without them knowing that they are doing harm.”

Filmmaker Shekhar Kapur claimed that Oscar is a kiss of death in Bollywood. And replying to the filmmaker, Rahman in his trademark gentle manner said, Lost Money comes back, fame comes back, but the wasted prime time of our lives will never come back. Peace! Let’s move on. We have greater things to do.Rahman’s word has been stuck in my mind ever since. The film industry is simply wasting the prime time of talents like him by not giving them enough opportunities.

Sound designer Resul Pookutty, who bagged an Oscar for ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, had also lamented at how the Hindi film industry had let him down. “I had gone through near breakdown as nobody was giving me work in Hindi films and regional cinema held me tight after I won the Oscar… There were production houses told me at my face ”we don’t need you” but still I love my industry, for it,” he had tweeted.

These three people have proved their prowess in their respective field and yet they are not receiving what they deserve. Why are they preferring to work in regional industries or in web shows and not in Bollywood? That raises the question, is Bollywood unfair to even outsiders who have proven their worth and talent by getting not only audience appreciation but also international standard awards?

How do you explain this kind of treatment meted out to some of the most talented artistes like them? Why is Bollywood blatantly ignoring some of their most self-made and highly gifted artistes? They say, let your work do the talking but what do you do when a nexus is trying their best to promote mediocre talents? And why is it difficult to celebrate these talents when they are actually around.

I hope the year 2020 helps the entire industry to learn from their past mistakes and emerge out reformed. Where rooting for someone who actually deserves it doesn’t come across as an alien concept. From veteran to young talents, let everyone flourish and make their own place. I hope that gifted artistes are appreciated more often by our film industry otherwise what’s the use of praising someone and marvelling at their talent when they are gone?

Also Read: Tamasha – That’s exactly what Bollywood has made of Sushant Singh Rajput’s unfortunate death