An Open Letter to Karan Johar to Teach Him What Nepotism Means

“I am done with Kangana playing the woman and victim card. I am DONE! You cannot be this victim at every given point of time who has a sad story to tell about how you’ve been terrorised by the bad world of the industry… leave it.”

If you remove the name, the above quote could easily be a Facebook comment on an article published by a liberal/feminist publication. The writer of the comment would, in all likelihood, be a man who subscribes to a right-wing ideology and believes that anyone unhappy with the state of politics in India should go to Pakistan, and/or that patriarchy is a myth constructed by women, who also invented feminism to get away with anything. In common parlance, he would be referred to as a “meninist” and a bhakt.

But no. This comment was made by you, Karan Johar, in retaliation to Kangana Ranaut’s statements about your role in promoting nepotism in the industry on Koffee with Karan. On the surface, you appear to be very liberal. And how could you not be? You’re the darling of liberal media in this country, who gush over your brand of cinema. You love to discuss sex openly, and isn’t that what liberals do? You speak English fluently and, above all, you must’ve had a very tough time growing up in India because of your sexual orientation.

Your sickening statement isn’t without irony either, considering that a female actor asking you for the same fee as a male one “hurt” you. And you didn’t stop there.

“When she says ‘Flag bearer of Nepotism’, I just want to say her, I am glad she knows what it all means. I don’t think she has understood the entire meaning of the term. What is nepotism… am I working with my nieces, nephews, daughters, cousins?”

Actually, no, Karan Johar. It is you who haven’t understood the meaning of the term. Nepotism is when you use your influence and power to give jobs to your relatives AND friends. So the fact that you haven’t worked with your nieces, nephews, daughters, or cousins has absolutely no relevance here. The fact that you use it as an argument reflects either that you are stupid or that you assume that the people who will hear you are stupid and will not see any loopholes in your reasoning. It is more likely the latter, since that is what most of your Bollywood ilk has assumed for decades.

So I will go ahead and try to explain to you what nepotism is, and what privilege is, in the hope that people see that your comment reflects a mentality that is normally seen in the most cringe-worthy section of our society today.

Nepotism is when a man gets to direct a film featuring the biggest star in the industry at the age of 26 only because his father owns a production house. Privilege is when nobody wants to call him out on it because it is rather tasteless to make such remarks about his late father.

Nepotism is when his entire filmography, ranging across two decades, features barely a handful of films that include stars from outside his fraternity and inner circle. Privilege is when he has the gall to say that it is the audience who does not allow new celebrities to walk into the industry.

Nepotism is when he creates a mouthpiece for his fraternity in the form of a talk show, where he constantly gives them free publicity, showers them with heaps of praise, and absolves them of being beneficiaries of a corrupt and nepotistic system. Privilege is when he uses this as a platform to define who the “best” actors in the industry are, all of whom happen to be members of his fraternity and feature in the kind of films he and his ilk consider “good”.

Nepotism is when he chooses to launch people from film families, some of whom have no talent, in big-budget films and turn them into stars overnight, when he could have done this with practically anyone, such as talented actors. Privilege is when he gets away with it by saying that this is offset by the opportunities he gives to people behind the camera, who earn a minuscule fraction of the money, fame, and power that the ones in front of the camera do.

Nepotism is when a rich, English-speaking man gets his entire career handed to him on a platter by virtue of his birth. Privilege is when he tells a woman who came from nothing to become the reigning queen of the industry without help from anyone to leave for questioning his repulsive, feudal mindset, and is actually applauded for it.