Shah Rukh Khan is considered one of the most successful actors in Bollywood, India's Hindi film industry, and he takes pride in the fact that he made it on his own steam. But despite having spent close to three decades on the entertainment scene, King Khan as fans call him, is not familiar with the concept of nepotism in an industry packed with children of stars.
Actress Kangana Ranaut recently sparked a debate about children of Bollywood veterans getting added leverage, and accused Kuch Kuch Hota Hein filmmaker Karan Johar of being the "flag-bearer of nepotism".
Khan happens to be close friends with Johar and the two have made numerous films together, with the former in the lead. So when the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) questioned the actor on his views, it came as a bit of a shock that the Bollywood Badshah decided to take the safer route play ignorant.
"I don't understand this [nepotism]. How can I understand it? I am a Delhi boy, who went to Mumbai at the age of 25. There everybody loved me and accepted me. So, I don't understand this talk," he told the news agency.
"When I hear the word 'nepotism', I feel the other person is talking about Napoleon. Even though I know enough English, still I don't understand it and the discussion. Whether I agree or disagree — I don't even understand it so how can I have an opinion?"
The Raees actor did explain that when it came to his own children – sons Aryan (19) and AbRam (4), and daughter Suhana (17) – he would prefer them to succeed on their own talent rather than hitch a ride to his star. "I want my kids to make a name for themselves on their own feet. If they want to become marine biologist, then she should become that. If they want to become an actor or a filmmaker, then that's also great."
Following national award winner Ranaut's comments, Johar along with actors Saif Ali Khan and Varun Dhawan chanted "nepotism rocks" while hosting the International Indian Film Awards in New York this June. The three later apologised for their remarks.
Ali Khan went on to write an op-ed explaining that children of stars were like race horses and most often had the genetics to make them successes in the same business as their parents. "I think it's extremely relevant in a conversation on nepotism, which means family favouritism, to talk about genetics and eugenics," he pointed out.
Johar is the son of Indian Bollywood film producer Yash Johar, Dhawan's father is director David Dhawan and Ali Khan is the son of actress Sharmila Tagore.