Sushant Singh Rajput‘s demise has strengthened the discussion around nepotism. The mystery around his death is increasing day by day, and it has become a national issue and is slowly turning political. However I am more interested in talking about what this tells us about the Indian Work Ethics.
Nepotism in Bollywood
Lot of people call it a “debate”. Is it really though? Nepotism is sort of a feudal monarch system which goes against meritocracy, which then produces low quality products with no accountability. Some nepotism is tolerable, but an industry wide dominating one? Absolutely not. Nepotism in Bollywood is not a debate, stop calling it so, and start calling it a problem.
While Shekhar Gupta feels through his experience there is some level of meritocracy, do note that his definition seems that of Meritocracy of Fame instead of Meritocracy of Talent. Fame can be bought by money and clout but not talent.
While we can debate what he meant by meritocracy, my main point aligns with what his main standpoint also is: Respect for the Job and that essentially is what I am going to expand into.
Do Star Kids have it Difficult
We saw defensive positions from some self made people on this topic. Tapsee Pannu‘s spine seems to swing like a pendulum according to where the contemporary verdict gravitates. Swara Bhaskar and Anurag Kashyap are simply slaves of political frustration and their statements are predictably out of spite. Varun Dhawan danced around the bush as he must be knee deep in some clique.
But the one that actually catches attention is Ayushmann Khurrana. He defended Star Kids saying that they have it difficult given the audience judges them hard no matter how well they try to do.
It is a weak defense against the sea of second chances Star Kids keep getting. I think it is fair that the audience is tough on people who otherwise have it easy, to balance the situation out. Having said that, I strongly disagree with Khurana because I have not seen Star Kids give their best. Even the seemingly best out of the lot, Alia Bhatt, has no range and is limited in doing the same cliched role of a 20 something angry confident loud girl. There are countless more actresses who are at the same mediocre level as her, but the fact that it is still Alia who keeps getting movies, makes my disagreement with Khurana even more. And we haven’t even started on why the below mediocre Arjun Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Tiger Shroff etc. keep on getting movies over and over. By the way, here’s a quick funny jab on Jhanvi Kapoor before we move further.
What this tells about Ayushmann Khurrana is that he doesn’t respect his job (and the same goes for the other mentioned self made people). And before you point finger at him, I think this extrapolates to the audience at large, and we need to look in the mirror.
The Indian Audience
There is a saying in India, “Content is King”. While there is nothing wrong in that, the devil lies in the details. While it means the heart of the story is what matters, what it also says that the Indian audience does not care about the quality of the content as long as it is entertaining.
An example can be that of a movie made with bad lighting, bad props, bad editing, bad acting, bad vfx, but is considered an acceptable content as long as it is borderline entertaining. Not just that, it is alright to watch a 320p mp4 file of camcorder recorded pirated version of that movie. “I can watch the content on my device, what’s more do I need? Better Sound? I can hear the dialogues just fine. Better lighting and colors? I can see Katrina’s cleavage just fine. Better VFX? Better Editing? What do those things even mean? Irrelevant, I have the content, and content is King”.
Don’t get me wrong. There is content out there which is intentionally made crude in a certain department. Very good example is the Western show South Park and a very good Indian YouTube channel Make Joke Of. Barring some exceptions, I think you know where I am getting into. Using all kinds of shortcuts, just put together some content, and the Indian audience will consume it. Yes, it is called “Jugaad”.
I love jugaad for what it is. I love that we Indians have make shift solutions for our daily problems. In our kitchen variety of things are made in same utensils, while a Westerner will have a type of pot for every single dish. At our desk, we make do with low supplies and a good enough computer, while a Westerner will have a dedicated device for every nuance of their desk’s activity. We make do with a single vehicle for the entire family, Westerners have a work vehicle, a truck and an older car which the kids get to drive.
While Jugaad makes us light on nature, it should not be confused with efficiency. Jugaad is what it is, a make shift solution, to a temporary or a rarely occurring problem. Unfortunately we have started applying jugaad to our permanent daily life as well as it seeps into our day jobs too. Whether we are talking about a labor, a house keeper, a software engineer, a government official, an artist, or a business man, we use jugaad in all aspects of our work.
Anyone who has gotten a house made, must know how much you have to micro manage or pay heavy to get someone to micro manage so that the house is made properly. One miss and you will find a broken tile, a bent window, missed grotting, leaky plumbing, misaligned platforms, sloppy paint jobs and what not. Decades of jugaad has made us to subconsciously do jugaad in our jobs too. And while you as an Indian gleefully agree, look yourself in the mirror, you do this in your work too.
Bollywood – The Grand Jugaad Gala
Naturally, Bollywood, an Indian industry, is not free from this problem. Star kids are the best example of jugaad. They have a name because their parents have a name, so people have an inherent curiosity about them. So instead of going through hours of reels of auditions of talent, movie producers just go with these Star Kids. And their naturally sloppy job is responded with, “arey chalta hai, I don’t mind it, at-least I got to see a rich kid’s skin”.
Unfortunately this trains them not to work on their craft, they just choose to look good on screen, which every random Instagram townie can do these days. Kareena Kapoor Khan off-late said that it is really the audience who have made them. If we are not interested, we can always not watch their movies.
Even though the undertone was of over confidence and arrogance, there is truth in those words. We have been talking about their low quality performance on screen since decades now, so then why do we keep watching them? We have made them, so can we break them like she is saying?
Respect for Work
Hate me for this all you want, but we Indians have low respect for our jobs. And that’s why we have a lower ask for a job well done. In complete contrast, Westerners have great work ethics and high respect for their jobs. This reflects in their film industry, Hollywood. As much as it is a theme park of shallowness and consumerism, you must agree that it is full of talent. You do see nepotism here too but it is not industry dominating, and every single actor/actress has theater experience. They can sing, dance and some can play instruments. They are DAMN talented. And if they are not, the audience is not having it. The audience works hard in their job, and will not tolerate garbage on their screens. It makes sense.
The drive to achieve quality, or to look for quality, doesn’t just randomly occur in our minds. It comes from respect for one’s labor.
But what am I trying to say? Be a Westerner? No! While they have good work ethics, their culture is really wasteful. And if the image below reminds you of one of your big Indian cities, say thanks to your love for the Western consumerism culture.
“You went all gaga over West before this Shiben, so what is this?”. Again, my point is about their good work ethics, not culture. West is not the best culture to look up to, as we Indians don’t want to be wasteful, we have enough problems as it is. If you go to villages which are away from Western influences, you will never see this rot.
Let’s look at how the Japanese function. They have really good work ethics and on top of that they live very efficiently. Their culture encourages minimal living, leaner homes, light on nature and low wastage. Jugaad is not in their dictionary and the quality of their work is top. They have really good work ethics and high respect for their jobs. They are facing environmental problems too, but they are responding really well to it as well.
We need to find respect for our jobs within our Indian societal context. We have to find examples in the quality of Hollywood and in the functioning of Japanese culture and we need to use Jugaad in the right places at the right time. Respect what you do, do it with focus, do it with love, don’t just do it to collect the wage. There is a primitive satisfaction you get out of job which is well done. A short film in Love Sex Robots series tells this very nicely.
Coming back to Sushant Singh Rajput’s alleged murder, barring the various conspiracy theories about Bollywood underground mafia and dark secrets, bottom line is they have that clout through your money, which you have given them over time. So who is to blame?
The main take away for us from the Sushant Singh Rajput’s case is to have respect for our jobs. While we see a sign of people waking up to this as the Sadak 2‘s trailer is taking the brunt, tomorrow if you forget all this then Sushant’s death is in vain. The supreme court, CBI or Maharashtra government can do absolutely nothing if tomorrow you go and watch some jugaad of a movie and give them your money (or time). Don’t expect an iota of change if you will continue to watch the movies of the famously and proudly untalented.
We are in the mainstream workforce in the global market, have respect for your work, and start demanding good work from others too. If we will continue with Jugaad everywhere, then expect no change on that screen, and a decade later expect Taimur to be shoved down our throat, because, well, we will deserve exactly that.