Kangana Ranaut vs Karan Johar: Why Budging Film Industry’s Power Nexus Is Mission Impossible

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This is one statement filmmaker Karan Johar would never make in response to actor Kangana Ranaut’s vitriolic attacks on him. It would be so politically incorrect, and perhaps not befitting his supposed stature in the industry. But given how intrinsic nepotism and favouritism are to our culture and considering how deep both these traits permeate our organisations and institutions in all spheres, he would find a lot of sympathetic takers if he did.

The latter, let’s call them insiders for easier understanding, operating in cliques, networks and gangs never make it easy for an outsider in any profession. The usual targets of the occasional rebel like Kangana, would find vindication in the following statement.

Here we go:

I am a nepotist if that is the word you prefer. I am a flag-bearer of favouritism too. But I know your battle is not about either, not even about Sushant Singh Rajput. It’s personal. In his death, you see an opportunity to settle personal scores with me. Otherwise, you would have spoken up when he was alive and divulged so much about concerted effort to damage his career to you in private. But you waited till something bad happened to him to mount your attack. You are a public figure in your own right. You are not constrained by the limitations of people still finding their feet in the film industry. What stopped you earlier?

I have to make clear to you and all your social media supporters that I run a film production company that employs thousands of people directly and indirectly. On my everyday decisions depend their livelihood and the future of Dharma Productions too. I have little leeway to go wrong. As the head of a high-risk business enterprise, I have to ensure that the balance sheet does not bleed. It would ruin all. I am morally accountable for the decisions I make. These include hiring talent in all fields of filmmaking, not only stars. If I hire star kids, well, I hire so many non-star kids too.

Coming to individual projects, since it is my money that is at stake I have a right to choose the right people for the job. I decide which talent is best suited for that particular project. If I am looking for an architect to design my house, of course, I would go for one I consider better among many contenders. The choice is personal. If it amounts to favouritism, it’s okay with me. I can’t claim to have made the best decisions all the time, but I don’t regret that either. If you are sincere about fairness to talent, then why not do it through your own production house? So far as money is concerned, it has to be my decisions if it is my money. Take it or leave it.

Yes, I am a nepotist. I can live with that tag so long as people closely associated with my films and my businesses are not uncomfortable with it.

Coming from an insider it would count as an honest statement of fact. Kangana would be left with nothing more than a ‘See, I told you so’ reaction. Her followers in social media and many friends in the traditional media would be flummoxed. They wanted to tear off the veneer of respectability about him; Johar just took it down on his own. This imagined scenario would be totally anti-climatic after all the sound and fury over the weeks after Sushant’s suicide. But when we look at the possible results of Kangana’s single-minded charge, that could be the best possible outcome.

Now, should she be satisfied with it? If it is about a larger cause, the fight against injustice and unfairness in the industry, she shouldn’t be. The bland statement tells, in a nutshell, the whole dynamic of the industry. From the perspective of the powerful people who control big production houses, this could be a valid justification of their actions too. They will play god because they are uniquely positioned to play one.

The truth is they are not going to disappear, neither is the way they have conducted themselves so far. In India, the old always finds a way to fend off challenge and reassert itself. The money-power-network nexus is too deeply entrenched to feel threatened by the sundry outsider. Being satisfied in this scenario would be self-defeating.

Given the nature of the evidence against him so far, Karan Johar is likely to emerge with minor dents to his stature and a few score new enemies in social media. It won’t transform the power nexus in the industry.

For her fight to make sense, Kangana has to set her eyes beyond him. She has to keep the good fight going in other ways too. Her own production house can create space for talent, and the OTT streaming platforms can prove to be a great leveller. Many like her are already into it. Quality work and international recognition could easily flatten the egos of the biggies and change the existing power equations.

She has to be in the game for long. It would be a great service if she creates a platform for people who have been victims of the ugly system and are still alive to voice their grievance.

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