Celebrity Genes: When One Size Doesn't Fit All

August 9, 2011

Just one or two months ago Ad man Prahlad Kakkar and Abhishek Bachhan had a jibe against each other which gave enough material for the media to hype on the purported controversy. Prahlad Kakkar while attacking nepotism in Bollywood took a dig at Bachhan junior saying, "Abhishek Bachhan has 17 flops in a row and is still going strong. He is unique and should be in the Guinness Book of Records".

Perturbed by the unexpected snide remarks Abhishek shot back on Twitter saying, "He (Kakkar) should be a stand-up comedian and not an ad-filmmaker. May be then someone will take him seriously…." Kakkar’s remarks and Abhishek’s quick riposte became the talk of Bollywood for quite some time.

Deliberating over the silly spiteful controversy which is a few weeks old now and Jr Bachhan’s apt retort I really wonder whether people have implausible expectations from the children of celebrities or famous parents in every field all over the world. Now, I understand why Congress President Madam Sonia Gandhi who is battling an undisclosed illness has handed over the reins of power to her son Rahul Gandhi during her absence from India. It means that Rahul Gandhi is one step closer to power and it would ensure the continuation of the dynastic rule of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. And for all those who have qualms about dynastic succession in Indian politics (including me) I want to ask - is it wrong if a politician’s son becomes a politician when we have no reservations about a singer’s son becoming a singer, an actor’s son becoming an actor or a cricketer’s son becoming a cricketer and so on? We cannot have different benchmarks to sit on judgment when children follow in the footsteps of their parents career-wise, politics or in other fields. In the bargain we have to accept that politics has over the years come to be accepted as a career like any other profession. Considering the opportunities the field offers to make quick bucks, qualification notwithstanding, it is the most sought after profession for everyone.

Like Father, Like Son

So we have sons of late Madhava Rao Scindia, late Rajesh Pilot, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Digvijyay Singh, Murli Deora, Ahmed Patel, Karunanidhi, H D Deve Gowda, B S Yeddyurappa, late Y S Rajshekara Reddy (to name a few) who follow in the political path traversed by their fathers. Similarly we have the progeny of some great actors, painters, artistes, musicians, dancers, singers and sports personalities choosing the same career of their parents.

It is human tendency to expect the children of celebrities to attain the same level of success, adoration and cult status attained by their parents or even their grandparents. In doing so, we often fail to understand that we commit a blunder by expecting too much from the offspring of these celebrities which is often becoming a burden or rather a liability for them. So these kids have to shoulder that additional responsibility of proving themselves, to create their own identity and often face the mortification of not matching the success of their parents. Some wilt under the pressure of such gigantic expectations while others manage just to hang on and survive in the tough, challenging and the bad world.

So the late Rajiv Gandhi was compared to his mother Indira Gandhi and the expectations were so high he could not match her political virtuosity and that disappointed many. Now we also expect Rahul Gandhi to wield the same political charisma of his grandmother, which is no doubt too much to ask for. We did the same with cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar’s son Rohan Gavaskar, who unfortunately could not attain much success as a cricketer despite trying hard.

People expected a similar miracle from the doyen of Bollywood Amitabh Bachhan’s son Abhishek Bachhan when he entered the cinema field. Unfortunately for Bachhan Junior, his success is always measured in terms of what his father has achieved and one has to agree that despite his talent Bachhan junior will always have to live under the shadow of his famous father. But he has magnanimously accepted the fact saying he is no match to his father. Abhishek has not buckled under the pressure in trying to match his father’s histrionics and therefore has survived. His is the classic example to show that we don’t choose our parents and it requires colossal efforts to establish one’s own niche when the parents are famed. Even Prahlad Kakkar must have measured Abhishek vis-à-vis in terms of what his father had achieved.

Similarly journalist Khushwant Singh’s son Rahul Singh is also a journalist but has not made as big a name as his father in that field. In Hindi cinema, the children of Dharmendra, Shashi Kapoor, Rajendra Kumar, Raj Kapoor and many others, could not match their parents in terms of name and fame. Ditto is with Hema Malini and Sharmila Tagore’s daughters who could not enkindle Bollywood with their presence or talent. Jeethendra’s son is a mediocre actor too and his daughter Ekta Kapoor has made a name as a producer of television serials initially with the saas-bahu theme. History tells us that in Bollywood not many children of famous singers of yesteryears have been able to replicate the success of their famous parents.

Different Field

In the sports arena, luckily, "flying Sikh" Milka Singh’s son Jeev Milka Singh chose a different sport (golf) than his fathers to create a name for himself. India’s best batsman against spin bowling Dilip Sardesai’s son Rajdeep Sardesai was not enamored by the glamour of cricket but has created his own niche in television journalism. Cricketer Krishnamachari Srikanth’s son Anirudha Srikkanth made his debut in Tamilnadu Cricket team in 2008 but has not made any headway so far unlike his father who was known for his explosive batting in the 80’s. Badminton ace Prakash Padukone’s daughter Dipika Padukone has emerged as a star in Bollywood in her own right. Now there will be Himalayan expectations from Sachin Tendulkar’s son Arjun Tendulkar, if and when he makes his cricket debut. That he is undergoing training in a cricket academy is an indication that he is following in the footsteps of his father. But will he be able to match his famous father’s achievements is a million dollar question. However, people’s expectations will be sky high and it will not be easy for Arjun to live up to their expectations simply because it is believed that a talent like Sachin Tendulkar is born only once a century.

In the business field the Tatas and Birlas are privileged in the sense that they have been able to carry on the legacy of their famous fathers and it still continues. One cannot say the same about the Ambanis.

Having celebrity or famous parents has its own advantages and disadvantages. While it automatically catapults the children to stardom they are weighed down by the enormous expectations of the people, which very often may go beyond realistic levels. One need not struggle to attain mediocrity but the path to go beyond mediocrity is dotted with many hurdles. So it is not wrong to say:
Born rich, you fear mediocrity, you seek meaning
Born poor, you fear oblivion, you seek wealth

It is also not fair that someone’s only real claim to fame is through their famous parents. Establishing one’s own individuality is the surefire way of taking a strong foothold in the chosen field rather than trying to hang on to the achievements of their celebrity parents.


Florine Roche Recent Archives:

By Florine Roche
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Comment on this article

  • Rosario Fernandes, Kallianpur/USA/Goa

    Tue, Aug 09 2011

    Abhishek is destroying his fathers image(he does'nt have any of his own) by silly ads,like 2G,3G,idea.

  • V D'Souza, Kanajar

    Tue, Aug 09 2011

    I agree with Prahlad Kakkar

  • thomasaquin, Mangalore/Saudi

    Tue, Aug 09 2011

    An actors son has to be accepted as an actor by the public. Doctors son as a doctor has to prove himself, but a politicians son has to be voted by fools like us..."and we blame a politicians son."

  • Rosario Fernandes, Kallianpur/Goa/usa

    Tue, Aug 09 2011

    Will somebody advice Abhishek to stay away from that 2G,3G ads. He may be the brand ambassador for the product, but the ads are stupid.
    If he continues, he may even loose his 'Junior Amitabh' title.
    This is a sincere advice to save him from 100% flops in all fields.


    Tue, Aug 09 2011

    Nice article....Florine, keep it up. Amitabh the name has so much of weight. Prahlad Kakkar is very right Abhishek is getting movies because of his father big B.

  • Vijay , Mlore/Dubai

    Tue, Aug 09 2011

    Excellent article. Food for thought!

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