Bollywood has plenty of examples, from Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan launching a vodka brand in India to Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bachchan’s granddaughter Navya Naveli Nanda venturing into women’s health tech business, Mahesh Bhatt’s daughter Shaheen Bhatt turning author to Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Kapoor’s daughter Riddhima Kapoor Sahni making a career in jewelry design, Jackie Shroff’s daughter Krishna Shroff running her own chain of MMA and fitness gyms across India to Neena Gupta’s daughter Masaba establishing her name as a fashion designer, Boney Kapoor’s daughter Anshula Kapoor foraying into entrepreneurship with a first of its kind philanthropic initiative to Anil Kapoor’s daughter Rhea Kapoor turning into a stylist and a film producer. Some others are pursuing studies in fields unrelated to cinema, like Ajay Devgn and Kajol’s daughter Nysa Devgn studying international hospitality in Switzerland, and Chikki Panday and Deanne Panday’s daughter Alanna Panday studying fashion in London.
Today’s #BigStory seeks to explore what drives the celebrity kids to choose careers outside the film industry, is it because of an aversion to limelight that comes with stardom, role of parents, whether the noise around nepotism is one of the factors and more. Read on.
Why not Bollywood?
One cannot deny that most youngsters today want to be famous and showbiz is something that has a lot of glitz and glamour too. Why would one then not choose a career that comes with perks and especially star kids who have such an easy access into the industry? What drives them to choose a different path of their own when entering films can be a cakewalk?
“It was a natural calling,” says Mahesh Bhatt’s son Rahul Bhatt who is a fitness trainer and is known to train celebs for massive physical transformations required for films. “Or you can say it was fate, destiny… Fitness is what I was good at, so I pursued that only. Besides this profession offers a lot of simplicity, it’s away from the razzmatazz, the lights of Bollywood. I like being low profile and it’s my passion, my hobby. I was offered some roles in Bollywood earlier, but nothing consequential or worthy was happening. The trajectory of my career didn’t take that way. So I didn’t pursue it with a passion because it was something that you can’t pursue by yourself. It’s not meant for you. So I pursued health and fitness by myself. I train the stars because they are the demographic that requires those transformations. That’s my speciality,” he explains.
Star couple Jackie Shroff and Ayesha Shroff have made it big in Bollywood. While their son Tiger Shroff followed in their footsteps, daughter Krishna Shroff discovered fitness as her calling. She has now become an influencer in the domain and is signing endorsements with fitness brands. The siblings have together started their own MMA and fitness gyms with about 14 franchises all over India. Speaking about choosing a career away from showbiz, Krishna tells ETimes, “I’ve always been the black sheep of the family. I know what I want and I work towards getting exactly that. I believe life is too short to do anything less than what you truly feel passionate about and I knew I needed to be able to wake up doing what I love every single day in order to truly be happy. I’m blessed to have the most supportive parents and brother in the world, who allow me to be able to pursue my passion and believe in me as much as I believe in myself.”
Shah Rukh Khan’s friend Viveck Vaswani believes Aryan was always inclined to make his own path. “He studied in a film school in Los Angeles. He’s a trained writer and director. I think not just star kids, but stars too have multiple careers. Actors are today into equipment, studios, plexes, real estate and all the star kids today are educated and have options.”
Aversion to limelight
Stardom comes with a lot of limelight, so much media and public glare that can deprive one of private space. The starkids have seen it coming with the ever so invasive pap culture and the lives of their parents being under constant scrutiny. It is quite natural for them to develop an aversion to so much limelight and look for options that allow them considerable time and space for themselves.
Ayesha Shroff points out how her kids Tiger and Krishna have contrasting personalities. “Tiger’s extremely shy. But because of his profession, he gets all that attention. And Krishna, on the other hand, is as outgoing as her father. And yet she prefers to be away from the limelight,” she says.
Krishna admits that contrary to popular belief, she is a super private person. ”I don’t like being put on blast. I understand it’s a part and parcel and I’ll always be grateful for the platform. I do believe it’s helped give me a head start in achieving what I set out to do; however, with that also comes added expectation to succeed. I love that though. It drives me every day,” she says.
No parental pressure
Kids can have a tough time dealing with social and peer pressure as they go through the phase where they are choosing a career. At such times, having supportive and understanding parents can have a significant impact on the child’s confidence and personality.
Jackie and Ayesha have been open with Krishna and Tiger all through their lives. “We encouraged a lot of communication. So we are very in tune with our children, what they are up to, what they hope for, what their anxieties are, what their dreams and goals are. So right from the beginning, we wanted them to have a very well rounded education to begin with. I think that’s where it all begins, really. Krishna was keen to get into direction as she finished college. She did her BA in filmmaking for two years, she also produced a very interesting documentary about the transgender community that went on to get a lot of awards, but then I think at some point, she realised that film is not for her. Similarly, Tiger was not at all inclined to films. He was inclined towards sports; he actually was very keen to play football, or basketball for our country. When he went to the US for further studies, he realised that this is not actually what he wants to do, but to get into the movies. Both ways, we did encourage them,” she explains.
Krishna agrees, “The pressure never came from my household. It was always from external voices who had their opinions. Initially, it was extremely overwhelming and I caved into it for a short period of time; however, I believe that was a very different time in my life—one where I was unsure of who I am and lacked the confidence to work towards finding it out. Although it took me a little longer than I’d have liked, I’m here now, and I get to do what I love every single day along with help, motivate and inspire our youth in order to make the same lifestyle changes I did to lead an overall better life.”
While Amitabh Bachchan’s daughter Shweta Bachchan may not particularly have been an ambitious person, that is not what she would want for her child. Shweta did not pursue acting like her father and mother Jaya Bachchan. Neither did her daughter Naya Naveli Nanda. “When I send my child to school, I am setting her up on a path where I hope that she will do something to support herself, and that’s my only requirement for both my children, Navya and Agastya,” she had said to ETimes. “I would like my daughter to have financial security and I think it will give her tremendous confidence if it’s something she’s done on her own rather than using her father’s money. I think it’s important that she knows, she can go out there and do things herself. A lot of things come from having that financial independence. She can make a lot of decisions in her life knowing that she can support herself and I want that for my child,” she says talking about Navya, who recently wrapped up the first season of her podcast What The Hell Navya.
Shatrughan Sinha is a proud father of three kids – Sonakshi, Luv and Kush. “We tried to go with our kids’ aptitudes, their capabilities and what they wanted to pursue,” he says. “They are smart adults, they can make their own choices and if they need our help at any point, we will certainly extend and do whatever we can. I never forced Sonakshi, Luv or Kush to do anything, no parent should do that. Sonakshi and Luv have pursued careers in acting, but Luv has taken the direction route. Peer pressure has been there, but thankfully it hasn’t impacted my kids. Luv has even contested assembly elections in Patna. They are always free to choose their own path.”
A proud father, filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt shares that he has provided his children – Pooja, Rahul, Shaheen and Alia – the tools to make a living, and has then left them on their own to decide what they would like to choose to do and which trade or which profession they would like to be associated with. “My first daughter Pooja was asked to join the movie business by me, because she suited the role of Daddy to the tee. And for Aashiqui, she said no, because she said ‘I’m not an actor, and I want to do only meaningful movies’. Then of course, she realised that the movie business has the potential to give her money, with which she can have what is called an independent life, self sufficient, so she took to acting. But she did not remain an actress, chose to become a producer and that too a producer of not regular, commercial films. Her first film was Tamanna which dealt with female infanticide. And it did not make money, but it got a National Award for Best Film on Social Issues, and then she also made Zakhm which is the defining film of my career, she got National Award and I got and then even Ajay Devgn got. But now, she is a self sufficient woman who chooses not to be defined only by the role of an actor or only by the tasks she does in the entertainment business.”
While Alia Bhatt always aspired to be an actress, Shaheen Bhatt, who was afflicted by depression had the guts to confront the ailment, and later write a book which went on to become a bestseller titled ‘I’ve Never Been (Un)Happier. She is now a writer, authoring her second book. She also has joined hands with Alia on her production house.
The nepotism factor
The whole debate around the N-word started when Kangana Ranaut called Karan Johar the ‘flag-bearer of nepotism’ during a controversial Koffee with Karan episode. The focus on how talented actors are made to suffer by the high and mighty of Bollywood is here to stay and quite a few starkids too have shared their thoughts on the same. While some have indeed made their mark in the industry, the same cannot be generalised for all celebrity kids who may not have necessarily tasted success. On the flip side, the debate around nepotism may create a fear in their minds that they don’t deserve the work they get, leading them to quit or divert towards other career options where they can build their own identity outside the circle of influence of their parents.
Ayesha Shroff believes nepotism is a very ridiculous topic to debate on and is not even discussed at the Shroff residence. “My children have close friends who have been in school with them and who are now handling the father’s businesses. They are built to follow in their parents footsteps, and why not? At the end of the day, I have built a massive empire. Who will I trust to handle my empire after me? Somebody who I can trust implicitly, my own child, my flesh and blood. How come no one talks about nepotism in other fields? It is such a bias,” she shares.
Krishna believes her father Jackie Shroff has left such an immense legacy that ‘it would be silly of me to try to even compete with that.’ “It’s not possible. I think my brother absolutely nailed it when it came to finding his strengths and carving his own niche to create a path and an identity for himself. I believe there’s no close second to him in his space in every generation. I take inspiration from him and have been motivated to pioneer health and fitness in our country and take it to the next level for both men and women,” she says.
“I think the people in the film industry have woken up to the reality that they have children who want to walk their own path. Gone are those days where the parents imposed their dreams and their fantasies on the children and children today have the audacity to say, ‘No, we will walk our own path’ and by doing that, they prove that they really are the new brave generation. More power to them. And I think we as elders must only support their dreams,” concludes Mahesh Bhatt.