Three recent seemingly unrelated pieces of news from the world of Hindi films suggest one big development — that is if you choose to look at it in that light. The first being Karan Johar having bought the Hindi rights of Nagraj Manjule's Marathi hit, Sairat (2016), the second Karan Johar signing on Jhanavi Kapoor, the daughter of screen legend Sridevi and producer Boney Kapoor, and the third Karan Johar musing that Ahan Shetty, the son of Suneil, is 'a star in the waiting.' Now, combine all three and you can guess that Karan Johar would probably announce his next production soon and it might just be Sairat in Hindi featuring Jhanavi Kapoor and Ahan Shetty.
While on the subject of star children launch, a sub-genre peculiarly unique to Indian films, it’s heartening to know that if Johar is, in fact, planning what he might be planning then perhaps there could not have been a better launch for Ms. Jhanavi Kapoor.
The 'star kid launch,' as a concept is a mix of something pathetic and beautiful. It assumes that the viewer might be interested in something without even knowing what is in store for them. It is also fascinating how parents simply refuse to understand that their offspring might not be good enough or simply not interested in doing what daddy or mommy did. For the industry, the less said the better. Some of them actually think that the generation next following their footsteps is akin to serving the nation where entertaining the weary is godliness.
On some occasions, filmmakers have justified that it’s easier to take actors' children for they know not just the trade but also what is expected of them even before they face the camera. It is also somewhere saddening that the Karan Johars of the world cannot look beyond the homes of David Dhawans or Mahesh Bhatts to get new talent.
Of course, the choice of a filmmaker to cast someone is a very personal thing and there is nothing wrong if you can talent in your neighborhood as opposed to searching out there.
Back in the day when this was still a novel thing, star children launches were taken a little more seriously. Consider the following two launches — Hrithik Roshan’s debut in Kaho Na Pyar Hai (2000) where the father, Rakesh Roshan left no stone unturned to show that junior could dance, fight, laugh, brood, pout and what have you better than anyone else. The film featured Hrithik in a double-role, a ploy that was last used to launch Rajesh Khanna in Raaz (1966) and one that simply assured to pack in all the punches.
The other launch being the one of Harshwardhan Kapoor, the son of journeyman Anil Kapoor in Mirziya (2016) where the MO seemed very clear — show junior to be conspicuously different everyone else. This was a film whose trailer jumped across centuries and showed Harshwardhan in two very different avatars namely Hrithik Roshan or Vivek Oberoi in Company (2002) and the other very Abhishek Bachchan from Refugee (2000). The idea being clear — this bloke can do be different and same. Both Vivek Oberoi and Ranbir Kapoor tried the same — their debuts featured them in very specific mold while the second release Road (2002) and Bachna Ae Haseeno (2008) showed them in a more contemporary get-up.
Once upon a time star children launches were to showcase — Love Story (1981), Rocky (1981), Betaab (1983) — then it became about making a splash by going the ‘actor’ or ‘performer’ way – Refugee, Saawariya (2007), Ishaqzaade (2012), and the more recent Mirziya. Amongst the star children, it’s usually the boy who get a dedicated launch and the girls are largely an afterthought. One of the best examples is the debut of Karishma Kapoor, one of the first star daughters to be launched. Originally slated to debut alongside Bobby Deol in a film called Jaan (1996), no relation with the Ajay Devgan-Twinkle Khanna version, Karishma walked out of the film because of incessant delays. She ultimately debuted opposite Harish in Prem Qaidi (1991) while Twinkle Khanna stepped in her shoes opposite Bobby Deol and they were launched in Barsaat. Similarly, Kareena Kapoor was to face the arc lights with Hrithik Roshan in Kaho Na Pyar Hai but her mother felt that Hrithik Roshan would end up getting the chunkier role and better treatment consider the film was his home production. Kareena ultimately made her debut opposite Abhishek Bachchan in JP Dutta’s Refugee where she managed to walk away with more accolades than her co-star who had an equally big surname.
Today, irrespective of how hard they strive, star children launches are bound to fall short than not on most occasions. For starters, there is far too much spotlight on the kids to live up to expectations and moreover, the yardstick to measure them by is much bigger than just a famous surname. Look at the kind of response that Mithun Chakraborty’s son, Mimoh or Mahakshay, or Jackie Shroff’s son, Tiger got. While the former was a write-off even before the first reel of his debut played out, the latter seems to be relegated to a league of his own where he seems to be competing with himself and the box office performance of his films (Heropanti, Baaghi: A Rebel for Love or A Flying Jatt) make no difference to anyone. Also, these kids have to not only compete with the legacy of their parents but also the other star children launched before them. And, perhaps therefore, what chance does a debutant Mimoh stand in front of Mithun da and Hrithik or an Esha, who is judged by Hemaji as well as a Kareena Kapoor?
In that aspect the news of the possibility of Jhanvi Kapoor reprising the role essayed by Rinku Rajguru in Sairat is interesting, to say the least, on two accounts. One, the role is well etched for a young actor and more significantly in a set-up where star daughters rarely get an equal shot when it comes to launches, this once it would be ‘her’ and not ‘him’ who could make or break the film. Sairat is a story that offers a great mix of spoken and unspoken moments and more than a few where nothing really happens on the screen and yet when the moment is over, nothing is left to say. It’s this feature that had gone missing from a star child launch of late that had made them appear to be a show-reel and not cinema. It’s this that Jhanvi Kapoor and Ahan Shetty and their probable debut, which may or not be the remake of Sairat, could change.