“Omg! Navya Naveli Nanda dancing in a bikini”
“Mystery girl with Aryan Khan”
“Wild Aaliyah Kashyap parties”
These are all headlines that pop up after a simple Google search for any one of the dozen celebrity kids in Bollywood.
Over the weekend, Shweta Bachchan Nanda wrote an impassioned column asking for her daughter Navya’s personal life not be scrutinized.
“She is not a public figure. Yes, she is related to some very famous people, but that is something completely out of her control,” she wrote. Like most teenagers, Navya loved to pout, preen and pose in front of the camera and that’s what her instagram account reflects.
But unlike regular teenagers, Navya’s photographs turn into headlines on Internet sites.
Like Navya, Shah Rukh Khan’s 16-year-old daughter Suhana’s social media presence is limited to Instagram. And, both their accounts are private. So, how do their photographs get circulated online?
Earlier this year, during an interview Shah Rukh told me, “Suhana has a private account but people pose as her friends and she accepts their friend request. Next thing she knows, her pictures are all over the ‘net. She gets very worried when her pictures leak.”
A few weeks after this interview, an informal request from the actor’s office was sent to editors across the country to not print images of Suhana. Even before he makes his big screen debut, Shah Rukh’s elder son Aryan is already an Instagram star. His selfies and goofy videos are lapped up by over three lakh followers.
Unlike Saif Ali Khan, who told his son Ibrahim to stay off social media after his pictures started going viral in 2015, Shah Rukh hasn’t stopped his kids from posting pictures online.
“This is a part of our reality now. If you are on social media, there are going to be repercussions. I feel bad for them. I wish I could protect them from the shadow of their father’s stardom but I can’t,” said Shah Rukh with a shrug, before adding that he is the only person banned from posting pictures of his older children online.
“I was told that I use too many filters and that’s uncool. Apparently pictures need to be real and unedited. When they were kids, they liked it when I put their pictures up but not anymore," he says.
Celebrity kids who use social media fall on both ends of the spectrum – those who are just being teenagers and other who use instagram and snapchat as the first step towards mainstream stardom.
Like Saif, Sridevi also told her elder daughter Jhanvi to get off all social media about three years ago when pictures of a family vacation became public.
Sreedevi’s younger daughter Khushi, on the flipside, loves her social media celebrity status. Along with BFF Aaliyah Kashyap (director Anurag Kashyap’s daughter), the 15-year-old has been roped in as the face of designer Babita Malkhani’s new campaign.
Also reaping the benefits of being a minor instagram celebrity is Chunky Panday’s nephew Ahaan. The 18-year-old’s social media popularity led to him walking the ramp for designer Nandita Mahtani’s show recently. Aalia Ebrahim’s perfect social media game helped her snag a joint cover with her mother Pooja Bedi for a magazine.
Unlike their counterparts in Hollywood, Indian celebrities have never had to deal with paparazzi. Even when they get photographed at the airport or outside restaurants, in most cases, their publicists have tipped off the photographer. In Hollywood, celebrity parents have been very vocal about their kids being aggressively targeted by paps. Everyone from Pink to Sarah Jessica Parker and Salma Hayek have lashed out at photographers for stalking their children.
Indian celebrities have never had to deal with safeguarding their children’s privacy before. Traditionally, there was zero interest in celebrity kids and they would rarely get photographed with or without their famous parents. That changed when Aaradhya was born four years ago. After the famous tot was shot at an airport, the focus shifted to getting the first shots of Kiran Rao and Aamir Khan’s son Azad.
With social media becoming an increasingly integral component of our everyday lives, it’s up to celebrity parents to decide how ‘visible’ they want their children to be.