Bollywood has been under fire for rampant nepotism and obsession with fairness lately. One would assume that an industry that has faced numerous scandals and would try to address those before creating new ones. However, assumptions are a tricky game and Bollywood is filled with curveballs.
Netflix recently released The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives and I could not resist binge watching. Part of me was curious about who these people were and what their lives were “truly” like.
The show follows the lives of four women who have married into Bollywood or acted in the Industry. All the women allow a glimpse of their private life and, from what I understand, attempt to be relatable.
A quick background of the ladies
Maheep Kapoor is the wife of Sanjay Kapoor and they have two children who both want to enter the movie industry one day. She is also a jewelry designer!
Bhavana Pandey is the wife of Chunky Pandey and they have two children. Their eldest, Anaya Panday, has recently entered the Bollywood Industry. Bhavana has recently launched a clothing line.
Seema Khan is the wife of Sohail Khan. They have two children and are trying to navigate their unique relationship. She is a designer and has unique pieces.
Neelam Kothari Soni is the wife of Samir Soni and was a star in the 80s. She has recently become a jewelry designer.
While I would never describe someone solely as another person’s wife, this is how the women introduced themselves.
They strongly build their identities around being wives and how they balance being the wives of Bollywood actors and being moms. This is to the extent that Maheep tells the ladies “We were all fools, we were chasing our husbands in our 20s and my daughter is focused on becoming accomplished.” This is such an odd statement, as it came off implying that being married was a job to them. That it was their only accomplishment.
I thought that they all had careers? Why is it that women, in today’s day and age, still belittle their own accomplishments? Has misogyny seeped so deep that even Bollywood stars cannot avoid their shackles?
The debate about nepotism
I must admit, part of me truly believes that this show was a ruse to dismantle the notion of nepotism within Bollywood.
I feel that the emphasis placed on how their children are “making their debut” into this world and how they have their share of struggles is to take the onus off of the fact that the names that have made it in Bollywood recently are from the same families.
One example of this is when Maheep tells Shanaya and Janhvi that they are so impressive because they are no longer living under their parent’s shadow. Let’s just get this straight: while Janhvi has certainly made her debut in Bollywood, it helps that she is the daughter of the late Sridevi Kapoor. Maheep says that other girls and boys their age are not earning, which is entirely false. Many work from a young age; however, their jobs may not be as well paid. They are definitely aided by coming from a lineage of film stars. While Shanaya’s dad may not have been the most famous from the Kapoor Clan, having the name Kapoor is enough for them. While the children cannot be blamed for using the tools at their disposition, it makes one wonder why these children do not feel compelled to join acting school, and instead they just know they will have an opportunity.
Also, Maheep she did not have to dismiss other children while praising her children for working.
South Bombay and LA: the same place?
Some moments felt, to say the least, disingenuous.
In one instance, Anaya says “My parents cursed so much I thought my name was fuck.” This happens to be something Khloe Kardashian said, many moons ago, on Keeping up with the Kardashians.
While Bollywood has made its mark in the world and gained international notoriety, why did the families on these shows focus on their obsession with the Western world?
The American reality show is a common theme. Seema keeps speaking of her obsession with Kim Kardashian, and Janhvi mocks the way Kylie acts in that birthday video. Many people mocked the accents of the families on the show, and while mocking an accent is the lowest of lowest in my books, I did wonder if they forced the emphasis on certain syllables.
Many of the women also revealed that their children did not speak Hindi. While languages are hard to grasp, it came off as them making it a status thing. Moreover, given that these young children want to enter the industry, it is unexpected that they feel no pressure whatsoever to learn the language that the movies are narrated in. All of this ties into privilege, which is very apparent throughout.
Overall, Bollywood lies was fun
Oops, I meant lives! It was an entertaining watch. However, certain aspects were uncomfortable and came off as ignorant. Given the current climate and the fact that Bollywood has been highly scrutinized, the media that comes out must be conscious of this. Belittling the influence of nepotism and making Western notions the norm maintains the separation between Bollywood families and the rest of the population. This show reminded me that there are barriers that many will not overcome because their last name is not the right one.