Junaid Khan in Maharaj, Suhana Khan in The Archies: Is streaming the way ahead to launch star kids? | Bollywood - Hindustan Times
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Junaid Khan in Maharaj, Suhana Khan in The Archies: Is streaming the way ahead to launch star kids?

ByDevansh Sharma
Jun 13, 2024 04:56 PM IST

Aamir Khan debuted with much fanfare back in 1988 with his cousin Mansoor Khan's Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak. But his son Junaid Khan is getting a low-key launch.

A whole generation has grown up since star/industry kids like Sunny Deol, Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Kajol, and Karisma Kapoor were launched with much fanfare. The next crop—Bobby Deol, Imran Khan, Arbaaz/Sohail Khan, Tanishaa Mukerji, and Kareena Kapoor—followed in their footsteps and benefitted immensely from their family members' successes. But now, the star kids who grew up witnessing their highs and lows are moving on with the times and making their presence felt without blowing their trumpets.

Junaid Khan in Maharaj; Suhana Khan in The Archies
Junaid Khan in Maharaj; Suhana Khan in The Archies

(Also Read – Maharaj: Here's when and where you can watch debut film of Aamir Khan's son Junaid Khan. See his first look)

The launch of star kids in the 1980s, ‘90s, and even 2000s was celebrated because it implied fresh blood carrying forward a film legacy. But since the nepotism debate gained ground in the last decade, star kids are now targeted instead of welcomed warmly. They’re all clubbed into the mould of privilege and accused of stealing job opportunities of far more worthy outsiders. There's still tremendous interest in star kids – or for that matter, even star babies – but that also comes with the proneness to get trolled for their lifestyle, wardrobe, accent, and even their names, whether they signed up to be part of the industry or not.

For instance, Aamir's daughter Ira Khan has been in constant limelight, whether it's for her battle with depression or her wedding with fitness coach Nupur Shikhare. She's not even remotely involved in the film industry and runs an NGO named Agastyu, which provides mental health services. Being Aamir Khan's daughter helps get eyeballs on her noble endeavours, but it also invites scrutiny on her husband, a complete outsider, for his choice to wear a Ganji and run all the way to their wedding at Band Stand earlier this year. The conversation around her wedding is hijacked by how involved her father's ex-wife Kiran Rao is in her nuptials.

Jaideep Ahlawat and Junaid Khan in a poster of Maharaj
Jaideep Ahlawat and Junaid Khan in a poster of Maharaj

That's probably why Aamir's elder son, Junaid Khan, chooses a safe distance from the limelight. He's not on social media, is rarely spotted by the paparazzi, and hasn't given any interviews – even on the verge of his debut film, Maharaj, which releases on Netflix India this Friday on June 14. Only a poster has been released from the film's publicity material – and not even a trailer – till the eve of the release, barring a PR handout about how he's been waiting for Maharaj's release for 4 years and would travel to sets in an autorickshaw. It seems like a desperate, pre-empted attempt to soften the blow that every star kid faces upon their debut.

It's a good change to see Junaid not hogging the spotlight before having proved himself. Like his father, his first tryst with acting was on stage. He's also developing a low-budget project, Pritam Pyare, as a producer himself. He's also begun filming his next with Sai Pallavi. Aamir revealed that he didn't know Junaid auditioned for Maharaj and got selected till producer Aditya Chopra informed him. It's laudable that Junaid is trying his best to steer clear of his father's leverage, but his debut project's direct release on Netflix India begs the question – is streaming the new launchpad for star kids?

Streaming would emerge as a much-needed launchpad for outsiders than for Bollywood star kids, for it levelled the ground for actors who have been struggling for a foot in the door for years. It's ironic that Karan Johar, once labelled the “flagbearer of nepotism,” is introducing an outsider in Lakshya with a well-mounted thriller in Kill (which releases in cinemas on July 4). In contrast, Aamir Khan's son is sliding under the radar with his debut film dropping on an OTT platform. That can't be generalised, however, as Dharma Productions is also all set to launch Saif Ali Khan's eldest son Ibrahim Ali Khan with a theatrical release in Sarzameen and not all outsiders can secure a flagship streaming release.

Ibrahim Ali Khan will make his acting debut with Sarzameen
Ibrahim Ali Khan will make his acting debut with Sarzameen

Also, evading a theatrical release and the possibility of a compromised box office opening can protect a star kid only to a certain extent. For instance, Zoya Akhtar launched three star kids – Shah Rukh Khan's daughter Suhana Khan, Amitabh Bachchan's grandson Agastya Nanda, and Sridevi's younger daughter Khushi Kapoor – in her period campus caper The Archies on Netflix India last year. They didn't leave any stone unturned in promoting the film and were treated at par with other newcomers in the cast. All three, particularly Suhana, were trolled for their limited acting skills. But that hasn't stopped any of them from signing more projects – Suhana is reportedly doing Sujoy Ghosh's King alongside her father, Agastya is filming for Sriram Raghavan's Ikkis, and Khushi has also signed multiple projects.

Suhana Khan, Agastya Nanda, and Khushi Kapoor made their debut with The Archies
Suhana Khan, Agastya Nanda, and Khushi Kapoor made their debut with The Archies

Whether you choose the OTT route or the theatrical path, a star kid continues to enjoy a tighter safety net than an outsider. Trolling definitely builds perception, but it's not as crystallised as an objective box office number staring into their eyes. Sanjay Leela Bhansali's niece Sharmin Segal may have assisted her uncle on several films and made her acting debut with his 2019 production Malaal, but when she doesn't perform in his Netflix India show Heeramandi, she's trolled mercilessly for her privilege. Kartik Aaryan recently joked that the tables have turned, and every star wants to be launched like an outsider – without any baggage while still milking their privilege.

Sharmin Segal plays Alamzeb in Heeramandi
Sharmin Segal plays Alamzeb in Heeramandi

Then there's also the dangling sword of comparison. Every star kid is compared to their father, mother, or grandfather. Janhvi Kapoor recently claimed that Sridevi warned her of comparison to her and advised her to stay away from showbiz. Earlier, Shah Rukh remarked that his elder son Aryan Khan is well aware that he can't pull off an Abhishek Bachchan and be compared to his legendary father throughout his career. He's thus chosen to don the filmmaking hat and has finished filming his debut Stardom – yet another OTT show, produced by his father's banner Red Chillies Entertainment. He's already faced the music of being a star kid in the worst way possible. His debut thus would be invariably viewed through that lens, instead of enjoying a fair place in the sun.

Shah Rukh Khan's son Aryan Khan has chosen to become a filmmaker instead of an actor(PTI)
Shah Rukh Khan's son Aryan Khan has chosen to become a filmmaker instead of an actor(PTI)

OTT debuts may soften the blow, but the fact remains that star kids will have to prove their worth today despite their privilege, not because of it. Whether it's Sanjay Dutt and Kumar Gaurav or Ranbir Kapoor and Imran Khan, the star kid who displayed his mettle has stayed the course, whereas the other has perished. Today, there may be campaigns around “Laut aao, Imran”, and there may be fairer avenues for a relaunch, but the audience is as, or even more, unforgiving. The same people who want him back are waiting for him to take a wrong step so they can unleash the pent-up fury within. They'll be the first ones to pull him down when he rises again, whether it's an event with fanfare in theatres or a hush-hush sneak-in on streaming.

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