It all started when Karan Johar, Saif Ali Khan and Varun Dhawan took a dig at Kangana Ranaut at the recently held IIFA Awards. You may recall that Kangana had called Karan the "flag-bearer of nepotism" on his show. The comment snowballed into a huge debate, with fans supporting Kangana for bravely taking on Bollywood's big daddies.
The debate was fueled further at the IIFA Awards this year, when Varun came on stage to receive an award. Saif joked, "You are here because of your papa (director David Dhawan)." Varun responded, "And you're here because of your mummy (veteran actress Sharmila Tagore)." Karan joined in and said, "I am here because of my papa (late filmmaker Yash Johar)."
The trio then chanted in unison, "Nepotism rocks". They then broke into the song Bole Chudiye Bole Kangana, at which point Karan interjected, "Kangana nahi bole toh achcha hai, bahut bolti hai."
The act caused outrage on social media and Karan, Saif and Varun were forced to apologise. Saif went a step further and wrote an open letter, prompting Kangana to finally break her silence and pen her own open letter in Mid-Day.
She said that the last time she was "deeply pained and upset" about the subject was when Karan dismissed talent as one of the main criteria for making it big in Bollywood. Citing the examples of legends like Dilip Kumar, Satyajit Ray and Guru Dutt, Kangana said that discrediting talent was "absolutely bizarre."
The actor added that there are plenty of instances to prove that "genuine hard work" exists, "beyond the superficiality of branded clothes and polished accents."
Talking about Saif's letter, she dismissed his statement that people need to "take a chill pill and back off" because he has already apologised to her. "This is not my issue alone," Kangana wrote, adding that nepotism "fails the test of objectivity and rationale."
She added that Swami Vivekananda, Albert Einstein and William Shakespeare "didn't belong to a select few, they belonged to collective humanity."
She also addressed his remark that it was easy to confuse nepotism with genetics. Saif had written, "People are interested in what their (superstars') children will be like and whether they will have the genes of their parents, in terms of their talent. If you need another example, then take race horses. We take a derby winner, mate him with the right mate and see if we can create another grand national winner. So, in that sense, this is the relationship between genetics and star kids."
"I fail to understand how you can compare genetically hybrid racehorses to artistes," Kangana wrote, asking if Saif believed that talent and dedication was only hereditary. "If your point was true, I would be a farmer back home," she said.
The Queen actor added, "You also spoke of eugenics - which means controlled breeding of the human race. So far, I believe that the human race hasn't found the DNA that can pass on greatness and excellence. If it had, we would've loved to repeat the greatness of Einstein, Da Vinci, Shakespeare, Vivekananda, Stephen Hawking, Terence Tao, Daniel Day-Lewis, or Gerhard Richter."
Saif had blamed the media for perpetrating nepotism. He had said that his son, Taimur, was a paparazzi favourite before he turned a year old and is already hyped to be the "next big thing." It is only a matter of time before a producer cashes in on all that hype.
Kangana rebutted with, "No one is putting a gun to anyone's head to hire talent they don't believe in. So, there is no need to get defensive about one's choices."
And so the debate continues!