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Kin of actors from non-star families joining their famous relatives in B-Town

In an industry once governed by bloodline, a burgeoning breed of actors from non-star backgrounds is making its mark in Bollywood. And their overwhelming success and adulation are serving as a ticket for their family to follow them into Tinseltown 

Not all of them have it easy. It isn’t, if you don’t have a pedigree to boast of or a godfather to pull the strings in the ruthless world of Bollywood where fortunes fluctuate in the blink of an eye.

(L-R)Priyanka Chopra, Parineeti Chopra, Meera Chopra and Barbie Handa are part of a flourishing clan in Bollywood
(L-R)Priyanka Chopra, Parineeti Chopra, Meera Chopra and Barbie Handa are part of a flourishing clan in Bollywood

While those with the ‘right’ surname often skip the queue in their filmi pursuit, others have to struggle to carve a niche. And when they get a foothold, it not only puts them on the radar of top-notch filmmakers but also inspires many ordinary men and women to try their luck in showbiz. More than that, their status becomes a default career choice for their siblings and relatives, who know the worth of the remotest family connection in a competitive industry.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s brother, Shamas, is gearing up for his directorial debut
Nawazuddin Siddiqui's brother, Shamas, is gearing up for his directorial debut

Move over the Kapoors and Khans — the legendary dynasties of B-Town. An influx of actor siblings from non-star backgrounds in the last couple of years is setting the stage for brand new Bollywood khaandaans. A flourishing filmi clan seems to be that of Priyanka Chopra’s with cousins Parineeti and Meera part of the industry today. One more from the sorority, Barbie Handa, will make her acting debut soon.

Aparshakti, an experienced RJ and Ayushmann Khurrana’s younger brother, has been signed for two films
Aparshakti, an experienced RJ and Ayushmann Khurrana’s younger brother, has been signed for two films 

“The Chopra girls have arrived,” gushes Meera Chopra, who recently starred in Gang of Ghosts. “We belong to a traditional, middle-class family where acting was never considered a serious career. No one had ever imagined that four cousins would become actresses,” says the starlet, who worked in Tamil and Telugu films for four years before stepping into Bollywood last year.

Siblings Huma Qureshi and Saqib Saleem made their acting debut around the same time
Siblings Huma Qureshi and Saqib Saleem made their acting debut around the same time

The Chopra connection gave Meera many a privilege. “The industry welcomed me with open arms because of Priyanka’s reputation. I never had to wait for a director to meet me. In fact, I was given special treatment when people discovered that I was related to an A-lister. That cut down my struggle period to a great extent. But there have been so many times when I did not get a role because the makers genuinely thought that I was not suitable for it,” she adds.

Anubhuti Kashyap has followed in the footsteps of her brothers, Abhinav and Anurag Kashyap
Anubhuti Kashyap has followed in the footsteps of her brothers, Abhinav and Anurag Kashyap

Parineeti, who took to acting by accident, has always acknowledged PeeCee’s support. “I came here to work as an investment banker and Mimi didi (Priyanka) helped me with contacts. That is how I landed up in Yash Raj Films (as a publicist). She was a major reason why I chose to work in Mumbai instead of Delhi. Initially, I used to stay with her. But like all Punjabans, I love my independence. I moved out the day I found work. But the decision to become an actress was entirely my call,” the Ambala girl had said earlier.

Karnesh Sharma, who serves in the Merchant Navy, is collaborating with his actress sister, Anushka, for her maiden production, NH10
Karnesh Sharma, who serves in the Merchant Navy, is collaborating with his actress sister, Anushka, for her maiden production, NH10

Another accidental actor is Saqib Saleem, who was inspired by his sister, Huma Qureshi to dabble in histrionics. “I used to pick her up from her theatre rehearsals and thought Huma is the trained actor while I am the more filmi one,” says Saqib.

Soon after Huma moved to Mumbai from her hometown Delhi to pursue a career in acting, Saqib followed suit. However, it was the latter’s film that hit the theatres first. “We joke about the fact that I am her senior in the industry. But it is good to have your sister in the same field. We are each other’s guiding force and had decided very early in our careers that we need to tell one another where we are going wrong more than what we are doing right,” he adds.

Paving the way
The sibling advantage also worked for Shamas Nawab Siddiqui, whose elder brother Nawazuddin Siddiqui shot to fame after wandering about for work for almost five years, doing blink-and-miss roles until Black Friday (2004) came his way. During his struggle, he asked Shamas, 10 years his junior, to come to Mumbai from Delhi where he was pursuing a degree in aeronautical engineering.

“In those difficult times, he wanted some family presence around. But

the idea behind calling me was that he knew I had a creative mind. He had also seen some of my scripts earlier. So, I ditched my practical classes and came to Mumbai. Whenever he signed a film, he would put in a word for me and I would be taken on board as an assistant director. But in those days, none took me seriously since Nawaz bhai was merely a struggler,” he recalls.

Gradually, Shamas learnt the tricks of the trade and with hard work, moved ahead without his brother's help. “Then I shifted to the small screen. Meanwhile, Nawaz bhai became a household name and things changed for me phenomenally. Today, everyone gives me royal treatment and takes me seriously because my brother is a star,” he says.

Shamas is quick to clarify that he has not taken undue advantage of his brother’s stardom. “When I quit TV, he persuaded me to write a film script but I wouldn’t listen. He gave up and, perhaps, doubted whether I had it in me to take up the challenge. So, I put on my thinking cap came up with a script in 18 days. It was my turn then to pester him to read it. It was only two months later that he went through it and, fortunately, loved it. This only shows how very professional he is. He will never promote anyone if he didn’t believe in their abilities,” he says.

Also flowing with the tide is Anushka Sharma, who recently revealed that her brother, Karnesh, a Merchant Navy officer, is involved in her maiden production NH10. Rumours of Karnesh’s Bollywood entry started floating two years ago when he was regularly spotted with his sister at filmi events. However, the actress had scotched the speculations.

The flip side
Having a star sibling has its share of disadvantages too, as Anubhuti Kashyap, the younger sister of filmmakers Abhinav and Anurag Kashyap, recounted. “When Abhinav stepped into Bollywood and approached people with his scripts, nobody was keen to listen to him. They knew he was related to Anurag, who had earned the reputation of being a director who made only dark films. So, people didn’t think Abhinav had anything new to offer. He was dismissed as predictable. Having Anurag in the industry never helped him. Rather, it made life difficult for him,” says the former corporate executive, who recently announced her entry into Bollywood.

Anubhuti said she is wary of collaborating with either of her two brothers. “I don’t want people to say that my brothers are backing me. However, those who have seen my short film have appreciated my work and are curious to know what I have in store now. There is a lot of pressure to deliver, as I am one of the Kashyap siblings. The good part is that people are open-minded about me as both my brothers have made films that fall in completely different genres,” she says.

The challenge of coming out of a star sibling’s shadow always lurks around. However, Ayushmann Khurrana’s younger brother, Aparshakti, who will feature in Neeraj Pandey’s Saath Uchakey and UTV’s Babboo Ki Jawaani, is not fretting over it. The radio presenter-cum-emcee said, “Comparisons are bound to come up but there’s no pressure as I will have my own journey. I am excited about joining general entertainment channels as a TV presenter. As of now there is a lot of space for a good anchor as the already popular ones are venturing into films. I would like to do both TV and films as the lines have blurred,” says Aparshakti.

(With inputs from Asira Tarannum)

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