Jamie, daughter of veteran comedian Johnny Lever, remembers director duo Abbas-Mustan dropping in to their house often. After all, Lever Sr, one India’s best-known funny men, has featured in several of their films. She recalls Abbas-Mustan, in their stark white outfit which got them their Men In White monicker, often lounging around in her living room.
Years later, their spotless white trademark outfits remain, only now Jamie is an actress in their film, not the daughter of an actor. Lever Jr features in their upcoming comic caper, Kis Kisko Pyar Karoon, which marks the debut of the country’s current comic flavour, Kapil Sharma.
Ask her how she bagged the role, and Jamie’s reply is quick. “No,” she drawls. “It is not that dad told them.”
It’s known that star kids get offers on a platter even before they are ready to act. Not that the opportunities come without pressures. Often, the younger generation is compared to their parents and has to constantly battle expectations. But, it can’t be argued that getting a launchpad for them is a tad easier — if not in a home production, another star will turn mentor as Salman Khan did for two star kids — Athiya Shetty (daughter of Suniel Shetty) and Sooraj Pancholi (son of Aditya Pancholi) in his production Hero. But there are other industry kids looking for a foothold in Bollywood. They are offsprings of character actors, technicians, action directors and writers. Though these roles are integral to the industry, the kids come without the star tag.
Manisha, daughter of late writer Ram Kelkar
Actress Manisha Kelkar, daughter of the late writer Ram Kelkar explains, “It is a case of being there, but not yet there.” Her father passed away in 2002, “so I don’t know if things would have been different had he been around,” she points out. Kelkar Sr penned several of Subhash Ghai’s films including Ram Lakhan (1989) and Khalnayak (1993).
Her childhood memories, like Jamie’s, too are replete with faces of big Bollywood names alongside her fathers — producers like J Omprakash and Subhash Ghai among them. “In those days hotel rooms would be booked for story writing sessions. It would invariably be the Fariyas hotel at Lonavla or Sun-n-Sand at Juhu. We, as kids, would tag along.”
Manjiri Makhijani,Daughter of Mac Mohan
Mac Mohan, who famoulsy played Sambha in Sholay, died in 2010
In fact, Ghai had told her brother Yogesh that he would launch him in Saudagar (1991), but that never happened and her brother then showed no interest in acting.
Finding themselves at the periphery, these industry offsprings can’t go around dropping names as a sure ticket to land a role. Nor would reams be written about them being tomorrow’s star.
It’s a lesson Vicky Kaushal has learnt. Acclaimed for his role in Neeraj Ghaywan’s critically-acclaimed film Masaan, Kaushal found himself struggling for roles just as any newcomer would do. But, Kaushal is the son of action director Sham Kaushal. Vicky says, “You are just like anyone else. Nobody is going to cast you because your father is part of the industry too. You have to audition and do the rounds like any non-industry person interested in an acting career.”
Jamie, Johnny Lever’s daughter is also a stand-up comic
Jamie adds, “I cannot be going around and saying, ‘Hey, can you launch me? I am Johnny Lever’s daughter’.” Abbas-Mustan saw her in an online spoof which she had done in Gujarati. Her antics in the video fetched her a role. “And guess what?” she drawls. “This is one of those rare films of Abbas-Mustan featuring Jamie, not Johnny Lever.”
Jamie has been doing stand-up acts and was part of the comedy television show, Comedy Ka Maha Muqabala. Ironically, on the show she was to team up with Kapil Sharma, who then left the show to do Comedy Nights With Kapil. But as fate would have it, Jamie now features with Kapil in her debut film. “I did not want to be here, there and everywhere. Over-exposure can be dangerous in Bollywood. I stuck to stand-up acts, anchoring and comedy shows. I avoided being part of soaps. Now that I want to act, I am still a relatively fresh face when it comes to Bollywood.”
Manisha, on the other hand, began with Marathi films and veered towards Bollywood with Lottery (2000) and Bandook (2013), both of which are better forgotten. She says, “I am blessed to be part of the industry, but when I go for auditions, I do not mention my father’s name. When the old-timers get to know, they share anecdotes about him…It is nice to hear others talk fondly about my father, but it need not translate into work.”
Vicky Kaushal, is action director Sham Kaushal’s son
Manisha recently featured in an online short film, Friend Request. She still does the rounds of auditions and hopes for that big break.
Veteran actor Mohan Bhandari’s son Dhruv echoes her sentiment. A popular face on the small screen, Mohan has featured in films like Bawandar (2000), Pratighaat (1987) and Paheli (2005). Says Dhruv, “having a father from the same profession makes no difference. I had to struggle. When people come to know who my is father, the expectations rise.”
Ultimately they feel that hard work and luck — the biggest driving force in Bollywood — matters. Who knows who will make it and who will not?
As Dhruv adds, “There is no easy way out. No one gives you work because of your background. There are enough cexamples of children with famous fathers, who did not make it big.”
Dhruv, Mohan Bhandari’s son is a TV actor
A decade ago Dhruv was slated to make his debut along Pulkit Samrat in a television show called Sixerrr. The show failed to take off, Pulkit went on to become a Bollywood actor. Dhruv went on to do television and then did a film that was better forgotten. He now has a fresh lease of life with his ongoing television show Tere Shehar Main.
Vicky fetched acclaim in his award-winning film Masaan, but he still has to go through the rounds of meeting people, auditioning. His next film Zubaan is slated to release in October. After Masaan, he knows he has to work harder, as expectations are high. According to him, his father did not mix his professional and his personal life. “So, I did not hang around the sets. I have studied engineering, but went on to do theatre and become an assistant director till Masaan made people notice me.”
On the other spectrum, there are stars like Akshay Kumar who go the extra length to help. A couple of years ago when his business manager Vikas Bali passed away he decided to fulfill his wish to make his son Vedant Bali an actor. As Vikas had been associated with the Khiladi ever since he stepped into Bollywood, Akshay took up the responsibility. Vedant featured in I Love Desi which released earlier this year. Akshay’s decision to help his manager’s son find a foothold is an exception rather than a rule in B-Town.
Manjiri Makhijani, daughter of Mac Mohan (best remembered as Sholay’s Sambha), who passed away in 2010, attributes it to “God’s grace” that she could rope in Tom Alter as well as music composers Salim-Sulaiman for her film, The Corner Table, made for the festival circuit. When she made up her mind to direct film, he gave her tips. Manjari has worked as an assistant director for films like Wake Up Sid (2009) and 7 Khoon Maaf (2011). She began with a short film, The Last Marble, about a street child that fetched her honours on the international film festivals circuit. Directing Bollywood films is top on her to do list.
There are not many from the periphery who have made it to the top of the heap. But then Salman Khan — writer Salim Khan’s son — reigns over Bollywood. As Manisha explains, “You can never know what clicks, if you are lucky and blessed, things just happen.”