Nepotism is a popular gateway to the glittering stardom of Bollywood. Instead of hard work and talent, power and influence are unfortunately the two dominating factors in this industry. This results in casting of select few individuals with the blood of showbiz running in them.
Being born with the talent and getting into the film industry is absolutely fine. A film is a sink or swim equation for non-star kids, but for the privileged ones, they seem to get roles despite repeated flops. There’s no doubt that it is tremendously hard to get into the film industry without a decent connection, preferably parental. But there are always people who go the extra mile and prove their mettle to cement their places in the Indian film industry.
Here are few famous Bollywood celebrities who managed to do so:
1. Nawazuddin Siddiqui
Born in a small town in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, Nawazuddin grew up in lower middle-class family. After completing his graduation from a university in Haridwar, he initially worked as a chemist in Baroda. Unable to cope up with his financial conditions, he moved to Delhi. But even there, he failed to get any decent job and worked as a watchman at various places.
During this time, he participated in theatre acts frequently and in 1996, he graduated from the National School of Drama. After that, Nawazuddin moved to Mumbai to try his luck in Bollywood, but didn’t even have enough money to pay rent. He was forced to walk from studio to studio, all day long, finding himself doing only petty roles or the ones where he was just a part of a crowd.
He made his film debut with Aamir Khan’s Sarfarosh in 1999 but faded away from the limelight gradually. However, his big break came in 2007 when he starred in the movie Black Friday by Anurag Kashyap, followed by Patang that made it to the Berlin International film festival. The year 2012 was the turning point for him with films like Kahaani and Gangs of Wasseypur collecting fortunes at the box office. Nawaz didn’t look back after that and went on to act in big movies like Talaash, Badlapur, Lunchbox, Kick, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Raees, and also the Oscar-nominated Lion.
2. Irrfan Khan
Irrfan was born in a village in Tonk, Jaipur, to a middle class family which earned its livelihood through a tyre business. Though he wanted to be a cricketer initially, his parents’ objection to it as a career made him look out for other options. Among other things, movies attracted Irrfan so much that he decided to learn the art in the National School of Drama. During his final year at NSD in 1988, Mira Nair chose him for a role in Salaam Bombay. Though it was a break for him, he wasn’t recognized much for his performance in that movie.
After that, Irrfan shifted to performing soaps and serials in television from 1994 to 1998. It was not easy for him as he wasn’t paid for some of the movies in which he acted. The producers bluntly used to tell him that his work didn’t merit any pay. Finally, in 2001, he got a chance in Asif Kapadia’s Warrior, an award-winning movie based on local tribes of Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh.
Since then, Irrfan’s career started spiralling exponentially, as he came up with successful movies one after another like Road to Ladakh, Maqbool, Metro, The Namesake, and Slumdog Millionaire. In 2013, he starred in The Lunchbox which received a BAFTA nomination is the only Indian movie to have ever won a Toronto Film Critics Association Award. For his outstanding performance in the film industry, Irrfan was honoured with the Padma Shri in 2011.
3. Vidya Balan
Vidya was born in Chembur, Maharashtra, to parents of Tamilian descent. From a young age, she aspired for a career in film and at the age of 16, she starred in the first season of Ekta Kapoor’s sitcom Hum Paanch. However, she didn’t compromise her academic career for films and attended St Xavier’s College to pursue a bachelor’s degree in sociology. Later, she earned a master’s degree from University of Mumbai.
While pursuing her master’s degree, Vidya was cast as the female lead in a Malayalam film called Chakram and was subsequently signed on for 12 other Malayalam films. However, due to production difficulties, Chakram was shelved and surprisingly, producers blamed Vidya for bringing bad luck to the project. They even labelled her a jinx and replaced her in the films that she had been contracted for.
Feeling helpless and dejected, Vidya returned to Mumbai and got into a project with Gautam Halder, a Bengali art filmmaker. She was cast for a film called Bhalo Theko, which required her to speak Bengali fluently. Not only did she learn the language, but did such a wonderful job in the film that the director was amazed at the depth of Vidya’s talent. She received Anando Purashkar award, which is still regarded as one of the most prestigious awards for Art and Indie films. Since then, Vidya has been cast in numerous critically acclaimed films like Parineeta, Paa, No One Killed Jessica and of course, Kahaani.
4. Kangana Ranaut
Hailing from Himachal Pradesh, Kangana was born and brought up in a very conservative family. Ever since her childhood, she was known to be bold and always took a definitive stand against patriarchy within her own household. At the age of sixteen, she left home for Delhi after a showdown with her parents.
While Kangana was going through her journey of becoming an actress, she came to Mumbai at 17. But then again, a horrific incident shattered her morale as a production member physically abused her. But being the strong woman she it, she didn’t let that nightmare linger on in her mind and got back to her dreams. Her first big break came when she was casted opposite Emraan Hashmi in Gangster.
However, the turning point in her career was her role in the national award-winning film Fashion. Since then, the sky was the limit for Kangana as her roles in blockbuster films like Tanu Weds Manu, Queen, and Tanu Weds Manu: Returns have resulted in huge box office hits. Her role in Queen won her a national award and a Filmfare award as well. She has bagged three National Film Awards and four Filmfare Awards till date.
5. Kalki Koechlin
Kalki was born in Pondicherry to French parents and later settled in a village near Ooty, Tamil Nadu. At the mere age of nine, she was sexually abused and was mentally traumatized for the better part of her adolescence. After completing her schooling at the age of 18, she moved to London and studied drama and theatre at Goldsmiths, University of London. She worked for two years with the theatre company before returning to India.
Kalki’s exceptional talent was spotted right from the beginning and she starred in Anurag Kashyap’s Dev D. She eventually won the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2009. This was followed by films like Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, That Girl In Yellow Boots, Margarita With A Straw, all of which were critically acclaimed and received worldwide attention.
6. Ranveer Singh
Ranveer was born into a Sindhi family in Mumbai. Ever since his childhood, he wanted to be an actor and participated in numerous school plays and debates. However, during college, he realised that getting a break in the film industry was not at all easy, as it was mostly people with a film background who got these opportunities. He decided to focus on creative writing and went to the United States from where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Indiana University.
After returning to Mumbai in 2007, Ranveer worked for a few years in advertising as a copywriter followed by a job as an assistant director. However, he left that job too in order to pursue a career in acting and sent his portfolio to various film directors. He would go for all kinds of auditions, but did not get any good opportunities and only got calls for minor roles. He even had to face casting couch during auditioning during his early days in the industry.
His big break came in 2010 as he was cast in the film Band Baaja Baaraat. Following his success in the movie, he got into another movie called Ladies vs Ricky Bahl. By this time, his skills were noticed by the top directors in the film industry and offers started to pour in. But it wasn’t until Bajirao Mastani that he cemented his place in Bollywood. The film earned Rs 356 crore to become one of the highest-grossing Indian films and garnered him the Filmfare award for best actor.
7. Akshay Kumar
Akshay was born in a middle-class Punjabi family. Like every other kid, he was focused on his academics and never considered acting as a career. However, his immense attraction towards Muay Thai, a type of martial arts, led him to quit college and go to Bangkok to train himself.
But chasing his dreams came at a hefty price and he went about doing all kinds of odd jobs to support his training. From working as a waiter to then graduating to a chef, Akshay did whatever he could to earn money in a country that was as alien to him as its language. After coming back to India, he first worked as a peon in Calcutta and later, moved to Dhaka for a salesman’s position. Next, he came back to Delhi to work as a jewellery trader and then tried modelling in Mumbai.
Once he had his portfolio, he went about giving auditions and before he knew, assignments started pouring in. Around that time, he also worked as a background dancer in Hindi films. It was then that producer Pramod Chakravarthy who signed Akshay as the leading man for his film Deedar. Making his film debut in 1991, Akshay has been successfully working in Bollywood for over 25 years now. He has two Filmfare awards to his name and was also honoured with the Padma Shri in 2009.
These are people who built their careers from scratch and have become successful actors amidst nepotism. It was their will, determination and grit to see it through instead of giving up. They inspire everyone to create and believe in our own dreams, for when you want something really bad, the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.
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