Actor Sunny Deol launches his son Karan in a romantic drama titled Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas this Friday. The film that is co-produced by the Deol family along with Zee Studios, has been directed by dad Deol himself.
Deol is definitely not the first Bollywood star—actor or filmmaker to introduce one of his own blood. Since 2000, about 22 eminent names have launched-by either producing or directing (or both)-their children and other relatives. The names range from director Rakesh Roshan who launched son Hrithik in blockbuster romantic drama Kaho Naa..Pyaar Hai in 2000 to Sanjay Leela Bhansali who co-produced niece Sharmin Segal’s debut Malaal that released this July. Incidentally, only three of the 22 films have made any profits at all- Aamir Khan’s romantic comedy launch Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na (2008) for nephew Imran Khan that made ₹40 crore, Roshan’s debut that had earned Rs. 34 crore and romantic drama Mohabbatein (2000) that introduced Uday Chopra and was directed by father Yash Chopra and directed by brother Aditya, collecting Rs. 22 crore.
The disasters have been far more in number- Malaal itself lost more than Rs. 47 crore , then there was Harman Baweja’s Love Story 2050 and filmmaker Suneel Darshan’s Karle Pyaar Karle (introducing son Shiv), that lost ₹29 crore and ₹28 crore respectively.
Media and brand industry experts see a definite strategy to the launch of star kids though they are quick to point out that the disadvantages are just as many.
“Of course there are a lot of expectations (from the star kid) if the parent actor or filmmaker is popular and there is no doubt the level of interest in the film is high," said Lulu Raghavan, brand expert and managing director, Landor Associates. Raghavan referred to the entire star kid launch exercise as one of the parent acting as a masterbrand that can be strengthened if the project is done right. There are analogies to be drawn in the brand industry—earlier this month, sportswear giant Lululemon came out with a streetwear label called Lab. While emanating from an established brand is always an advantage, the challenge lies in finding your own authentic story to tell.
“Initially, the parent’s name lends credibility and allows the child to leverage his or her fan base but you can’t just bank on legacy," Raghavan pointed out.
Without doubt though, marketing of most star kid launches is centered on the idea of nostalgia. The Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas promotions present the debutant as not just Sunny’s son but veteran Dharmendra’s grandson who is out there to represent his generation. The film is, quite evidently, named after the grandfather’s iconic song from the 1970s. The family has done media interactions and made reality show appearances together.
“Of course, the fact that he comes from this family is part of the marketing campaign. It allows for a certain goodwill both from an industry and audience point of view and makes for a smoother launch," said Shariq Patel, chief executive officer, Zee Studios that is co-producing the film along with the Deols. “We are quite upfront and unapologetic about it."
To be sure, while the nepotism debate gains stronger ground in Bollywood with each passing day, industry experts are quick to point out that names like Ranbir Kapoor, Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan have proven their mettle and gone beyond their privilege. Moreover, while the first film may be a matter of access, the rest of the journey isn’t.
“There has been so much debate on this that I think most star kids start on a backfoot now and can expect far more brickbats if the film doesn’t work," Patel pointed out.