In a hegemonised film industry, awards, say insiders, are often traded as favour. Armaan and Amaal Malik with promising talent agree to take brickbats for asking who is truly eligible. Are they out of their mind?
Aastha Atray Banan (MID-DAY; January 22, 2017)

How would the reticent diva of cinema, whether Greta Garbo or Suchitra Sen, have survived social media? The invasive community building and communication tool has irreversibly changed cinema. The easy bridge between star and audience is now a weapon of publicity no one can beat. Sometimes, though, it's not such a good thing. It takes away the opportunity to apply think-before-you-speak wisdom. And so, you may very well have the country's number one actor lash out at opponents, in the heat of the moment. And then, have to survive the consequences. Amaal Malik would know.

Last week, he wrote a lengthy post on Facebook that one doesn't expect from a successful 26-year-old singer-composer of mainstream Bollywood with exceptional talent. In a weird twist, he was upset at having been nominated for Tiger Shroff-starrer, Baaghi, on which he was co-composer. He argued that the 'below average' Baaghi didn't deserve one. MS Dhoni, another film from the same year that he designed the entire score for, was overlooked, like it was for best film and best director.

"Please don't nominate music that only your jury members sit at home and applaud over starters and drinks… award gaya bhaad mein, yaar, but at least nominate people as per their talent and their body of work," he said. His legacy probably sanctioned the rant. His father Daboo Malik was composer for Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam; his uncle Anu Malik is a hugely popular music director, and his grandfather Sardar Malik gave music for films back in the '60s.

But, Amaal didn't stop at music. He wrote, "It is so funny and surprising that you go out of your way and give a star kid all the newcomer awards for best debut, for a performance no one even saw. Whereas a Diljit Dosanjh, who deserved that award for Udta Punjab is nowhere." He was referring to veteran actor Anil Kapoor's son, Harshvardhan, who made his debut in the box office dud, Mirzya.

Interestingly, Harshvardhan, also had a bone to pick. Having swept best debutant trophies at most awards, he lost it at one of the oldest awards last week. He questioned how Punjabi superstar Dosanjh, with close to 10 films in Punjabi and Hindi, qualifies as a debutant. Social media came handy for him, too. After lashing out at Dosanjh in an interview to mid-day, when he was criticised by the twitterati, he shot back at each critic with an individual tweet. We sought out the young men of Bollywood - brothers Amaal and Armaan Malik, and Harshvardhan Kapoor - and asked them what it means to stay true to your craft and opinion in an industry governed by lobbying that would put Sansad Marg to shame.

Edited excerpts from conversations

What has been the reaction to the post?
Armaan: "I didn't know Amaal was putting it up. I saw it much later. But it came from his heart. When fans sing your song, that's the real award.
Amaal: Unfortunately, the media made it about my attacking Aishwarya Rai on an award she had received, which wasn't the case. All I was saying was that newcomers must be recognised, and for the right work. Why didn't Dangal [his mentor Pritam composed the film's music] get a nomination or award? The songs of that film take the movie forward. I saw a backlash for what I said in the post but I wanted to reach the common man, the music lover, my follower.

Then why not do what Aamir Khan did? Denounce awards, don't attend functions, don't accept trophies.
Amaal: Recognition and awards are necessary since the film industry is a hard one, and being noticed matters. It took us a long time to make it. We had a foot in the door moment thanks to Salman [Khan] because he likes promoting young talent. Armaan had sung in a self-titled album, which I had composed. We sent it to him since we needed a famous face for the launch. Since he remembered working with our father, he heard it. And liked it. Everyone gets that one moment, and you need to seize it. Look at Ankur Tiwari, a man with no connections. He has made it.

But you come from an industry family.
Amaal: I have been to countless music directors and asked if I can offer assistance. They wouldn't give me a chance. We are not Anu Malik's, we are Daboo Malik's sons. We are outsiders anyway. My father didn't garner the same respect or recognition [as brother Anu], so nobody bothered with us. He couldn't pick up the phone and say, 'please hear my son out'.

Then why single out another industry kid like Harshvardhan?
Amaal: He said what he did about Diljit because he lost. But he won the other trophies, right? You win some, you lose some.

Does the family name go against you sometimes?
Armaan: All the time. People say, his brother makes all the songs he sings. That's why he is here. Yes, I am lucky to have Amaal, but what if I had not sung well? Would I have been this popular? It's the reason I participated in Sa Re Ga Ma Pa [reality TV show for singers]. I wished to stand apart from the family.
Amaal: In fact, I de-sell Armaan, but everyone just comes back saying, he is popular, so take him. In the end, Armaan only gets the song he deserves.

How does young talent with an opinion stay within the system and still try to improve it?
Amaal: There are music directors, for instance, who will give you a chance if you are talented…Pritam, Sandeep Chowta, Salim Suleiman. I have learnt all that I have from Pritam. We do little things to change the environment. For starters, I ask for a story. I don't respond to 'give me a party song, sad song' requests. I want to work with people who have a vision instead of those who come with a reference library.