The debate over Talent vs. Networking in any industry is as old as the debate over Nature vs. Nurture. While there are many who say that talent, skill and knowledge are all that matters in any career or industry, there are others who claim that networking, or formal relationships between colleagues in the industry is as important.

There is a perception however, that the Hindi film industry falls into the latter category, one where networking and the familiarity bred by such formal relationships has more impact on the success of an individual than his/her own talent and aptitude.

And to be honest, it is hard to argue with that perception.

Despite how many times celebs try to evade it; the fact remains that the industry is often made easier for those with ‘connections’ to someone already established in the industry.

The high incidence of celebrity kids and relatives is no real puzzle; networking works in Bollywood because for long it has been driven by the work of film families such as the Kapoors, Bhatts and Khans.

And although it is not a crime but a favour to help out people you already know, the kin-based networking in Bollywood often unwittingly acts to discourage the entry and sustenance of those who do not enjoy such familiarity and networking skills.

The Kapoor extended family.

And yet, Bollywood and the film industry at large remains a land of opportunity, a place where dreams may turn out to be as true as the ones in the thousand films India churns out every year.

And there is evidence, of people who have made it big in the industry in recent years despite being new to it all.

Director Neeraj Pandey is one such example.

The acclaimed director of National Award-winning film A Wednesday, Special 26 and M.S Dhoni: The Untold Story, Pandey didn’t have much of a network to begin with when he made strides in Bollywood.

It took a long while for him to get an opportunity to make his first film and even before that, he had three film scripts rejected because no producer was willing to bankroll a debut director.

Official poster for A Wednesday

And yet, he persisted. Working as an ad filmmaker and television director, he honed his craft for years until he finally got an opportunity to make what would become the Naseeruddin Shah, Anupam Kher-starrer A Wednesday.

Today, Pandey after years of hard work and many rejections is finally one of the most sought-after writers and directors of our industry. And it’s safe to say, that it is his talent that brought him this far.

Having considered that, it is easy to believe that Pandey would be more social, more inclined to network with his friends and colleagues in the industry now that he has made it. However, that is not so.

In his own words, Neeraj Pandey is a boring guy who doesn’t even go to Bollywood’s famed film parties to socialize.

He has a twitter handle that he doesn’t even manage and he only tends to come out in public on the eve of his film’s release because in his words, ‘Outside of my films, there is no point in talking about myself.’

The fact is that with the extensive body of work under his belt, Neeraj Pandey has created a niche for himself, a space and familiarity in the industry in which he doesn’t have to socialize and network with famed Bollywood celebrities.

On the strength of the quality of his films, Pandey has risen to the point where actors are more likely and more enthused to work with him rather than the other way around.

Director Neeraj Pandey

That is how far talent has got Neeraj Pandey in Bollywood. In a film industry renowned for its social networking, he has risen to be one of its best by simply and quietly doing his work, and doing it well.

In his case, talent and probably talent alone, has worked wonders and not any special skill at networking.

It is this ingenuity about Neeraj Pandey and his film pedigree that makes me anticipate his next, ‘Aiyaary,’ starring Siddharth Malhotra, Manoj Bajpayee and Naseeruddin Shah so eagerly. Based on real-life story, Aiyaary meaning ‘the ultimate trickery’ is the tale of two strong-minded Intelligence officers, a mentor and a protégé, who come to odds with each other. As to what the trickery refers to is anybody’s guess. Aiyaary is currently being shot in phases, across locations in Kashmir, Delhi and London and is scheduled to release on 26th January 2018.

Official poster for Aiyaary

Neeraj Pandey isn’t the only example of talent trumping networking in the film industry.

Fellow directors, Dibakar Banerjee and Anurag Kashyap had similarly difficult paths to cross before they were recognized as one of the best working directors in Bollywood.

Even actors serve such examples, such as Shahrukh Khan and Pandey’s longtime collaborator, Akshay Kumar.

Of course, talent getting over networking is never a rule in any industry. In the film industry especially, it’s more of an exception rather than a normality.

However, the success of directors such as Neeraj Pandey establish how far one can go if you are blessed with filmmaking talent and are willing to work hard for it.

I’m sure the quality of his next, Aiyaary will only reiterate the fact and become a roaring success.

Image Sources: Google Images

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