Is Bollywood Nepotistic? Data Review

Is Bollywood Nepotistic? Data Review
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Sanjay Pandey and Subhash Chandra

An earlier piece by Mint argued strongly with evidence on how some Directors and production houses were more nepotistic than others. To quote them

The median share of insiders cast as male leads by the top production houses over the past five years is as high as 40%. For female leads, the median share is relatively lower at 27%.

In this exercise, we expand the analysis to 111 movies released in 2017 to explore this issue in greater detail. Here is what we found.

% Movies that had a Bollywood Insider in a Leading Role


More than 1 in 4 Bollywood Movies had an insider in a leading role. Movies with only male insiders made up nearly 1 in 5 Bollywood movies. Only 1 in 20 Bollywood movies had just a female Bollywood insider in a leading role. While this may suggest a more paternalistic industry, we also believe this is do with the shelf life of the male versus female stars. With shorter self and limited supply, the odds of a female insider being cast in a Bollywood movie is much lesser than a male star. Secondly, female protagonists are less likely to be linked to the success of the movie than male protagonists. Therefore it is likely that producers are more willing to take risks with female outsiders than male outsiders

The Data is clear, if you are an outsider and want to make it to Bollywood, better be a Female Star than a Male Star. But then your shelf life is limited.

Strangely, contrary to perception, only 6% of Bollywood movies had both a male and female insiders in leading roles.

Is the Nepotism Justified?

This is a politically incorrect question. But it is deliberately provocative. Using data available in public domain and expertise of our co-author Sanjay Pandey, we were able to look at the above data from a hit and miss perspective.

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Overall, only 17.1% of Bollywood movies can be classified as hit. However, amongst those with Bollywood insiders, more than 1 in 4 movies were a hit. Amongst the rest, just 1 in 7 were a hit. Now here is the most interesting chart

Ironically, Bollywood movies with both male and female protagonists who are insiders are likely to do much better than any other kind of movies. This is perhaps the most ironical finding in this analysis. But there is probably an explanation, some hypotheses

  • Known lead stars probably get more people to try the movie in the initial days of its release
  • Known lead stars are more likely to get better media coverage for the movie (due to connections, money or otherwise)
  • Known lead stars are more likely to get better response from distributors and exhibitors
  • Known lead stars are likely to get more positive reviews
  • Better directors and producers in India are more likely to rely on tried and tested than experiment with too many newcomers

With more people sampling a movie, a good movie that gets a better word of mouth is likely to sustain longer in the movie hall.

In Sum

Bollywood Insiders are probably a better bet for Bollywood producers than outsiders. This is probably due to name recognition and how the current ecosystem operates when a movie is released. That said, the large and varied number of movies made without Bollywood insiders gives outsiders an opportunity to make it big in Bollywood. Lastly, an ‘outsider’ actress is more likely to get an opportunity in Bollywood than an insider owing to lifespan and perceived criticality to the success of the movie.

While nepotism may give an edge to an insider gain entry and a decent first week, it can never enable a successful run at the box-office. Some of the big stars of today are not insiders, while several insiders who were able to get an entry have failed miserably at the box-office.

So, whether an insider or an outsider, performance at the box-office will continue to be the criteria for success in Bollywood.

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