Children of celebrities often have it easier than most other kids: access to red carpet events, queues that disappear or don’t exist, and barely any financial constraints. But just as there’s a dark side to celebrity, so are there negative effects of being a celebrity child: unrealistic expectations from strangers, comparisons with parents, a public existence that can resemble living in a goldfish bowl, and peers who resent them for being ‘privileged’.
Anmol Malik, daughter of music director Anu Malik, says that her parents managed to steer her out of the limelight for the most part. But when she started singing at school, she faced a lot of pressure to live up to her father’s reputation. “There was the perception that ‘she’s from Anu Malik’s house’, and I didn’t want to let my father down,” says the teenager.
Parents’ fame can have a damaging effect on children, says businesswoman Gayatri Ruia. “It’s difficult for children to grow up and realise that they’re living off ‘reflected glory’. Very often, as in the West, it is almost next to impossible for the children to live a ‘normal’ life. An example would be Tom Cruise’s daughter Suri who has the paparazzi hounding her even before she turned 10.”
Society hostess Chhaya Momaya adds that one of the biggest downsides to having celebrity parents is the derogatory stories in the media. “Very often, the child becomes the target of malicious gossip too. This is something no parent wishes for their child,” she says.
Actress Pooja Bedi, who grew up with celebrity parents Kabir and Protima Bedi, says she never got special treatment because of her parents. “I went to boarding school and then was packed off to America before I came back to Mumbai to join films,” she says.
Bedi admits that her own kids are treated like celebrity. “They get red-carpet receptions, people receive them at the airport, and tickets get ‘arranged’ for them,” she says. But there is a downside to this lifestyle, she says. “For instance, recently at a mall in Dubai, I got mobbed. As a result, my kids couldn’t shop and were most upset.”
Serena, Mahesh and Haseena Jethmalani’s teenage daughter says that there’s never been any distinct advantage to having celebrity parents, except when she gets to accompany her lawyer father to court. “The only direct ‘benefit’ I’ve ever had was when my football coach needed dad’s help. After that, I was included in the team.”
The perks of being a celeb kid far outweigh the disadvantages. According to Tiara Dhody, the 17-year-old daughter of Queenie Singh and Raja Dhody: “When I call for reservations at restaurants and mention that I am my mother’s daughter, I always manage to get a table, even when they are fully booked.”
Regardless of celebrity, it’s really up to the parents to instil values in their children, says socialite Devieka Bhojwani. “Take Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan for example: Despite their success, Abhishek comes across as well-mannered and grounded. In the age of pressures and deadlines, some parents find it difficult to make time for their children, while others go out of their way to spend time with their kids. You don’t really need to be a celebrity to neglect your child.”
When Anu Malik noticed his daughter looked worried, he sat her down and asked what was bothering her, says Anmol. “He said ‘You have to follow your own path. No two journeys can be the same’. That has now become my life’s motto. Do you really expect me to compare myself to my dad with his 35 years of experience? I know I have a long way to go before I forge my own identity.”
A life in the limelight may be a given for celeb kids. Pooja Bedi says she’s never really known anything else. “My parents lived their lives like an open book and were ruthlessly honest about the choices they made. I too have lived life on my own terms.”
But in the age of Facebook, where what others think matters, kids today are too down-to-earth to get taken in by celebrity behaviour. Says Momaya: “My son, for instance, mocks me whenever someone asks for my autograph. And he refuses to get featured in a picture with me where he doesn’t know the other person.”