Karan Johar launches Shanaya Kapoor in Bollywood debut, sparking nepotism debate again

The star kid, 21, from Bollywood royalty is all set to make her debut soon with Johar's Dharma Productions

Shanaya Kapoor, the daughter of actor Sanjay Kapoor and Maheep Kapoor, is all set to make her Bollywood debut. Courtesy Instagram @karanjohar
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He's at it again. Bollywood producer and director Karan Johar has introduced another star's daughter into the industry. Johar, who was once called "the flag-bearer of nepotism in Bollywood" by actress Kangana Ranaut, has confirmed Shanaya Kapoor will join his talent management outfit Dharma Cornerstone Agency, and star in a film from his production company Dharma Productions.

"Welcome to the #DCASquad, @shanayakapoor02! It's going to be an unforgettable and exciting journey that begins with your first film with @DharmaMovies, this July," Johar posted on Instagram, along with portraits of the soon-to-be actress, 21, and a glamorous video.

"Her enthusiasm, perseverance and diligence is so amazing to see. Join us in showering your love & blessings as she begins her first film," the producer said.

Who is Shanaya Kapoor?

When it comes to film pedigree, Shanaya is as Bollywood as it gets. Her father is Sanjay Kapoor, who starred in a number of films in the 1990s. Her uncle is Anil Kapoor, who acted in Slumdog Millionaire and is one of the most well-known faces in Indian cinema.

Many of her cousins are already established actors, including Janhvi Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor and Arjun Kapoor. Boney Kapoor, another uncle, is a hotshot producer and the husband of the late actress Sridevi, the mother of Janhvi.

Are you keeping up?

Shanaya's mother Maheep recently made her TV debut with the hit Netflix reality show The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives – produced by Johar – which is already prepped for a second season.

She has a younger brother, Jahaan, who is also being groomed for Bollywood.

She is friends with all the children of the rich and famous

Shanaya is a paparazzi favourite, especially when she’s hanging with her friends, many of whom are famous names.

Her squad includes Suhana Khan, the daughter of superstar Shah Rukh Khan and Gauri Khan, and Ananya Panday, who was launched by Johar in 2019.

Panday is the daughter of actor Chunky Pandey and Bhavana Pandey, who is also in The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives.

Navya Naveli Nanda, the daughter of author Shweta Bachchan Nanda (who herself is the daughter of Indian acting legend Amitabh Bachchan), is also one of her best friends.

“My babygirl. Kill it Shanicakes!” posted Ananya Panday following the announcement.

“Oh my god, love you so much,” said Suhana Khan.

The nepotism debate

Bollywood has recently been rocked by accusations of nepotism, with some alleging that it was one of the reasons behind actor Sushant Singh Rajput's death by suicide in 2020.

For many years, the industry has been locked in an "insider" versus "outsider" debate, with the latter claiming Bollywood is run by a group of film dynasties whose sole interest is promoting their own.

On social media, some of the comments about Shanaya Kapoor’s arrival echoed those sentiments.

“Bollywood be so unexpected,” comedian Abijit Ganguly tweeted.

“Shanaya Kapoor, daughter of Sanjay Kapoor, who came from Bollywood family but still was a struggler, gets a go directly with Karan Johar movie. Peak Nepotism,” another user posted.

“Hollywood has Justice League, Avengers League, Bollywood has Nepotism League,” said another.

Shanaya has been preparing for her big day

While it's still unclear which film Johar will launch Shanaya with, we know she's been preparing for her big day behind the scenes.

She was credited as assistant director in the film Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl, starring her cousin Janhvi Kapoor, which is now streaming on Netflix.

In 2019, she attended Le Bal in Paris, a high-society event held annually where young women from reputed families around the world make their social debuts in couture ensembles. Her preparation for the event is extensively documented in The Fabulous Wives of Bollywood Lives.