In an open letter to the DNA newspaper on Friday, Saif Ali Khan had shared his views on whether the children of celebrities have an unfair advantage in the Hindi film industry. Khan devoted some of his argument to genetics. He wrote, “Because people are interested in what their children will be like and whether they will have the genes of their parents, in terms of their talent”. If you need another example, then take race horses. We take a derby winner, mate him with the right mate and see if we can create another grand national winner. So, in that sense, this is the relationship between genetics and star kids.”

Kangana Ranaut, whose remarks on nepotism on Karan Johar’s television show Koffee With Karan kicked off the debate in the first place, has responded to Khan with her own open letter, this time in the Mid-Day tabloid.

Stating that “This is just a healthy exchange of ideas, and not a clash between individuals,” the actor went on to say: “Nepotism is a practice where people tend to act upon temperamental human emotions, rather than intellectual tendencies…Nepotism, on many levels, fails the test of objectivity and rationale.”

Ranaut also addressed Khan’s assertions on the role played by genetics and the racehorse comparison.

“I have spent a significant part of my life studying genetics. But, I fail to understand how you can compare genetically hybrid racehorses to artistes! Are you implying that artistic skills, hard-work, experience, concentration spans, enthusiasm, eagerness, discipline and love, can be inherited through family genes? If your point was true, I would be a farmer back home. I wonder which gene from my gene-pool gave me the keenness to observe my environment, and the dedication to interpret and pursue my interests.”

— Mid-Day.

Ranaut took on Khan’s reference to eugenics (“A science that deals with the improvement (as by control of human mating) of hereditary qualities of a race or breed,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary).

“You also spoke of eugenics – which means controlled breeding of the human race. So far, I believe that the human race hasn’t found the DNA that can pass on greatness and excellence. If it had, we would’ve loved to repeat the greatness of Einstein, Da Vinci, Shakespeare, Vivekananda, Stephen Hawking, Terence Tao, Daniel Day-Lewis, or Gerhard Richter.”

— Mid-Day.

Ranaut described nepotism as a “weakness of the human nature” that needs to be fought with “will-power and strength”. She added, “In fact, the subtext of all my talk on this subject has been to encourage outsiders to take the path less travelled.”

“So, should we make peace with nepotism? The ones who think it works for them can make peace with it. In my opinion, that is an extremely pessimistic attitude for a Third World country, where many people don’t have access to food, shelter, clothing, and education. The world is not an ideal place, and it might never be. That is why we have the industry of arts. In a way, we are the flag-bearers of hope.” 

— Mid-Day.