Being the grandson of Indian cinema pioneer Sashadar Mukherjee and the son of actor Deb Mukherjee was not like being a Kapoor, says director Ayan Mukerji who doesn't have any "glamorous" childhood memories and instead grew up "longing" to have access to the movers and shakers in the industry.
"I don't have glamorous memories of being a film industry child. While I come from a family deeply rooted in the film industry and my grandfather was a very big figure, in my father's generation, with the exception of my uncle Joy Mukherjee (of Shagird fame), they were not that successful. It wasn't like being Rishi Kapoor's son," Ayan said in an interview.
His grandfather Sashadhar Mukherjee was the owner of Filmalaya studios, his uncle Shomu Mukherjee, father of Kajol and Tanisha, made films like Sangdil Sanam and Pathar Ke Insan but they were not so successful. His other uncle was Rono Mukherjee.
Recounting his struggles, Ayan, 29, said he didn't have any access to key people in the industry.
"I didn't get exposure to the best film sets or access to key people. My memories of being a film industry child was a longing to actually be a part of the industry. To have access to the people who were making and shaking things," said the director, who hit bull's eye with his debut film Wake up Sid, produced by Karan Johar's Dharma Productions.
There was never a time when the "Mukherjee" surname helped him, he says candidly.
"While growing up, there was no Mukherjee surname. The way our industry works, they don't bank on success which was 20-30 years back. It is a very brutal space. While growing up, this was my complex," he said.
Did the tag of being successful actresses Kajol's and Rani Mukerji's cousin help him?
"Their being a part of films didn't help me at all. When I wanted to work with Karan (Johar) as an assistant, neither of them called him for me. I got my job like anyone else... I am sure when he heard that I am related to them, he must have had a good feeling about it. But, honestly, there was no extra leg up I got from them," he said.
Talking about his childhood days, he said he was almost embarrassed about his family being part of the film industry when he was young.
"I used to be embarrassed to say that my family was involved with films. Good families looked down upon Hindi films. But when I joined the industry, I found people over here to be so much more modern, friendly, appreciative of good work and willing to give people a leg up," he said.
The director is all set to release his next film Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani that brings together ex-lovers Deepika Padukone and Ranbir Kapoor.
Like "Wake up Sid", "Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani" has a strong father-son track. This is so because the young director shared a unique bond with his father, who was seen in films like "Abhinetri", "Adhikar" and "Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki".
"My relationship with my father has been a very instrumental relationship in the person who I became. There was a strong supporting track of father and son in my first film, 'Wake up Sid' and it is here too. My father was a very big influence in my life," he said.
"I was the centre of his universe. Making me excel was his priority over anything. It was very central in the confidence that I have today."
(Anjuri Nayar can be contacted at email@example.com)