Why Bollywood’s nepo babies like Aryan Khan go to uni

aryan khan, shah rukh khan
Aryan Khan is the son of Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan and film producer Gauri Khan. Source: Punit Paranjpe/AFP

At the University of Southern California (USC), Aryan Khan was a nobody in a sea of nearly 50,000 students.

He walked among talented future world-changers, the kind who help unhoused people improve their health, give free after-school tuition to elementary school kids, and help communities recover from hurricanes, among others.

There’s nothing wrong with being regular. Except for one thing: Khan is India’s biggest nepotism baby.

His parents, Shah Rukh Khan and Gauri Khan, are Bollywood’s richest, most famous and most powerful couple.

Shah Rukh’s estimated net worth is over US$725 million dollars; Gauri’s clout is greater still.

Since birth, Aryan’s family name is guaranteed to take him far in an industry of US$3.7 billion in box office revenue alone and where the biggest stars get paid up to US$12 million per film.

It’s a massive leg up in life — with plenty to inherit, from Gauri’s high-end Ambani-clientele interior design company to the US$25 million family home Mannat and a villa in Dubai.

Free to do anything he want, or nothing at all, why would Aryan Khan or other Bollywood nepo babies, spend four years at university?

aryan khan, shah rukh khan

Shah Rukh Khan hoped his son Aryan Khan would become an actor as well. Source: Sujit Jaiswal/AFP

Aryan Khan: Not too rich and powerful for university

Nepotism runs deep in Bollywood. “Founding families” like the Kapoors have close to a century in the Hindi film industry, with four generations benefiting from it.

“The Kapoor family is one of the biggest families in Bollywood to this day where you could probably name as many as 10 to 12 people somehow related to, or married into this family that’s still working in Bollywood as actors, producers, writers, filmmakers,” says Snigdha Sur, founder of South-Asian publication The Juggernaut and self-proclaimed Bollywood encyclopaedia, to Thred Media.

While Shah Rukh is self-made, most of his peers aren’t.

Outsiders like Deepika Padukone and her husband Ranvir Singh have spoken about feeling excluded and having to work harder to win roles from them.

While the Ananya Pandays, Alia Bhatts and Ranbir Kapoors are connected to all the right casting directors and network for sponsorships, non-nepo babies have no one giving them lucky breaks.

Self-made Bollywood actors Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone. Source: Sujit Jaiswal/AFP

Aryan Khan, however, had Shah Rukh spoiling him from birth.

“He is going to be completely a spoiled brat. I’ve told all my heroines that if you have daughters, my son will be running after them, and every day I want complaints from all of them saying, ‘Please keep your son out of our houses.’ I want him to have a Harley Davidson jacket, and I want him to wear studs and everything. He should be really cool, have long hair, and he should be a playboy and really spoiled,” Shah Rukh said in an interview in 1997.

That includes getting many roles from as young as four years old when he portrayed the role of his father’s childhood character, Rahul Raichand, in the hit film “Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Gham.”

He made his next appearance in 2014 when he lent his voice to the Indian release of the movie “The Incredibles”, which is dubbed in Hindi. The movie was renamed “Hum Hain Lajawaab.”

In this version, Mr Incredible is known as Mr Lajawaab and was voiced by none other than his father, while Aryan voiced the character of Dash, who is known as Tez in this version.

This movie even bagged him the award for “Best Dubbing Child Voice Artist.”

In 2019, he lent his voice again in the Bollywood version of “The Lion King.” Here, he worked alongside his father once again. Shah Rukh voiced the iconic character Mufasa while Aryan voiced the character of “Simba.”

Despite having glitzy futures mapped out for them, the following children of top Bollywood stars still spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for a degree abroad:

  • Ranbir Kapoor, son of actors Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh, studied filmmaking at the School of Visual Arts and the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York City
  • Abhishek Bachchan, son of actors Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bachchan, studied business management at Boston University
  • Soha Ali Khan, daughter of actors Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi and Sharmila Tagore, studied history at the London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Imran Khan, nephew of actor Aamir Khan, studied filmmaking at the Los Angeles branch of the New York Film Academy
  • Sonam Kapoor Ahuja, daughter of actor Anil Kapoor and Sunita Kapoor, studied Economics and Political Science at the University of East London
  • Varun Dhawan, son of filmmaker David Dhawan, studied  Business Management at the Nottingham Trent University
  • Shraddha Kapoor, daughter of actor Shakti Kapoor and Shivangi Kolhapure, studied theatre at  Boston University (but dropped out)

And university isn’t the only big investment they make in their children. Aryan Khan, for example, attended the most prestigious primary and secondary schools in India and the UK.

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Indian Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan (R), pictured with his family (L-2nd R); son Aryan Khan, wife Gauri Khan, sister Shehnaz, and daughter Suhana, pose during an event at his residence during the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr in Mumbai. Source: STRDEL/AFP

The early education of Aryan Khan

He began his education at Dhirubhai Ambani International School in Mumbai, which was started by Nita Ambani, wife of Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani.

Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries built the school. The school was established in 2003 and has been an IB World School since January 2003.

Nita is the chairperson of the school, while their daughter Isha is the vice-chairperson.

Aryan is not the only Bollywood star child that attended this prestigious private school.

His sister Suhana Khan is also an alumnus along with other star children:

  • filmmaker Boney Kapoor and late Sridevi’s daughters Janhvi and Khushi Kapoor
  • Saif Ali Khan and Amrita Singh’s children Sara and Ibrahim
  • Aamir Khan and Reena Dutta’s daughter, Ira Khan
  • Kajol and Ajay Devgan’s daughter, Nysa

While Shah Rukh first intended for his son to be an actor just like him, that view later changed when he decided to send Aryan to boarding school in the UK.

Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan (top) greets fans during his birthday celebrations at his Mannat residence in Mumbai on November 2, 2022. Source: Sujit Jasiwal/AFP

“I feel they should become whatever they want to. I don’t know what they will be, but I want them to be educated beyond films. I feel they should see the world, form their own opinions without being shadowed by the opinions of my work and my space,” he said in an interview.

Aryan then continued his high school education at Sevenoaks School in the UK. Leaving his family and home in Mumbai to attend boarding school in the UK was not easy – especially for his father.

“It’s a little sad for me, but it’s better for them. It’s one of the prices you pay for being famous,” said Shah Rukh.

But of course, being a Bollywood star has its perks, “I’m very clearly decided that if I feel like seeing him, I will fly down. I’m star enough to cancel some work and pay a visit to my son,” Shah Rukh said.

Situated in Kent, Sevenoaks is one of the oldest and top boarding schools in the country, consistently producing students with some of the highest A Levels scores.

Actor Daniel Day-Lewis, director Adam Curtis and Amitabh Bachchan’s granddaughter Navya Naveli Nanda are some of the famous alumni that also attended the same school.

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Aryan Khan with his sister Suhana Khan and mother Gauri Khan pictured at the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre (NMACC). Source: Sujit Jaiswal/AFP

Aryan Khan at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts

Aryan Khan graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Cinematic Arts, Film and Television Production) from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts.

“My son doesn’t want to act and I don’t think he can,” said Shah Rukh in an interview with David Letterman.

“He looks nice, he’s tall and…okay. But I don’t think he has what it takes perhaps and he realises that himself. But he is a good writer.

The USC degree, spanning four years, offers “an intensive production experience” paired with electives like Critical Studies, Writing, Animation and Interactive Media.

Students must take CTPR 285 Lateral Thinking for Filmmaking PracticeCTPR 290 Cinematic CommunicationCTPR 294 Directing in Documentary, Fiction and New Media and CTPR 295L Cinematic Arts Laboratory.

They must create mini-projects using laptops, phones and networks, as well as produce, shoot, edit and deliver a fictional narrative, documentary or experimental project in one semester, among others.

Look closer into USC, however, and it may make sense why Aryan Khan chose to go here.

USC students reportedly live in “resort-style apartment buildings” equipped with “rooftop pools and tanning beds.” Dinners at Nobu are often, as are spring breaks in Bali.

A New York Times article described USC as “a playground for the spoiled elite,” with “decades of attracting some of Los Angeles’s wealthiest families.”

It is “a place of pervasive wealth, where celebrity, money and status are still a part of daily life.”

And that scroll on graduation day? Like everything else, it’s likely just another status symbol to add to the SRK empire.

What’s next for Aryan Khan?

Since graduating, Aryan has been gearing up for his directorial debut with a Netflix series.

The series is set against the backdrop of the film industry, which he wrote himself wrote. The series, reportedly called “Stardom,” is currently in the pre-production stage and is expected to air later this year.

Aryan will be working with Red Chillies Entertainment, the production company founded by his father. It will finance the six-episode series.

The company has produced a number of films, including the recent Netflix original film “Darlings”  starring Alia Bhatt and Shefali Shah, and “Love Hostel” starring Bobby Deol and Vikrant Massey.

In the pipeline are two films, “Jawan” and “Dunki,” both of which will be starring Shah Rukh.