With the success of women-centric Bollywood Films, the top actresses feel they should be paid more. Some of the biggest hits in Bollywood in recent times had female-oriented story lines. Examples being ‘Mary Kom’, ‘Queen’, ‘Piku’, ‘Tannu Weds Mannu’, etc., many of which crossed the Rs.100 crore mark (1 bn rupee gross earnings) that is generally considered a big hit in Bollywood.
Given the success of this emerging genre (where women feature prominently), film studios appear to be more confident about producing female-oriented movies where the main character is played by a woman, and not a man. Part of the change reflects the greater spending power of Indian women, who want to see movies starring women in stories they can relate to – not typical action or fantasy fare, where women are merely eye candy for male movie-goers.
Women, no doubt, are elated that they’re getting bigger and better roles and are not relegated to playing the male lead’s girlfriend, sister or mother. However, with the commercial success of these movies, Bollywood actresses are finally asking: where is the moolah?
- The difference in male and female actors’ pay cheques is insane – Priyanka Chopra
- Women need to get paid better in the so-called typically commercial films -Vidya Balan
- We don’t get paid even one-third of what male actors get, just because we are women!- Kangana Ranaut
- There’s a difference of several zeroes in the pay cheque I get vis-a-vis the Khans- Kareena Kapoor
- The remuneration for women hasn’t changed since I came here. There’s a huge disparity- Katrina Kaif
How Much is the Disparity
In general, the top actresses, such as Deepika Padukone, get paid around tenth of what the top male actors (SRK, Salman, Aamir, Hrithik Roshan and Akshay Kumar) make per film.
Priyanka Chopra calls the difference in remuneration “insane”, Katrina feels the gap is “huge”. Kangana feels actresses “don’t get paid even one-third of what actors get”.
Kareena Kapoor Khan was the only top heroine who, despite being aware of the disparity, had no complaints about the remuneration structure in the film industry. She said she gets “paid really well” for her films and she’s happy with that.
Sonam Kapoor also has a different take on this and felt that all the actors get paid according to their star status. She says production houses always estimate the returns that an actor or an actress would bring and then decide upon the investment that is to be made on them.
Top Actresses Are Vocal About the Issue
Actresses like Priyanka Chopra, Vidya Balan, Kangana Ranaut, Katrina have been vocal about the issue.
Says Aditi Rao Hydari, “Hats off to these ladies for speaking about it because I think we need to address this. I remember in a film of mine, though both my co-star and I were newcomers, he got far better paid than me. I was shocked and appalled. I actually asked him what different are you doing that you are getting better paid!”
However, the top actresses are also practical about the issue, and willing to be patient.
Deepika says, “If you compare our pay scale with the men, then yes it is very less. If you compare what women used to get before and what they’re getting now then I would say that there has been a major shift, and we are hoping and trying to get better pay for women. But this is not a war.” The actress feels when people give more stress on monetary gain, it compromises the beauty of filmmaking.
“It’s only going to get better from here as audiences are changing. We are moving toward a society where we have more educated and working class women. They’d like to see stronger women on screen,” said Kangana Ranaut.
“When more and more women-centred films become hits, the pay disparity in India will end,” said Priyanka Chopra, a leading Indian actress.
What Do Producers Have to Say?
Producers aren’t denying the truth on the pay disparity, and say that a fee that any star commands is not decided by the producer, but by the star’s market value. However they feel that this could change if more women-oriented films are made and appreciated by the audiences.
Says Pooja Bhatt, “It’s an old mindset, a feudal system. There is a general perception that women don’t sell films — a fact that is gradually changing world over. I, for one, ensure both my male and female actors get equal pay.”
Says producer Vashu Bhagnani, “I paid Kareena in lakhs earlier, now I pay her in crores. If more women-oriented films are made and appreciated by the audiences, then even the producers will happily pay more to female actors.”
Filmmaker Vipul Shah suggests that the solution could be to go the Hollywood way, where stars get part of the film’s revenue depending on its fate.
Is Pay Disparity Confined Only to India
Not really! It exists in Hollywood as well, and for a long time this issue has been raised by women tennis players as well.
In Hollywood, age is also a significant factor. Actresses in their twenties generally earn more than their same-age male counterparts, but overall, the highest-paid male actors in American movies earn more than twice as much as females.
While female-oriented movies have been doing extremely well at the box office, conventional films with top male stars in the lead are still the biggest earners in India.
Percentage wise, the number of women-centric films that get produced in Bollywood is still on the lower side. Till then, the disparity in remuneration of actors and actresses will remain a reality in the Indian film industry. However, like the leading actresses, even we’re hopeful that this scenario will change soon in the future.