Equal Work, Unequal Pay? The Bolly wood Way!
From Meena Kumari to Madhuri Dixit, Aishwarya Rai to Alia Bhatt, Marilyn Monroe to Meryl Streep, both Bollywood and Hollywood have idolized iconic actresses for aeons. They have proudly ladled out awards, but when it comes to their paychecks, they appear to love these women a little and in most cases, a lot less than their male counterparts. Indeed, in the world of starry showbiz not everything is sugar-coated with glitz ‘n’ glam. Read on as Khushboo Tiwari puts together bits and pieces about the disparities of paychecks in Bollywood as well as Hollywood.
Once Shah Rukh Khan reportedly made a poignant response when asked if he’d like Suhana to become an actor. He said, “She can be an actor if she has the passion and guts to work five times harder than me and get paid 10 times less than I do, if times don’t change for women actors.” Indeed, it is a proven fact that female actors are paid way lesser than the male heroes. For instance, superstars like Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Aamir Khan and Akshay Kumar charge anything between ` 45-60 crores per film. Female actors, on an average earn approximately only 13-15 per cent of what their male actors do. Even young actors like Sushant Singh Rajput, Ranveer Singh and Ranbir Kapoor are paid approximately ` 2035 crores for a movie. Female actors, on the other hand, are usually paid between ` 4-8 crores and in some cases ` 10-11 crores if it’s somebody like Deepika, Priyanka or Kangana. Making even actor and producer Anushka Sharma comment, “I don’t know why the pay gap exists, but I think it’s because it’s in our society. If there is an actor at the same stature as me, who would be able to bring in only that much money to a movie, he would still be paid more than me because he is a guy. Nobody even thinks about it. It is just ingrained.”
Here’s a fact. Ranbir Kapoor has assertively managed to woo the audience with his exceptionally great acting. However, his career graph deteriorated with his film choices. While Bombay Velvet struggled to recover even the movie budget of approximately ` 120 crore at the Box office. Jagga Jasoos had a loss of approximately ` 60 crores. On the other hand, Deepika Padukone’s Piku performed remarkably well, even entering the ` 100 crore club. Kangana Ranaut’s Tanu Weds Manu Returns too was a blockbuster with a ` 250 crore worldwide collection. So if everyone really believes that the ‘Box office is the king’, think again… right now the money is with the Deepikas and the Kanganas of the industry. However, in reality, it’s absolutely a different ball game. Actor Aditi Rao Hydari averred, “I don’t really understand why we are paid less than the male actors even when we put in equal effort and the recent past has also shown that female actors can deliver a hit film. We deserve better pay, equal to what male actors get.”
It’s unfair to ask for an equal pay when you are not getting an equal opening collection.” – Taapsee Pannu
Dismay or Divine?
It is a fact that top male actors in India earn at least five times more than any top female star. (And sometimes even 10 times more as pointed out by Taapsee Pannu) Despite such an appalling reality, movies like Finding Fanny, Highway, Mary Kom, Queen, Naam Shabana and MOM have proved that the audience don’t only come to watch the ‘heroes’. Actor turned director Pooja Bhatt strongly believes in equal pay. She said, “It’s an old mindset of a feudal system. There is a general perception that women don’t sell films, a fact that is gradually changing worldwide.” Having a similar belief, the National award winner Kangana reportedly opined, “We don’t get paid even one third of what the male actors get, just because we are women!” However, Taapsee Pannu firmly believes, “How many womencentric movies do you actually come across in a year? Probably one or two maximum, right? So it’s unfair to ask for an equal pay when you are not getting an equal opening collection.” She added, “The day when the audience walk into the theatres to see a female protagonist film, and gives us the same amount of bumper opening of say ` 10 -15 crores, that day I will say we need to be paid equally.” Arjun Rampal, however, opined, “It is a business. Today a superstar can demand a certain amount of money or take a share in the film as he has created a certain level of credibility that he can guarantee a certain amount of business. A female actor, if she can do the same, then she could be paid that. It really depends on consistency because if a superstar comes to me and says, ‘I charge ` 20 crores’ and the female actor says, ‘I want to take ` 20 crores too’ it won’t be fair if she can’t ensure the same level of return of investment. If she demands two crores but can she draw ` 100 crores, then it’s unfair for her.” He also added, “There are a lot of female actors who have been extremely good and solid, and they are paid a lot more than other male actors in the industry. But compared to the superstar actors, you’ve got to rethink if it really is income disparity or is it not?” However, Kalki retorted, “The difference in male and female actors’ paychecks is insane. You only get paid more than a man if you are Priyanka Chopra.” However, Priyanka herself claims that there’s a huge disparity between the pay packets of men and women not just in India, but globally. She allegedly said, “To be taken seriously as women, it’ll be a battle that lasts a long time. I initially didn’t understand the disparity between men and women so much. In my first few films, once I was told by my producer that girls are interchangeable. Hero nahi change kar sakte, but agar aap ki
dates match nahi kar rahi ya aap ek certain remuneration maang rahe ho, toh aap jao. Hum nayi
ladki launch kar denge.”
There are a lot of female actors who are paid a lot more than other male actors... But compared to the superstar actors, you’ve got to rethink if it really is income disparity or is it not?” – Arjun Rampal
Kareena Kapoor Khan was one of the few female actors who first spoke up on the disparity. She said, “There’s a difference of several zeroes in the paycheck I get vis-a-vis the Khans.” But the Neerja girl Sonam Kapoor is certainly not on the same page as the ones in the favour of income equality. She had reportedly said, “It’s mathematics really. There is something called a market price in our industry. It does not make economic sense for the producer to give me the same price as the lead actor of the same category. Say a Ranbir Kapoor film will open to ` 10 crore on a Friday, but my films will open significantly low. So it’s important for the producer to earn the money invested. It makes mathematical sense.” Agreeing to Sonam’s thought process, filmmaker Vipul Shah allegedly said, “A fee that any star commands is not decided by the producer, but by the star’s market value”. Katrina too reportedly added, “The remuneration for women hasn’t changed since I came here. There’s a huge disparity.” However, there are also a few who claim that things have definitely changed for the better. Producer Vashu Bhagnani however, begged to differ. He averred, “I know 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.”
The Hollywood Pay Plight
Just like Bollywood, Hollywood has been fighting its own battle in its own way. Hollywood’s gender pay gap has been a huge matter of discussion, with leading female actors opting for grand events and social media to voice their opinion. Patricia Arquette have been an inspiration to all the female actors when she chose the Oscars as a platform to echo her sentiments. She said, “To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America. “A pertinent point, more so when you sit to know, that even after bagging three Oscars, Meryl Streep gets paid less than her male co-stars. She allegedly said, “Men are ashamed that they’re getting that money. It used to be even earlier, everybody didn’t say anything about it, so it was kind of fine. Now they’re a little more nervous that somebody will find out what they make vis-a-vis their co-star. That’s the best vigilance: the vigilance of privilege.” Gwyneth Paltrow certainly didn’t feel really good with the wage gap between her and IronMan co-star Downey. She said, “Your salary is a way to quantify what you’re worth. If men are paid a lot more for doing the same thing, it feels sh***y. Nobody is worth the money that Robert Downey Jr. is worth. But if I told you the disparity, you would probably be surprised.” Renowned actor Siena Miller even turned down a role in a
If men are paid a lot more for doing the same thing, it feels sh***y.” – Gwyneth Paltrow
two-person Broadway show for which she was offered less than half of her male co-star’s salary. She allegedly said, “If it was two men, it wouldn’t probably happen. They wouldn’t pay me within a million miles of what the male actor was being paid. And women always have to do more publicity than the men. The only way is to make a stand. We are going to have to make sacrifices to make change. I want to turn up and feel dignified.” While female comedian Kathy Griffin has been quite candid on the issue, she allegedly said, “I can’t even remember a time when I wasn’t in a situation where my male counterparts didn’t make more money than I did. She added, “I take my f---ing awards and accomplishments, and I bring them to the table” — sometimes literally, bringing her Emmys to meetings. “I think it’s part of the male industrial complex to keep women quiet about what their salaries are. If the guys make more, I guarantee you they are told to shut up and not tell the girls.” she added. But there’s certainly a ray of hope. Emma Stone has openly professed during the promotions of Battle of the Sexes her male co-stars took a “pay cut” so that she could “parity with them.” She said, “That’s something they do for me because they feel it’s what’s right and fair.
Good Times Maybe?
But perhaps, there is a ray of light. Reported, our very own Mastaani Deepika Padukone was paid ` 11 crore, for Padmavati. The amount supposedly is more than Ranveer’s pay. Even previously, the megastar Amitabh Bachchan reportedly quipped, “I can tell you one thing. In Piku, Deepika Padukone was paid more than me.” Sridevi too was paid more than the male actor in the movie MOM. This might have finally spiced up the Cocktail of money matter in Bollywood. So is the glass ceiling breaking slowly yet surely?
Jim Sarbh commented, “I think the patriarchy in general is afraid of women having any kind of power. It might upset their hold on society and consequently, films aren’t even written for them.” Actor and director Shreyas Talpade also remarked, “We’ve seen that change usually doesn’t happen overnight. Income disparity has always been there and probably will remain to a certain extent even in the future.” “We have seen female actors like Deepika, Kangana and Alia who have the power to make that change, doing it in their own way. But there will be a change and this disparity that we are talking about probably will be either to an extremely lesser extent or it might even be reversed,” he added. Vidya Balan too allegedly said, “Remunerations have changed but if you compare it with what the men get, it is still very different. But I think we will get our due. We are slowly moving towards that.” Priyanka Chopra sums up “I really want there to be relevance to girls in the movie business. I am really happy to see all the actresses whether it’s Vidya, Deepika, Kangana, Anushka or myself, that we’re together to support this cause. I think if we stand by each other, change will definitely happen.”
The difference in male and female actors’ paychecks is insane. You only get paid more than a man if you are Priyanka Chopra.” – Kalki Koechlin