Bol­ly­wood hunks among world’s top paid ac­tors

The China Post - - ARTS - BY RISHABH R. JAIN

Bol­ly­wood films, with their col­or­ful sets and hy­per-co­or­di­nated songand-dance num­bers, have cat­a­pulted five In­di­ans into the ranks of the world’s high­est paid male ac­tors.

Three of those ac­tors— Sal­man Khan, Amitabh Bachchan and Ak­shay Ku­mar — were in the top 10, out­rank­ing Hol­ly­wood A-lis­ters such as Dwayne “The Rock” John­son and Leonardo DiCaprio.

The rank­ings, com­piled by Forbes, were re­leased last week and in­cluded ac­tors work­ing out­side Hol­ly­wood, al­low­ing an in­ter­na­tional com­par­i­son of star earn­ings for the first time.

That change also meant Hong Kong mar­tial arts dar­ling Jackie Chan was sec­ond placed, with most of his US$50 mil­lion in earn­ings last year made from films pro­duced in China. Amer­i­can ac­tor Robert Downey Jr. topped the list for the third year in a row, earn­ing US$80 mil­lion in 2014. The two high­est­paid In­dian ac­tors, Khan and Bachchan, tied for 7th, each earn­ing US$33.5 mil­lion last year.

“I am sur­prised it has taken so long” to get global rank­ings, said Bol­ly­wood pub­li­cist Raju Kariya, who has worked in the in­dus­try for more than 30 years. In­dia’s male ac­tors, easily rec­og­niz­able by their avi­a­tor sun­glasses and tight de­signer clothes, are so pop­u­lar that “ev­ery­one from 5-year-olds to el­derly aun­ties are com­pletely gaga over them.”

Khan’s place also demon­strated that Bol­ly­wood stars can get through scan­dal rel­a­tively un­scathed. The ac­tion hero is the sub­ject of non­stop media at­ten­tion amid an on­go­ing court case for a 2002 hit-and-run that killed a home­less man and in­jured four oth­ers. His pop­u­lar­ity also hasn’t suf­fered from his 2006 con­vic­tion for poach­ing an en­dan­gered black­buck deer, which he has ap­pealed.

Even though the top Bol­ly­wood hunks are rak­ing in cash, the earn­ings of Hindi-lan­guage films are lan­guish­ing. Bol­ly­wood is the world’s most pro­lific pro­ducer of films, churn­ing out some 1,000 year, dou­ble that of Hol­ly­wood. Yet so far this year, only half a dozen or so Bol­ly­wood films have turned a profit, while most of the hun­dreds that come out of Mum­bai’s film in­dus­try are money losers.

Im­ported Films Add Pres­sure

As In­dia’s econ­omy grows and the mid­dle class ex­pands, more peo­ple are buy­ing theater tick­ets and the num­ber of movie the­aters has in­creased. But Bol­ly­wood is fac­ing in­creased pres­sure from im­ported films.

The com­pe­ti­tion, par­tic­u­larly from Hol­ly­wood, is mak­ing In­dia movie­go­ers more de­mand­ing and dis­cern­ing, said film trade an­a­lyst Vinod Mi­rani. “Movies are ac­tu­ally get­ting worse” as money-mak­ing ve­hi­cles in In­dia, he said.

Bol­ly­wood rev­enues have been grow­ing by about 10 per­cent a year and will reach US$4.5 bil­lion in 2016, ac­cord­ing to a study by the Con­fed­er­a­tion of Dan­ish In­dus­tries in In­dia.

Up un­til the 1990s, film in In­dia was usu­ally fi­nanced by politi­cians and crim­i­nals. The in­dus­try has since mod­ern­ized with fi­nanc­ing com­ing from ma­jor com­pa­nies. For­eign pro­duc­tion houses Sony Pic­tures, The Walt Dis­ney Co. and Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios have also opened of­fice in In­dia. Re­liance Me­di­a­Works Ltd., owned by one of In­dia’s rich­est ty­coons, Anil Am­bani, sold off its en­tire mul­ti­plex busi­ness, Big Cine­mas, to UK’s Car­ni­val Films Pvt. Ltd. last year for more than US$100 mil­lion.

Al­to­gether, the five Bol­ly­wood stars made In­di­ans the sec­ond-high­est paid as a group, with com­bined earn­ings of US$140.5 mil­lion.

Film in­dus­try an­a­lysts said they were un­sur­prised that In­dian ac­tors rank among the world’s high­est paid. While their films may not be big money earn­ers, they have global recog­ni­tion thanks to a large In­dian di­as­pora liv­ing from Aus­tralia to Canada and the United States.

In­dian ac­tors also of­ten ne­go­ti­ate a cut of a movie’s to­tal rev­enues, guar­an­tee­ing them­selves ex­tra in­come even when films flop, whereas their Western coun­ter­parts usu­ally only se­cure a share of prof­its.

The growth of In­ter­net and so­cial media in In­dia has also fu­eled the fame of Bol­ly­wood ac­tors. And they are ubiq­ui­tous on TV, ap­pear­ing in ad­ver­tise­ments for ev­ery­thing from air con­di­tion­ers and lux­ury cars to per­fume and un­der­pants.

Sal­man Khan, for ex­am­ple, grossed more than US$20 mil­lion just from his `Be­ing Hu­man’ cloth­ing line last year, while Bachchan en­dorses more than a dozen prod­ucts rang­ing from soft drinks to house­hold paint.

Bachchan, 72, who is so pop­u­lar there is even a tem­ple ded­i­cated to him in the eastern city of Kolkata, was the old­est ac­tor on the list, beat­ing out his 63-year-old Ir­ish col­league Liam Nee­son, who made US$19.5 mil­lion last year to land in 22nd place on the list.

The third-high­est ranked Bol­ly­wood ac­tor was another ac­tion hero, Ku­mar, with earn­ings of US$32.5 mil­lion last year putting him in the ninth spot.

Lower on the list of 34 ac­tors was Shah Rukh Khan, in 18th place, and Ran­bir Kapoor, at No. 30.

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