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Bollywood’s Pay Gap: Why Kangana Ranaut’s Rs. 11 Crore Salary Is No Big Deal

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By Amrita Roy

Yes, gender inequality exists everywhere. In almost all professions, women get paid less than men. The ratio stands at about 75 cents for a dollar. And women face an additional glass ceiling when it comes to rising up the hierarchy to positions of strategy, control and power in organizations, while men are promoted using a glass escalator.

bollywood actors collage
Recently, Kangana Ranaut made news for being the highest paid female actor in Bollywood with a paycheck of Rs. 11 crores. Reading that news, most of us probably felt quite elated. Finally women in Bollywood are getting their due not only in terms of good roles, but also in terms of salaries. Good on Bollywood and the production houses for beginning to realize that female actors also deserve to be treated with basic decency. But those Rs 11 crores put her at only 18% of the pay of the highest paid male actor, Salman Khan, who takes home a big fat paycheck of a whopping Rs. 60 crores per film.

Jennifer Lawrence, the highest paid female actor in Hollywood earned USD 52 million in 2012, while her highest paid male counterpart, Robert Downey Jr. earned USD 80 million. While this isn’t the ideal situation either, and is still lower than the 0.75:1 ratio, at 65% of the pay of the highest male actor, Lawrence is still faring far better than Ranaut. Now many people will be quick to point out that Salman Khan’s movies make a lot more money than Kangana Ranaut’s do, so it only makes sense that producers pay him more. True, ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ has earned about Rs. 320 crores so far, while ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’  earned Rs. 151 crores in its theatrical run. So, Ranaut’s film made 47.2% of the money Khan’s film made. And she still earns only 18% of what Salman Khan earns. (And since she just hiked her fees, so she earned lesser than Rs. 11 crores for ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’).

If you take in the budgets of the two films, the difference is even more glaring. ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns‘ was made on a budget of Rs. 30 crores, putting the net profit of the film at Rs. 121 crores. ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan‘ boasts of a budget of Rs 90 crores, putting net profit at Rs 230 crores. So Ranaut’s film made 52.6% of the net profit of Khan’s film. Going by the profit logic that is so widely quoted as being the reason for the pay gap, Ranaut should be paid Rs 32 crores per film. But instead, she is still going to be paid just 18% of Salman Khan’s salary. It’s not even a pay gap; it’s a pay chasm.

Let’s continue with Salman Khan as an example for a little longer. Many of us may not remember the 1991 movie, ‘Love’, by its name. But any music aficionado will immediately recognize the song “Saathiya, Tune Kya Kiya” sung by S.P. Balasubrahmanyam and Chitra Singh. Salman Khan and Revathi formed the lead romantic pair in the film. In the last couple of years, Revathi has played Alia Bhatt’s mother in ‘2 States’ and Kalki Koechlin’s mother in ‘Margarita With A Straw’. Salman Khan is still busy playing the omnipotent world-saving charismatic childless bachelor whose exact age is unbeknownst but can be assumed to be somewhere in the late twenties or early thirties. Both actors are aged 49 as of September 2015.

And these, pay and age, are just two of the many symptoms of the underlying issues that Bollywood and the rest of the media have with accepting women as equals. The two male superstars of Bollywood – Shahrukh Khan and Salman Khan are known to report late on film sets. Karan Johar even cheekily admitted that there’s a general understanding on a film set that SRK would be “punctually late by two hours“. This is taken on a positive note as the perks of being a superstar. It’s never reported by leading media outlets. And then we have Katrina Kaif on all clickbait headlines making news for stalling the shoot of a reality TV show for 5 – 10 minutes when she was asked to speak in Hindi. She stopped the shoot to be briefed on what she had to say. Reporting this as news implicitly plays to the stereotype that ‘female actors throw starry tantrums.’

Now, I don’t know how many people reading this article have learnt a foreign language but I happen to have taken French in school for seven years. And still, when I talk to some of my friends who are native French speakers, I take longer than 5 minutes to process what they said and to formulate my answer in correct grammatical French. The fact that she asked for the same amount of time before conversing in a language foreign to her on national TV, knowing that every single viewer is gleefully waiting to judge her on her linguistic capabilities, is not only highly professional but also extremely brave.

The two male actors don’t exactly have much reason to be late on sets every time. I am sure they have enough resources to ensure punctuality. But no one ever seems to have any problem with their tardiness.

I guess, it is easier to change the working pattern of a hundred strong crew than to tell a male actor to report sharp on time.

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  1. The Game

    The reason why actresses get paid less is because they lack talent, which is why they all die to work with some recognised male actor to make a name for themselves. Salman Khan alone launched Somy Ali, Katrina Kaif, Sonakshi Sinha, Aishwarya Rai, Sneha Ullal, Zarine Khan, etc. Rani Mukherjee got a dream start after being launched with Aamir Khan. Anushka Sharma and Deepika Padukone became successful after working with Shahrukh Khan. And of course, actresses reveal their bodies for stardom, since they are talentless.

    1. Icono

      The fact that actresses need a Salman or Amir to be launched is nothing but a reassuring confirmation of the inequality and biases the industry characterizes. Second, I don’t know what qualitative or quantitative scale you have used to arrive at the conclusion that female actors lack talent but if the result says Salman is a better actor than Kangana, you might want to check it again for validity. And Dear, who are we kidding I have seen Amir and Salman go shirtless far more than all the skin showing actresses do combined.

    2. Ratnadeep

      Regarding Kangana’s acting vs Salman’s acting, please note acting alone is not sufficient for getting higher payment. Else people like Nawazuddin also would have been amongst the top paid actors. Pulling the crowd to the hall is also another talent which most of the heroines lacked.
      Also note people like Aamir, Hrithik,John, Salman etc might have gone shirtless but being shirtless was not the only aim of them in the movies. For ex, Aamir went shirtless in Ghajini and showed his 8 packs but the movie was beyond that. Similarly John and Hrithik rocked in their respective Dhooms even if they showed their bodies.

  2. Ramen Das

    What you have deliberately not mentioned is Katrina’s sheer lack of acting bones…
    Kangna deserves what she got… in comparison, can you honestly imagine Katrina Kaif delivering a solo hit with no male stars (and this is true for a lot of other actresses)? She is already earning more than she deserves with her one expression.. deal with it….

  3. Monistaf

    This 75 cents to a dollar has been debunked 100’s of times by so many people but the myth refuses to die. Have you heard the saying that “you never get what you deserve, you only get what you negotiate”. If these actresses think they are worth more, they should negotiate their pay and if they do not get what they think they are worth, they should go elsewhere. That is exactly what the rest of us do in our day to day jobs. Simply sitting there and expecting people to pay you more is not going to work and complaining about it on social media and blogs definitely doesn’t help either. There are a lot of male actors who do not get paid as much as Salman. I do not see them complaining. The last time I checked, indentured or bonded labor is outlawed in India, so no one can force you to work against your will. You are free to decline the offer and move on, but instead, you choose to accept it and then complain that it is not enough. I think feminists should just learn to grow up and quit whining.

  4. Whatever

    The patriarchal society has handicapped women folk by putting a glass-ceiling not only at home but also in their callings nd societal moves by naming ’em feeble sex. They always find arguments in favor of male’s superiority. When they get married to each other for procreation it is only the name of male gender their offspring are entitled to carry on.
    In light of a few of the above-mentioned facts it is high time that every country that boasts of practising democracy had written down on their respective constitution that there must be 50-50 parts in all sectors of life for both genders. Then only the word equality, liberty nd social justice have sense.

  5. Ratnadeep

    As you pointed out Salman’s film made more money and hence Salman is entitled to better payment. But please note, Salman has been delivering superhits since several years, he is in the industry for around two and half decades. In contrast just now Kangana seems to be peaking and that too her hits are not amongst the all time grossers. Hence don’t expect Kangana to be in Salman’s league. Let her stay in the industry for 25 years or so giving blockbusters consistently. Then I am sure she too will get paid like Salman.
    A few years back Vidya Balan was rocking with the hits like The Dirty Picture, Kahaani and many called her the 4th Khans. But again she became quiet when her films like Ghanchakkar, Shaadi ke side effects didn’t do well. So let’s see what is Kangana’s position after a few years and then we can compare her with Salman, Aamir, SRK, Akshay, Ajay Devgan, Hritik and such. So it depends on how consistent you are also.

  6. Ratnadeep

    As someone pointed out, Katrina Kaif has no hit which can be credited to her. So it matters how much you can carry the film on your shoulder instead of riding someone else shoulder. For example she deserves no credits for the success of Ek tha Tiger or Dhoom3.

  7. Ratnadeep

    I am wondering how come the author has compared Salman Khan with Revathi !! It is totally unfair comparison. Forget about Revathi, even Madhuri Dixit, who was a big rage in 90’s and can match Salman wrt popularity, is struggling to deliver hits after making the comeback. Her Aaja Nachle, Dedh Ishqiya, Gulaab Gang, all bombed in BO. So even Madhuri is not able to match Salman when it comes to BO performance, so I doubt if Kangana can give Salman a run for money for long. Vidya Balan’s recent failures after giving a few hits convinces me of this.

  8. manish

    A buttload of crap thats what this this article is. This article confirms my view that those people who arent good at anything, end up becoming ‘journalists’. Now coming to your dollar for 75 cents, sweetheart thats the data for western world, not Indian, you are talking about Indian women you do not have a clue about anything going around in India. BTW that dollar for 75 cents myth has been debunked by economists time and again. Salman khan can produce a shit movie and earn 100 crores at box office, Kangana can never match that. Those male actors are a bigger brand than Kangna. They have been there when Kangna was in her nappies. This website is full of idiots, abd stupid articles. BTW this article is the reason why you will never excel in journalism or anything that you try because you lack understanding. My 12 yr old sister can explain you how stuoid you are. Lastly do not try to feel good for yourself, by victimising yourself, looks like you already feel entitled. You know what as you dumbfucks like to say – “its a mans world”, it is a man’s world, and here no man is given shit untill he shows he deserves it, and every newcomer is tested far more harshly, than established players and yoy are expected to rise above that, because this mans world won’t invest (read reward) into anyone who cannot return tge double that amount. You entered a man’s world and you want to play like men, so play, men never complaint, those who did they drowned. Its understandable if you complain though, females are weaker sex, we get it, yiu cannot fight for yourself and fend for yourself, we get it, thats why women wants the rules to be bent in their favour, they know they arent capable, arent good enough, this man’s world demands efficiency, proficiency, handwork, single kindedness, dedication, and it punishes really quick, we understand that women cannot keep up with men, when it comes to maney and business, (well some surpass men) . But if rules are bent in your favour, sorry even after that it will remains a man’s world, because guess what while your kind was busy washing clothes, men were setting standards to operate outside the house, and they have settled with a model that works, bring any change, it will eventually snap back to what it was, because its original form was optimal form. I thought a self victimised feminist should be treated like how she sees the world. Else she would go into depression.

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