The difference in remuneration received by actors and actresses has been a hot topic for quite some time now. In the recent past however, it has been discussed at various lengths in the media. I have seen various actresses, and some actors, speak out against the financial sexism followed in the entertainment industry.
Vidya Balan, Kangana Ranaut, Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone, Anushka Sharma, Sonam Kapur, Katrina Kaif and many more have spoken about the issue. Numerous articles from numerous sources can be found on the internet regarding this. Jennifer Lawrence has been touted by many as the flag bearer of this issue in Hollywood.
All of this seems very interesting to me as an outsider and whenever I read about this pay gap, I always wonder why the other side of this issue is not discussed in the media. I don’t know if this is done deliberately or if they really are unaware of this ‘other side’. Now the slippery slope argument is that nobody, or a very few people, actually know the exact fee that is charged by various actors and actresses. But, based on some Google searches, one can conjure up a rough estimate, as it seems to be done nowadays anyway.
So, here it goes….
Argument No. 1: Why is an actresses like Vidya Balan or Kangana Ranaut, who has proven that she can lead a movie ‘like a man’, paid less than Shahrukh Khan or Salman Khan.
Well, this might happen due to the same logic by which Katrina Kaif or Sonam Kapur gets more money to ‘act’ than Nawazuddin Siddique or K.K. Menon. The same logic by which Anushka Sharma got, and continues to get, more money to act than the late Om Puri (who himself declared in the media, in 2014, that he gets 25 Lakhs for a film).
Argument No. 2: An actor’s fee must be based on their acting prowess and the versatility of the characters portrayed by them.
By this flawless logic, can someone explain to me why Alia Bhatt (24) or Deepika Padukone (31) is paid a higher fee to ‘portray a character’ than Naseeruddin Shah (67) or Paresh Rawal (66)?
Argument No. 3: Intersexual pay gaps are very common in Bollywood
Then who according to you got paid more in ‘Fitoor’ – Katrina Kaif or Tabu? Or for that matter, it would be interesting to know the difference of pay between Irrfan Khan and Shahid Kapoor in ‘Haider’.
Argument No. 4: You can’t expect male character actors to get paid as much as leading actresses
Sunny Leone or Malaika Arora Khan gets more money to do an ‘item song’ than Sanjay Mishra (who goes by Sanjai Mishra nowadays) or Vinay Pathak or Vijay Raaz gets to play a ‘peripheral character’ in a movie.
Manipulation of opinions and emotions has become really easy nowadays and some people have transformed this ‘art’ into a very profitable business venture. Like I mentioned before, I don’t know why the media chooses to focus on only one side of the story. Maybe it’s a PR strategy adopted by them or maybe they’re just going with the ‘trend’.
In my opinion, an actor’s remuneration is decided by his/her ability to sell things. Now things include – films, cosmetics, jewellery, toothpaste, bathroom slippers, Cardamom (Elaichi), Pan Masala etc. Physical appearance and aesthetics always, barring a few exceptions, trump acting prowess and versatility of roles, when it comes to an actor’s remuneration. This is how the system is and it seems like it will remain like this in the future.
In conclusion, I think it’s very easy to choose one side of the story and ignore the other, a majority of ‘liberal’ and ‘progressive’ minds and voices of today seem to function like this. Before deciding who ‘deserves’ what, all aspects of the situation must be considered.