While Bollywood star Salman Khan is making headlines in the Sri Lankan media due to appearance at an election rally supporting President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Asian Mirror thought it was timely to reproduce an article that was carried on Hindustan Times in 2012 – which gave a comprehensive picture on prices of Bollywood stars – including Salman Khan.
These prices may have changed over the past three years. However, the article still gives an idea about exorbitant prices of Bollywood starts for public appearances and movies. The prices given in the article deal with Indian rupees (SLR 2.06 as of December 29)
Under his usual rates in 2012, Salman Khan charged approximately Rs. 30 000 000 (SLR) per day for public appearance.
The shocking truth about star prices!
Kareena Kapoor would have to act in eight films to earn what Salman Khan can pocket in just one film, which is around Rs. 23-27 crore! Akshay Kumar, the star of the multi-star cast Housefull and Housefull 2, has not seen the housefull boards outside cinema halls for his solo starrers since what seems to be forever, but he still gets paid Rs. 18-20 crore for every film he works in. Vidya Balan may have carried Kahaani to the winning post and bagged every award for The Dirty Picture, but would you believe that even after two hits, she is not the highest paid actress in Bollywood? That’s the dirty truth about star prices. Till the ’90s, Amitabh Bachchan was the only star paid in crores. Figuratively speaking, stars are supposed to be living up there in the sky. But now, it is their prices that are touching the sky.
Welcome then to the real world of stars and their unreal prices. You may even feel inclined to term their remunerations obscene, more vulgar than any adult sex film Bollywood has ever churned out.
Rules of engagement
Star prices are rarely, if ever, fixed, because actors make concessions for producers or directors who are friends or who are star names themselves. Stars are also emotional people. So you have Shah Rukh Khan doing films for Yash Chopra and Karan Johar at a price which is lower than what he would demand from other banners.
Salman had, years ago, gone out of his way to accommodate a film with the down-and-out Saawan Kumar Tak when the latter requested him to make his film with lesser actors saleable with his presence. Besides, if a script catches the fancy of a star or if he is keen to work with a director or producer, he doesn’t mind making a concession in his fees because, after all, stars need good scripts, banners and directors as much as producers and directors need top stars.
Like any other product, the price of a star is determined by the laws of demand and supply. The greater the demand and/or lower the supply (read availability of stars), the higher the price. If the entire family of lead stars is considered as one unit and all the producers put together, another, it is clearly a case of demand for stars exceeding the supply. That’s because the number of films produced each year in Bollywood is around 140-150 but the saleable heroes or those who can be cast in lead roles are barely 14 or 15. Ditto for the leading ladies. On an average, therefore, each star should be working in 10 films every year, which doesn’t happen now.
Ultra-selective heroes like Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh do one or two films whereas other A-listers like Salman and Akshay are seen in two, three or four films every year. There may be actors who have six to eight releases a year but they are very few in number.
That our actors, especially the A-list ones, command obscenely high prices is an open secret. Not just in absolute terms, even if one were to look at the ratio of flops to hits (80:20) every year, it is anybody’s guess that most of our stars get undeservedly high prices. For, even if a good script is the main reason why a film works at the ticket windows, the stars have a major role to play, especially the hero and heroine who work as magnets to draw the audience to the cinemas, initially at least. Considering that 80 per cent of the films bomb every year and 90 per cent don’t even open decently enough to justify the high prices paid to their lead actors, it is clear that most of our stars are paid remuneration that is far more than they deserve.
Box office magnets
Even today, it is on the strength of face value that the paying public patronises a film, at least for the first couple of days. In that sense, more than even the scriptwriter, director and producer, it is the star, especially the hero, who, in a manner of speaking, is the ISI mark for a film. In other words, when a star is asking for Rs. 10, 15, or 20 crore for a film, he is, by implication, assuring his producer of a great opening. But for the audience, his presence in a film is like a promise of quality cinema or, at least, value for their money. It is due to this faith which the audience has in a star (that the star will offer them an entertaining movie) that the latter commands the price he does. Or, only that actor should actually be considered worth every crore he is paid, who ensures that his film opens to bumper houses and also ensures that it offers entertainment to the paying public. So, Aamir, Salman and Shah Rukh seem to be the only three stars who are being paid what they deserve. Ajay Devgn and Hrithik Roshan are inching their way to that position but the occasional Guzaarish or Aakrosh pulls them down.
• Imran Khan bags film for Rs 11 crore, joins the big league
Bang for the buck?
Akshay’s 20-crore price tag is wrong because his solo films just aren’t working at the box-office; Sunny Deol, Shahid Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan may deliver an occasional success but they’ve also given huge duds, which means they lack the consistency of Aamir, Shah Rukh and Salman. However, the fees the stars charge don’t vary according to the fate of their films – the pay packet is not cut if a film flops. But Aamir Khan is a class apart. From charging a fee and a percentage in profits, Aamir now keeps a share in the profits his starrers make. “That way, I am not burdening the film’s budget with my cost, and I am also ready to put my neck on the line,” says Aamir matter-of-factly. “By not taking anything upfront and only charging a fee for acting if the film makes a profit, I am openly stating that if the audience doesn’t like my film, I don’t deserve a penny.”
The Indian obsession with a male child manifests itself in film viewing habits too. That explains why hero-oriented films open far better than heroine-oriented ones. Women-oriented films like No One Killed Jessica and Kahaani started slowly and scored only afterwards. The Dirty Picture, for all its claim of being a woman-centric story, still boasted of three heroes, hit music and titillating fare! Kareena Kapoor, the heroine of Heroine, has been paid a reported fee of R4 crore but she won’t be entitled to even one per cent of the profits in the film. By the way, Sridevi was the only actress who nearly touched the one-crore mark in the Nineties. The leading lady of such heroine-oriented films as Chandni, Nagina and Chaalbaaz had, years ago, signed a film for Rs. 1 crore but that film never got made.
Character actors rank even lower than heroines in the pay hierarchy. But over the years, supporting actors have started charging exorbitantly. So you have Irrfan getting Rs. 1.5 crore and Paresh Rawal insisting on a fee with seven zeros or, at least, Rs. 75-80 lakh.
(1) All figures are approximate.
(2) Rates/fees are never fixed. Adjustments/concessions are almost always made.
(3) Aamir Khan charges the maximum fee among all the stars, for endorsements.
(4) Shah Rukh Khan probably earns more every year by way of endorsement fees than for acting in films. He endorses about a dozen brands but works in one or two films a year.
(5) Shah Rukh has always maintained that he wouldn’t mind over-charging for endorsements and stage shows but would prefer under-charging film producers because he owes his stardom to films and film producers.
(6) Salman Khan is not as popular for brand endorsements as compared to the size of his superstardom because of his court cases.
(7) Till about four years ago Saif Ali Khan used to endorse the highest number of brands but he has since cut down on the number of products he sells.
(8) For performing on stage at televised events (like awards functions), stars get paid almost the same amount they charge per day for endorsements. For non-televised events, the payment is about 50-60% of the endorsement fee per day.