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Bollywood actresses break glass ceiling, demand hero-like fees

Varada Bhat  |  Mumbai 

She is the new hero of Hindi cinema. With Bollywood’s recent success in movies that have central themes based on women, actresses have started to command fees that only artists donning the hero used to customarily charge in Hindi filmdom.

Take Kareena Kapoor, for instance. For her forthcoming film Heroine, the 31-year-old will become the first actress in the industry to get a share in profits. As an industry official points out, “She will now be joining the exclusive club of superstars like Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, and Akshay Kumar who earn big through film rights.”

Trade analysts are not surprised that Kareena is the one who managed to pull this off. Her box-office track record has been impressive. She is, after all, the only heroine who boasts of four movies — 3 Idiots, Golmaal 3, Body Guard and Ra.One — that have grossed over Rs 100 crore each in recent times.

Not just Kapoor, even Vidya Balan, who struck gold with No One Killed Jessica, Dirty Picture and Kahaani, has raised her price and demanded more than the film’s lead actor, Farhan Akhtar. According to reports, she was approached by Rangita Nandy (daughter of Pritish Nandy) for a sequel of Pyaar ke Side Effects, but Vidya has indicated she would sign the film only if she is paid more than its hero.

Even has been signed on for Rs 9 crore for Apoorva Lakhia’s remake of Zanjeer, starring southern actor Ram Charan Tej.

It is in the last one year that Bollywood’s heroines have managed to break the glass ceiling. Even though the industry’s male actors command three to six times the price, top-rung heroines were hitherto supposed to be content with pay cheques for not more than Rs 1.5 crore to Rs 2 crore.

But with women-oriented movies fetching revenues around Rs 50-80 crore, producers are willing to give them their share of the pie. “These movies are performing well at the box office,” according to Suniel Wadhwa, an independent film distributor. “Their returns are high as well.”

For instance, producer Ekta Kapoor’s The Dirty Picture fetched Rs 80 crore. What’s more, before the movie released on December 2 last year, Kapoor had already sold her film to distributors — Kundan Thadani’s A A Films — for a reported Rs 19 crore and struck a satellite deal with Sony for Rs 8 crore, besides music rights to T-series for Rs 2 crore.

Similarly, Viacom 18 Motion Picture’s Kahaani, which did not have any hot-selling hero, collected Rs 58 crore, while No One Killed Jessica, based on the case of the 1999 murder of Delhi-based model Jessica Lal, banked solely on Rani Mukerji and, again, Vidya Balan (who starred in The Dirty Picture). Produced by UTV, the Raj Kumar Gupta-directed film collected Rs 35 crore.

  Kareena Kapoor Vidya Balan Priyanka Chopra Katrina Kaif
Film fees 
in 2010
 Rs 4-5 cr Rs 1.5-2 cr Rs 3 cr Rs 3-3.5 cr
Film fees 
Asks for profit share in upcoming film Heroine Charges upwards of 
Rs 7 crore 
Signs the remake of Zanjeer 
for Rs 9 crore 
Rs 5-6 crore
Source : Industry

The year 2012-13 will see the release of over six women-oriented films. These include Aiya (starring Mukherji), Vikram Bhatt’s 3D movie Dangerous Ishq, Preity Zinta’s Love in Paris, Madhur Bhandarkar’s Heroine and the Sridevi-starrer English Vinglish.

Most trade analysts also suggest that the new age heroines are willing to try out “difficult” roles to justify their price. “Vidya Balan accepted an unconventional role in Kahaani,” points out film trade analyst Taran Adarsh. “Similarly, Katrina not only worked on her language delivery, but did a challenging role in Rajneeti. took a huge risk in doing a film like 7 Khoon Maaf, while Kareena is all set to play a schizophrenic actress in Heroine.”

A senior UTV official says a spurt in multiplexes has made it conducive of late to make movies for an urbane audience. “is now coming of age. There is a more contemporary portrayal of women,” he notes. “When we released Jessica, we saw Rani and Vidya as two heroes, rather than taking the film as banking on a women-oriented theme.”

Experts believe acceptance of such movies can embolden to make more such subjects. There are a host of progressive filmmakers (such as Madhu Bandarkar and Bharadwaj) who have shown the way with Chandini Bar, Fashion, Dor, Aisha, Lajja, Chameli, We are Family, Corporate, and, now, the Kareena Kapoor-starrer Heroine.

First Published: Mon, April 23 2012. 01:06 IST