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13 Apr 2008

Girl power in Bollywood

Queen B Aishwarya Rai Bachchan was earlier known to ask for a heavy paycheck. While fees femme fatales quote are nowhere close to the hunks, the brat pack led by Kareena, is effortlessly breaking all Bollywood myths and setting new benchmarks.
Female actors have most often been looked at as the proverbial extra limb in the entire film. Producers were known to hem and haw where the lead heroine's fee was concerned. Casting coups failed because filmmakers did not adjust their budget for the leading lady’s demands.
Actress Hrishitta Bhatt is happy. "I think women have definitely come into their own. With good storylines and author backed performances, they are delivering hits and carrying the film on their shoulders. So the fee quoted by them is completely justified. Producers too understand and are willing to pay now."
Director Imtiaz Ali explains, "I think women deserve a lot more in terms of money, footage and attention. I would be very happy to see them achieve what they want to." He underlines that Bollywood is a male-dominated industry making it difficult for the female actor to rise and shine the way she should. "Women in the industry have always been relegated to secondary roles, thanks to the general belief that male actors who are crowd pullers." Ye s t e r ye a r h e r o i n e s like Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit reaped huge dividends, but were nowhere near their contemporary male actors. Their fees barely matched the sixth or seventh highest paid hero.
So, what's the difference now?
Tanuja Chandra, director and filmmaker, says that the Bollywood market was always money and men-driven. Today, the market is changing because the end consumer is changing. "Everyone is interested in the end result. Today, the consumer too is willing to spend more on different stuff catered to him/her. Thus, female leads are able to do more, quote more, get more."
But, the industry insiders differ. They think that the Bollywood boxoffice ticks faster and more for male actors. Publicist of H r i t h i k Roshan, Shilpa Shetty and Vivek Oberoi, agrees. "This industry is extremely maledominated and will remain so. In a way that gap has lessened. However, I believe that there are only a handful of female actors who can demand that kind of money. The industry has become less male-dominated than before, but a complete turn around is something that I don't see happening in a long time to come."
Disgrees Chandra, "I don't think so. People are willing to pay to see Kareena, Preity, Ash as much as a Shah Rukh or Hrithik. Kareena deserves to hike her price. The disparity exists in the minds of the industry folks and not in the minds of the audience."
And what about the world of advertising, which cannot do without celebrity endorsements? Would the ad-world give big bucks to these ladies?
"The advertising world is extremely suffocating. I reckon that female actors will have to rough it out. They definitely don't earn as much as their male counterparts and the likelihood that they will do that is distant. Women are used as commodities here. It's a tough climb and will take some time," says adman Prahlad Kakkar.
Trade analyst Taran Adarsh endorses this view, "Earlier, too, women got paid more but were never anywhere close to their male counterparts. Even today they might demand more than the fourth ranking actor and producers would be willing to pay. But surely not more than the top paid male in the industry."
The market dynamics are surely undergoing a massive change. Female leads have no qualms flaunting their price tags.
Are their male counterparts happy with the changing scenario?
"Yes, of course! At least I am,” says Jimmy Shergill, one of the lead actors of today. “It's great to see women empowerment, especially in the figures. In fact, I would only support it and hope that it only gets better from here," he adds.
Are the badshahs of the Bollyworld listening?

Posted on 13 Apr 2008 by admin

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