When Boyhood (2014) actor Patricia Arquette made an impassioned plea for “wage equality once and for all,” at the Oscars earlier this year, she was supported by the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Meryl Streep. Now, as Forbes comes out with its list of World’s Highest Paid Actresses 2015, it reaffirms the thought Arquette was coming from, as the report also highlights the “pay gap” (between male and female stars). In Bollywood for instance, a female actor earns only one sixth of what a male actor does.
The magazine also notes that “not a single Bollywood actress made it to the Highest-Paid Actresses list, but five Bollywood actors made it to the Highest-Paid Actors ranking”. However, even though the paycheques of Bollywood actresses don’t match up to their western counterparts, their pay has been improving.It was recently reported that Kangana Ranaut has apparently got Rs 11 crore for her upcoming movie, Simran, directed by Hansal Mehta. Explaining Ranaut’s meteoric rise, Shailesh Singh, the producer of the film, says, "With Queen (2013) and Tanu Weds Manu Returns (TWMR), Kangana single-handedly set the box office on fire. She deserves to be paid as much as her male counterparts, and we are happy to pay."
Interestingly, Forbes also notes that “in Bollywood, a top male star might earn the equivalent of $4.7 million per movie, while prominent Indian actresses rarely receive one sixth of that – the equivalent of some $780,000”. Over the past couple of years, actresses like Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone and Kangana Ranaut have been vocal about income disparity in Bollywood.
While Priyanka says that the “remuneration difference is insane”, Kangana sounds optimistic when she says, “At some point, we have to come to that place, where we are equally paid. It is a small step. We are headed in that direction.”
Even director Zoya Akhtar echoes a similar stance. “The ratio is heavily skewed towards male actors, and needs to be balanced out.” However, several film-makers view the situation differently. Aanand L Rai puts things into perspective, and says, “If you compare them (Indian actresses) with top male stars, then you must also look at the box-office numbers. It’s pure business. If an actor — male or female — is getting you the revenue, he or she should get paid accordingly. Are they able to pull the film off on their own? If yes, they should absolutely get paid (well).”