Quite often, they are the scene stealers. They pump life into weak scripts, they act while others dither, and they have their own loyal fan following.
If there was a time when supporting actors served as mere props, today they are key components in movie scripts. And yes, some of them are demanding and receiving pay packets commensurate to their market value. Some, alas, are overpricing themselves recklessly. Either way, quite clearly it's bonanza time for Bollywood's supporting crew.
Surprise, surprise. Today, the trade is strewn with reports that supporting actors are outscoring several heroes in the price game. Never before have so many supporting actors received their just dues but also status - be it in the vanity vans assigned to them at the studios or care taken over their hotel rooms at outdoor locations. Earlier, there used to be a distinct sab-chalta-hai-adjust-karlo-saab attitude.
Perhaps, the one who has spearheaded this price revolution for the supporting act is none other than Paresh Rawal - following his award-winning and crowd-pleasing performances in a series of comedies, whether directed by Priyadarshan or lesserknown names.
<b1>In a way, he has done what Mehmood did earlier, becoming more of an attraction than heroes who do not guarantee full houses. When it's Rawal, it is believed that there will be some entertainment.
Market sources, in fact, say that the actor has been paid Rs 1.50 crore for Venus Films' Maan Gaye Mughal-e-Azam being directed by Sanjay Chhel. The hero, Rahul Bose, has been paid Rs 70 lakh while the self-claimed box-office Viagra, Mallika Sherawat, has been pencilled in for Rs 90 lakh. So, who's boss?
On the other hand, some filmmakers have been smirking about the price hike by Vinay Pathak ever since his Bheja Fry did well at the multiplexes.
Talk is that he is now asking for a crore. Although he wants to be a part of Bheja Fry 2, planned by director Sagar Ballary, the actor's fee has become the fly in the ointment. Ironically, Bheja
Fry itself was made on a shoe-string budget of Rs 70 lakh.
Cut to Ranvir Shorey, who has delivered outstanding performances in films like Khosla ka Ghosla and Traffic Signal (never mind an awkward show as Madhuri Dixit's admirer in Aaja Nachle).
<b2>Shorey, too, is demanding Rs 1 crore a film. But it seems that he doesn't make price an issue if his role has substance and the film's budget is on the lower side.
Sharman Joshi may cry himself hoarse, denying reports that he demanded an exorbitant price to be a part of
.. but sources at Ashtavinayak Cine Vision, the production outfit, insist that Joshi quoted Rs 1 crore as his fee to be a part of the sequel.
After much bargaining, he came down to Rs 90 lakh but that did not suit the film's production outlay.
Although he made an instant splash with
Tere Mere Sapne
, it wasn't until
that Arshad Warsi became the nation's darling, the Nice Guy whom everyone loves to love.
The versatile actor, who's widely recognised as Circuit, is said to charge nearly Rs 2 crore a film.
When Warsi tried herogiri in movies such as Saher, Anthony Kaun Hai? and Kuchh Meetha Ho Jaaye, the gambit didn't work. Still, according to a top distributor, "Arshad Warsi is ahead of other character actors when it comes to value for money. His name adds value to a project."
Rajpal Yadav is said to be busier than a bumblebee. The comedian-turned-supporting-actor-turned-hero-turned-villain-turned-comedian (such a long journey) asks for almost a crore today.
His name may not be enough to sell a project but he does enhance its value. That's why you'll find him on the poster of every film he does, irrespective of the presence of big star big names. Think Bhool Bhulaiya, for instance.
Once considered a mere side-dish (the haddi element of Girlfriend), Ashish Chowdhry is flying high, thanks to the hit status of Dhamaal.
<b3>Apparently, he has chosen not to promote his forthcoming movie, Rama Rama Kya Hai Drama, since he believes he deserves a solo song sequence picturised just on him. But producer Surendra Bhatia has not given in to his demands.
Reportedly, he sent a text message to Bhatia, saying that he's disappointed with the way the film has shaped up. Bhatia responded, saying that he too was upset with the way Chowdhry's last movie Speed has fared at the box office.
Irrespective of the fate of his movies, Chowdhry is in demand. His close associate affirms, "After Dhamaal, filmmakers are offering him huge fees. He'd be a fool to refuse such lucrative offers." Point noted.
Tradewallas maintain that most of the top heroes are either preoccupied with projects being made by their favourite filmmakers or are asking for exorbitant remuneration.
Consequently, producers are opting for lesser-known names. To boost the project, bankable supporting actors are a must - since they have what the trade calls "face value."
Vikas Mohan, editor of trade magazine Super Cinema, says, "Today, every project is like a train. If you have a good engine (a saleable name), these supporting actors serve as the coaches. So, chances of a safer ride to the ticket counters are stronger."