Shah Rukh Khan, the Badshah of Bollywood, is an even bigger king of the advertising world, according to his tax figures.
The superstar has paid an advance tax of Rs 270 million ($6.8 million) on his estimated income during the current financial year of 2007-08, but a major share of it has gone into paying for his income from endorsing a slew of products and other sources.
Sources in the advertising agency for which the superstar has worked reveal that his income from endorsements fetches him Rs.1.5 billion ($38 million) a year, the highest for any Indian advertising "model".
In comparison, though Amitabh Bachchan endorses more products than Khan, earnings from his annual endorsements do not cross Rs 1.2 billion.
Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, two other Bollywood stars who source a good part of their incomes from endorsements, earn a little less than Rs1 billion each from advertising assignments annually. The rest of the Bollywood "models" are all in the Rs.50- million income bracket.
Industry observers believe that apart from the top chair he occupies in Bollywood, Shah Rukh is going to maintain his prominent position in the advertising world as well for some more years as there is no one yet who can rival his charisma.
In the current fiscal, his earnings from this source may go a little above Rs1.5 billion as he has been made brand ambassador of more products - and more are waiting, the sources added.
<b1>King Khan's earnings from endorsements stand at a notch much above the emoluments that he gets for starring in movies, which, according to his own admission, never goes beyond Rs50-60 million per assignment.
A big chunk of his income from outside Bollywood in the current fiscal also came from hosting STAR Plus' Kaun Banega Crorepati quiz series for which he received Rs10 million per episode.
Additionally, he also made a quick profit of Rs 400 million across the table by selling the world distribution rights of his home production Om Shanti Om to Eros International for Rs 750 million as against the production cost of Rs 350 million.
The profit that he earned from the deal was apart from the remuneration of Rs 50 million that he gave to himself for leading the cast in the movie.
Barring this, the actual figure of his earnings from starring in movies was only Rs 200 million, as he featured in four movies last year. Considering his current star-price, his income from movies in the current fiscal may not go beyond Rs 300 million, which is way below his average earnings from endorsements.
<b2>If Shah Rukh earns less from movies, it is because he is seen as the least greedy among the Bollywood stars. Any producer would vouch for it. While other stars generally hike their prices after each successful movie, Shah Rukh never increases his price as others do without thinking. Even after Om Shanti Om became a super-hit, he has decided against hiking his price.
"Shah Rukh chooses his movies carefully. First, the subject matter must appeal to him and, if it does, his opting to star in the movie would largely depend on the credibility and antecedents of the producer and the director," said an executive of the star's production banner, Red Chillies Production.
"But once he has agreed to a movie, he would devote himself to it wholeheartedly and ensure that the producer never faces any problem in successfully completing it," the executive, not wishing to be named, told IANS.
It is therefore no wonder that Shah Rukh has been seen to be working only for certain known banners in the last decade. It may even be said if any lesser-known production house rather than Yash Raj Films had approached him for a film like
Chak De! India
, he would have perhaps refused it.
"I have not seen him throwing star tantrums ever, like nitpicking on small things as most stars do. He comes to the sets and gets involved in shooting right away. As a matter of fact, on the sets, he never behaves like a star," said a production controller, the professional who on behalf of the producer takes care of the needs of the stars during shoots.
In contrast, Shah Rukh behaves like a 'star' when he shoots for TV commercials. There he refuses to compromise on anything, particularly on his price.
Says he: "Why should I compromise? TV commercials are what they are - commercials."
"The companies that manufacture the brands pay the advertising agencies to make the commercials and the companies do so in order to boost their sales. The agencies, on their part, use me as a prop to meet the demands of the companies. So there! If you use me as a prop to climb up, pay me. Unlike my price for movies, I have no fixed price for my appearance in commercials."
But don't the producers sign him up essentially to boost box-office performance of their movies?
The superstar counters this question, saying he is beholden to Bollywood because it made him the superstar that he is today. He says his charging less for movie appearances is his little gesture of gratitude towards the industry.
"Had the industry not put me in a position where I am today, would the companies have chosen me to be their brand ambassadors?" he asks.
Is King Khan, then, robbing Peter to pay Paul? As one advertising agency executive put it: "He is, but he has made his 'larceny' seem like a social service."