When Aishwarya Rai was approached for the role that went to Ameesha Patel in Mangal Pandey
the Rising, she reportedly asked for a fee close to leading man Aamir Khan's (around Rs 7 crore). The producer refused, but that was then. Today, Aishwarya and fellow leading ladies charge what they want and get it.
Kareena Kapoor charged roughly Rs 2 crore per film before Jab We Met, the success of which has pushed her price up to Rs 3.5 crore, say industry sources. Aishwarya is charging Rs 4 crore for Robot opposite Rajnikanth, while Priyanka Chopra reportedly charges Rs 4-5 crore per film. Suddenly, fees for Bollywood heroines seem to be soaring.
Preity Zinta charges Rs 3 crore, for instance, but usually does films with banners like Yash Raj or Dharma Productions, which are like family, hence a 'discount'. Rani Mukerji, whose fee hovers around Rs 2-3 crore, is similarly choosy.
However, even a junior actor like Amrita Rao is charging Rs 2 crore. Bipasha Basu charges around Rs 2 crore, too, as does Katrina Kaif. In fact, Katrina's two-film deal with Studio 18 is worth Rs 6 crore, not to mention the Rs 1.5 crore she was paid for an item song in Blue. Just to put that in perspective, at her peak, Madhuri Dixit charged a mere Rs 20 lakh while Sridevi commanded around Rs 25 lakh per film.
Though the male A-listers (the Khans, Akshay Kumar, and Hrithik Roshan, for example) charge between Rs 7 and Rs 12 crore per film, Ash and Kareena are now paid roughly the same as John Abraham and Abhishek Bachchan.
"Few stars can ensure a good initial. And the number of women in this bracket is fewer, so they naturally cost more," says UTV Motion Pictures CEO S. Roy Kapoor.
The flip side
The glass ceiling still exists, however. As distributor Niraj Manchanda says, "Only heroines with a strong overseas market will benefit. These prices are irrelevant in the Indian market."
When Shilpa Shetty asked for Rs 50 lakh for an item song in Krazzy 4, director Rakesh Roshan went to Rakhi Sawant. So it will be of interest to see how far the industry sustains these rates.