Evidently, the star economics has seen a sea change since the time superstars like Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra ruled the roost. “Actors made good money even then, except that it wasn’t in the limelight as they received money in cash. Now everything is in white. Besides, earlier there were no multiplexes or 3000 screens. Since films now do a business of Rs.100 crore and Rs. 200 crore, actors have got greedy and are asking a lot of money as a film runs on the hero’s name. However, there are just seven-eight actors getting paid that much, and it includes the three Khans, Akshay Kumar, Hrithik Roshan, Ajay Devgn, Saif Ali Khan and Ranbir Kapoor,” explains trade expert Amod Mehra. So, these are the top names that come into picture when we talk about the highest paid actors. According to Mehra, Akshay is the highest paid actor with Rs.45 crore as fixed remuneration. Other actors make up for their fees with their share in profits, so one can’t really be sure and say who tops the list.
As far as actresses are concerned, Hema Malini was the highest paid actress in her hey days. She commanded the same price as male stars of her time. Now the top actresses get an approximate of Rs. 2-3 crores per film, with exceptions being Kareena Kapoor, who’s said to have recieved Rs. 8 crore for Heroine, Priyanka Chopra also reportedly earned Rs. 7 crore for Zanjeer, and more recently, Kangana Ranaut, who’s said to have got Rs. 7 crore for Rajjo. “Usually actresses get something in the range of two to three crores for a film but once in a while, they get more and depends on the film they are doing,” says trade analyst Taran Adarsh. Evidently, it’s a male-dominated industry.
What also comes to the fore is that the actor’s fee constitutes a huge part of a film’s budget, especially if a film has a huge star. “If it’s a big actor, then 60 per cent of the film’s budget is usually allocated to the actors’ fee. It all depends on the film and film-maker. When it’s an action film, it’s 50-60 per cent, if it’s a social film, then 40 per cent. It also depends on the equation an actor has with the director or producer. An actor may charge differently for different films,” says Taran Adarsh. Trade expert Girish Johar adds, “There are times when the director is big, but actors are relatively new, in that case, the director gets a bigger share than the actors; the rest goes into the cost of production.”
These days, most actors take share in profits, especially, actors, who are also producing the film. “These days, every actor becomes a part of a film with some kind of a partnership deal that involves a percentage from profits. There’s no particular fixed amount they charge,” says producer Ramesh Taurani. Johar adds, “Hollywood also doesn’t follow the fixed remuneration pattern any more. Even they have a profit sharing kind of arrangement going on, and so, limiting the pricing of actors would be inaccurate. For example, here’s a hypothetical situation. If Hrithik (Roshan) says that Krrish 3 is my home production so I won’t charge any money, I’ll just take 30 per cent of the profit, and then if Krrish 3 turns out to be a blockbuster, and makes Rs. 300 crore, then Hrithik may get something like Rs.90 crore, which nobody has ever got so far and can be a rare instance.”
Unlike their seniors in the industry, newbies don’t really enjoy that kind of money. “Newcomers get paid somewhere in the bracket of Rs.10 lakhs to a crore. If a newcomer is a star-son/daughter, and the film-maker is good, then a token amount of money is given, may be a few lakhs. But if the newcomer is not from the industry, then he could be getting as much as Rs.10 lakhs or so, depending on the project and the pricing of a film,” says Johar.
One of the crucial factors that decides an actor’s fee depends on the performance of his recent films at the box-office. Was it a hit? Was it a flop? These things decide the remuneration. But that’s not the case always, especially for superstars who still seem to enjoy immense popularity among the audience. Adarsh opines, “One film can escalate the price, but five flop films need not always reduce it. There’s no hard and fast rule. It all depends on the producer’s capacity to give, and the actor’s ability to bring something to the film.”
Johar says, “It depends on the demand and supply. An actor may have flops, but if he’s still in demand and in the limelight, he may get paid well. It’s a combination of so many things. Only giving hits or flops is not a criteria. If there is an excess of demand for a particular actor, and he restricts the supply, obviously his prices will go up. An exceptional case will be if he finds a script which is extraordinary, and he thinks he cannot leave out on the film. At the end of the day, an actor may even ask for Rs. 50 crore, but if he’s had flops, nobody would be willing to give that much, and eventually he’ll realise that his market value has gone down.”
Biggest grossers over the years
Chennai Express (2013)
Gadar:Ek Prem Katha (2000)
Hum Aapke Hain Kaun (90s)
Mother India (50s)
Some of the biggest earners over the years
*Composer Bappi Lahiri commanded top fees in the ’80s
*Lata Mangeshkar was the highest paid singer during her hey days
*Salim-Javed were the best paid scriptwriters of the ‘70s
*Hema Malini in the ’70s commanded fees on par with the heroes
*Shanker-Jaikishan were the highest paid composers of the ‘60s
*Asha Parekh was said to the top paid actresses of the ’60s
*Pran was the highest paid character actor
*Ruby Mayers commanded the highest fees in the ’30s
By Ankita R Kanabar
Sound of money
Music plays a vital role in deciding the fate of a film. The success of both Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani and Aashiqui 2 had a lot to do with music, say industry experts. This explains why composers today charge an exorbitant fee for their work.
“Music composers feel sidelined when they realise that the producers, singers or actors walk away with the accolades because of the composition they create. If the music directors charging a high fee for an album package does a good job, then it’s completely justified,” explains music director Anu Malik. Gone are the days when music directors like Bappi Lahiri has to contend with Rs.3-4 lakhs per composition. Today, the crème de la crème of the music industry charge more than a crore for an entire album. A couple of awards or international recognition is enough to escalate your price further. Oscar award winner A.R. Rahman is the highest paid composer as he charges close to Rs. 5-8 crore for an entire film, including fees for the background score. According to a source, the composer besides, who was paid Rs. 7 crore for the music in Raanjhanaa, has retained the music rights of the film.
Pritam Chakraborthy follows closely behind. Till 2008, the composer charged Rs.12 - 15 lakhs per song. The success of tracks like Pungi (Agent Vinod), Dilliwaali girlfriend (Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani) and more recently, Dhating Naach (Phata Poster Nikhla Hero), ensure the Barfi! composer charges anywhere between Rs.25 - 30 lakhs per song (which includes the fee for arrangers, programmers and studio rentals).
Composers Vishal Dadlani - Shekhar Ravjiani and Shankar - Ehsaan - Loy,vie with each other for the third spot and charge anywhere between Rs.23 - 25 lakh per song. “Nowadays, composers who make an appearance on reality shows are becoming household names. They have created an identity for themselves. If the budget of a film is soaring high and producers are ready to spend in almost every department, then why should a music director stay far behind? Good compositions deserve a good pay,” adds a source.
By Priya Adivarekar
On a song
Playback singers have emerged as celebrities in their own right. Since the time he shot to fame with Mauja hi mauja, Mika Singh has never looked back. By delivering chartbusters one after the other, Singh has become one of the highest paid singers, as he charges anywhere between ` 10 - 12 lakhs per track.He’s come a long way since the time he got paid Rs. 3-4 lakhs for a live show or wedding, Singh has now moved up to earning Rs. 30 - 40 lakhs per performance. “People are ready to pay this amount because they believe Mika is an all round performer. He usually performs with his group of three to four artistes and has done several live shows abroad as well,” stated a source.
Sonu Niigaam, who won accolades and awards for Abhi mujhmein kahin from Agneepath, charges 8-10 lakhs per song. He is also the most sought after performer at live show. Among the female singers, both Shreya Ghoshal and Sunidhi Chauhan charge Rs.3-4 lakhs per song. The usual price range for female singers in 2006 was in the range of 25,000 - 50,000, a proof that they have come a long way.
The surprise name on the list is Punjabi sensation Yo Yo Honey Singh, whose song Lungi dance became a nationwide rage this year. Honey Singh offers a package deal, where he writes, composed, sings the song and charges anywhere around Rs. 50 lakhs for the same. He was recently offered close to Rs. 70 lakhs by producer Sunil Bohra for his film Mastaan. “Every producer wants a chartbuster in their film and singers like Mika and Honey Singh give peppy dance numbers,. . Nowadays, singers do not limit themselves to just singing, but have become performers too. It’s the overall package that matters today,” stated trade analyst Amod Mehra.
With a couple of hits under their belt, popular singers are most sought after to perform at live shows, be it at international concerts or at private parties. A popular male singer of the 90’s confessed that not much money is made from playback singing and their way of survival is usually through stage shows. With increasing number of music composers and actors singing their own songs, the only recourse for a singer to earn big bucks are through concerts and private shows.
Directors who don’t just call the shots, but also mint money
If actors have hiked their prices, so have the A-list directors. Today several top-notch directors like Rohit Shetty and Rajkumar Hirani have become brands by themselves. They enjoy a fan following, just like the stars and demand handsome fees too. Shetty and Hirani would come under the independent directors category whose pay packets are determined by the kind of business their films do. Then there are directors like Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Karan Johar, who produce their own films, taking the profits as well as the directors’ cut.
Shetty, who is associated with the Golmaal series and high energy masala entertainers, has a high hit rate. His seven films since Golmaal have done a business of over Rs.1000 crores! Hirani, who’s known to give an intriguing twist to social issues in his Munnabhai series, is also considered the safest bet at the box-office with all his three films having collected over Rs. 300 crores. Both are undoubtedly at the top of the rung in the former category, and according to industry insiders, can command a pay packet of Rs.20 crores.
It was interesting to learn that Shetty started his career with with a pay packet of Rs. 21 lakhs. According to N.R. Pachisia, the producer of his first film, Zameen (2003), the director always knew the pulse of the audience. “Twenty one lakhs was not a small sum a decade ago. It would be equivalent to two crores today as he had the spark in him even then,” said Pachisia.
Going by what first-time directors pocket today, the producer is probably right. When making their debut with independent producers or a big production house like Yash Raj Films, Dharma Productions or Balaji Motion Pictures, the starting salary of first-time directors is anywhere between Rs. 10 to Rs. 75 lakhs. The second venture with the same company is likely to see them getting paid double or more, even if their first venture is an average hit. “But a director making his debut with a small budget film could be paid as less as five lakhs,” says a relatively new director, on condition of anonymity.
Like any other business, the start is modest, but the jump may be quick and humongous compared to other businesses.
“One hit is what a director needs to hike his price. One flop and it gets difficult for him to find a taker for his next,” says trade analyst Amod Mehra.
Director Abhinav Kashyap, who made his debut with the super-hit Dabangg, is said to have charged an astronomical ` 10 crores for his second venture Besharam. Similarly, Imtiaz Ali, known for his penchant for romance, was said to have been paid Rs.10 crores for Rockstar after giving two consecutive hits, Jab We Met and Love Aaj Kal.
Ali can be be slotted in the top five directors after Shetty and Hirani, followed closely by Anurag Basu and Farah Khan. Even though money is a closely guarded secret, they are some of the highly paid directors, commanding Rs.10 plus crores.
Madhur Bhandarkar, who has made a name for himself in the hard-hitting realistic genre with films like Chandini Bar and Fashion, started his career as a director with two lakhs as remuneration for the 1999 Trishakti; today, he gets anywhere between Rs.6 - Rs. 8 crores. “The business of film-making has become big in the last few years and every aspect of film-making — from production to publicity — has undergone a massive transition. It is common for established directors to charge a producer less than their market price and take a share in the profits instead. This works well for both, the producer who does not have to shell out big money to the director. If a film does well, then both share the profit,” reveals Bhandarkar.
According to trade analyst Girish Johar, the share in the profits a director would take from a producer would be in the range of 10-20 per cent of the total collections. “But when it comes to director’s fees, nothing is fixed these days. Take Dhoom 3director Vijay Krishna Acharya, we don’t know what YRF has paid him but if he steps out into the market, the fact that he directed Aamir Khan for YRF could easily land him a cheque of Rs.15-20 crores,” said Johar.
“It’s true. Today many factors determine a director’s fees. A middle-line director would charge a big production house, like Dharma or Balaji a reduced fee of two to five crores as it gives him a chance to work with them and the top actors they can get on board. The same director would charge around seven to eight from a smaller independent producer. On the other hand a producer would be ready to shell out a price higher than a director’s market price if he can get a top director on board,” said a representative of a big studio.
Coming to directors who produce their own films it is Karan Johar, who heads the list with his steady stream of blockbusters like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Kabhie Khushi Kabhi Gham, My Name Is Khan and more recently, Student Of The Year. Johar, who focuses on relationships and extravagant backdrops, could easily command a fee of Rs.15 crores if he stepped into the market. Club that with the profit from his film and he could be taking a neat Rs.30 crores or probably more. It would be the same for other top line producer-directors like Aditya Chopra, Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Rakesh Roshan. Anurag Kashyap and Farhan Akhtar come a close second. “But producer-director prices are very speculative,” said Johar.
Given the nature of film business, directors’ salaries also fluctuate. Give a hit and your stock goes up, while a flop could have them reducing their price.
One hit is what a director needs to hike his price. One flop
and it gets difficult for him to find a taker for his next.
— Amod Mehra, trade analyst
It is common for established directors to charge a producer less than their market price and take a share in the profits instead. This works well for both.
— Madhur Bhandarkar, director
By Geety Sahgal
Making the right moves
From a flirty 90’s Jumma chumma dede (Hum), Choli ke peeche kya hai (Khalnayak) to a sizzling Sheila ki jawani (Tees Maar Khan) of the 2000s, item numbers are an integral part of Bollywood films, with the demand growing with each successive film. According to a senior Bollywood choreographer, ’90s was a time of modest salaries when they were paid Rs. 5000 for choreographing songs for an entire film, with top choreographers like Saroj Khan and Chinni Prakash churning out superhit dance numbers like Ek do teen (Tezaab), Dhak dhak (Dil) or Tu cheez badi hai mast mast (Mohra) respectively for the film.
On the condition of anonymity, a top choreographer who has worked on some sizzling item numbers, says, “In the 90s, choreographers were referred to as dance directors, who handled the choreography of the entire film for a meagre Rs. 5000. And they were not as demanding as choreographers are today.”
The concept of appointing a dance director, who would choreograph for the entire film, ended in the late 90s. “In 1997-98, with the onset of Khiladiseries, film-makers started signing Ahmed Khan, Saroj Khan or a Ganesh Acharya to direct one particular song each, in a film. For example, the Sunny Deol-starrer, Dillagi had songs choreographed by Ahmed Khan and Chinni Prakash,” says a choreographer.
In the late 90s, top choreographers charged Rs. 50,000 to 75,000 per song. Trends changed when sizzling numbers like Kajra re (Bunty Aur Babli), Ishq kamina (Shakti The Power) in the early 2000s, choreographers were hired on a song basis. “There was a sudden boom in the demand for item numbers. Every film-maker today wants to have a full-on masala dance track. Today a top choreographer can demand and get anywhere between Rs 5 to10 lakhs, per song,” says an industry veteran.
On the other hand, with the surge in item numbers being incorporated in the story line, the competition has become tougher. In the rapidly changing scenario, each popular item song is being fast replaced by another, thus affecting the business. Top choreographers like Bosco-Ceaser, Farah Khan, Vaibhavi Merchant, Ganesh Acharya and even the veterans like Khan or Prakash cannot demand more money today. “Everyone is paid according to the market price. They cannot demand more money even if they have several hit songs. YRF knows how much Dharma offers and vice versa and rates are more or less fixed.”
By Onkar Kulkarni
The economics of action
Action is yet another necessary ingredient in Hindi films. An Ajay Devgn making an entry atop two speeding bikes in Phool Aur Kaante, or an Aamir Khan racing against a Mumbai local in Ghulam, Shah Rukh Khan’s climax sequence in Chennai Express and Akshay Kumar’s car stunts in Boss, action directors are known to conceive and execute breathtaking action sequences and stunts for films.
According to a renowned Bollywood action director, there is a hierarchy system that is followed when it comes to designation of work and remuneration.
Explains the source, “The career of an action director begins from being a stuntman who earns Rs. 2500-2800 per day. The next rung is becoming an assistant action director, when he earns Rs. 10,000 to Rs.15,000 per day. The action director, walks away with as much as Rs.1,00,000 per day. A well-known action director from the industry says, “Payment wise it is a little better today, or else in the 90s, a fight master would earn only Rs. 99 per day.”
Though it is not yet confirmed, established action directors like Shyam Kaushal, Allan Amin, Ali Abbas or a Parvez Khan could easily be earning as much as Rs. 1,00,000 or even more, per day. Sometimes they strike a full-project deal for an amount of Rs.40 lakhs per film. These apart, duplicates who do death-defying stunts for actors, earn around Rs.5,500-6000 per day.
Interestingly, in the late 2000s, Indian film producers also started relying on international action directors. Peter Hein, who has worked on films like Krrish and Race 2, is a popular choice with the makers. Their fees could be equivalent to that of a top star.
“Indian producers go to any extent to get international choreographers, and even agree to their unimaginable demands. It’s quite a costly affair as the payment is according to the on-going rate of the dollar. Besides, the film-makers have to pay for their travelling and accomodation. Their remuneration is on par with the lead actors of the film,” says an industry insider.