In The Name Of Social Concern
Appearing in a television programme recently film star Aamir Khan, who is himself charging Rs 3.5 crore per episode as his appearance fee in the much-touted social awareness programme, Satyamev Jayate—produced by his own production company, bemoaned the rise of human greed paying scant regard to environment and misuse of natural resources. He is the highest paid amongst film stars in terms of endorsement fee, a whopping Rs 4 crore per day. He has made a great personal sacrifice by reducing his appearance fee in his own programme which is running on revenue sharing basis, in seven languages, on various satellite and terrestrial channels in India. But after the initial hype and hoopla it is already showing substantial regression.
That film stars are being roped in as state brand ambassadors as well as NGOs and international welfare bodies is another phenomenon: Aamir Khan has not promoted right causes, as for instance, his role in the Narmada Bachao Andolan but is still associated with UNICEF, Shah Rukh Khan for West Bengal, Amitabh Bachchan for Gujarat, Akshay Kumar in race with Virendra Sehwag for Delhi…And many more besides doing their bits to promote social causes, but not without hidden agendas as became clear by Mamata Banerjee’s rising to Shah Rukh’s defence in his un-heroic behaviour. But that’s beside the point. The issue is not that here, nor the extent to which they make themselves available to bring about social awareness, but how much of it is done gratis for public good. But surely also does not mean to belittle them for their vast wealth, surely well-deserved for star innings do not last too long, exceptions like the three Khans or a Bachchan apart.
While only the income authorities can reveal the exact figures, that too if they have proper valuation different sources conjure up different figures. And if these figures are to be believed Shah Rukh, who endorses 34 brands charging Rs 7 crore each earns approximately Rs 238 crore from these alone and is supposed to be worth anywhere between 1500 to 4000 crore with houses in Mumbai, Dubai, London and New York (no known acts of charity except Rs 18 crore he has supposedly donated to AIIMS for a cancer); Dharmendra’s financial assets come nowhere close to Amitabh Bachchan whose estimated worth is calculated at 1600 crore, 15 endorsements annually at Rs 1.5 crore each (known to indulge in charity from time to time; Aamir Khan with 500 crore, Salman with 400 crore (charity through Being Human Foundation), Akshay Kumar at 260, and Hrithik Roshan 140 crore are some of the other contenders for the top slot.
Apart from the other changes that seem to have suddenly surfaced in the past decade or so is that now most leading male stars work on profit-sharing basis with production houses having set up their own respective banners, whether overtly or covertly. A close look at their holdings makes a mind-boggling reading, alarming in comparison to their professed social status. If grapevine is to be believed from amongst the three top ranking stars Aamir Khan charges up to Rs 40 crore per film, if he is just acting in an outside film, followed by arch rivals Salman (25-30), Shah Rukh Khan—after the flopping of his recent starrers (20-25) not to speak of product endorsement charges that vary from Rs 1 to 4 crore per day.
The second rung has Akshay Kumar at the head of the table (15-18), 4 endorsements at Rs 2 crore each, in close chase by Ajay Devgun and Hrithik Roshan (films 10-15, endorsements 1.25-1. 50 crore), Ranbir Kapoor (10, 2 crore each), Shahid Kapoor (8-10, products 1 crore), Saif Ali Khan though got a beating recently hasn’t really dropped down his charges (6-7, 75 lakh). In the next category come Sanjay Dutt, John Abraham, Imraan Khan doing films for around 5, and brand advertising at Rs 40-50 lakh. Amitabh Bachchan’s brand value as a star actor is at the bottom but not in terms of endorsements for which is at par with the likes of Roshan and Devgun.
‘Assets-wise’ though not as well endowed as some of her more buxom or glamourous contemporaries, Kareena Kapoor heads the cat brigade who is believed to have demanded and got Rs 7 crore for working in Madhur Bhandarkar’s Heroine, though otherwise carrying a sale tag of 3.5-4, and brand support at 1 crore and competing with the much younger Katrina Kaif. Priyanka Chopra is next in the big league and quickly seeming to lose ground to juniors like Anushka Sharma who is fast racing up the stardom ladder, and Deepika Padukone both pegged at 1-1.25, and 40-50 lakh for movies and product promotion. A much-rejuvenated Vidya Balan basking back-to-back glory of The Dirty Picture and Kahani threatening to disturb the applecart. But unlike the three big Khans none of them drive the box office bus on their own skills, or can command a share in collections.
While even an Emraan Hashmi, riding cat-carts, and other heroes can throw himself in the big star league, no heroine has managed to score at that speed even if the narrative revolved around them. At the peak of popularity, in not too distant the first Bollywood heroine to command a Rs 1 crore packet was Sridevi whose only rival in the decade was the choli ke peechay, dhak dhak girl, Madhuri Dixit. Interestingly, and surprisingly no Mumbai chartered accounts has made a balance sheet of a heroine’s assets—certainly not in the public domain. None of them are known to have contributed towards any charities perhaps for them all charities begin at home.
But if what has now come to stay in Bollywood is not shocking, it would certainly interesting to know in this era of financial accountabilities where are such huge finances coming from, now that the conventional sources have disappeared in thin air because every second or fourth flick reaching the multiplexes seems to recover its Rs 20-40 crore investments. Yet at the same time many low budget (Rs 4 to 8 crore) getting appreciation and raking in the moolah and substantial proportionate profits. The problem lies elsewhere, the moment a small budget movie becomes a chart buster the bubble bursts again with everyone connected with it jacking up his price.
But as compared to the big bad Bollywood, whether in Tamil Nadu or Timbaktu, charity begins from the successful star’s hearth itself—Ravi Kishen in Bihar or Rajinikanth in Chennai. Their social concerns, apathy for the needy far exceeds expectations as compared to those raking in and rolling in the riches in the mainstream Hindi cinema. The moot question, therefore, is where in Bollywood greed ends and charity begins….from domestic helps upwards?
By Suresh Kohli