Was Deepika Paid More Than Ranveer for Padmavati? Is It Important?

Why a comparison of Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh’s pay cheques for ‘Padmavati’ assumes importance.

5 min read
Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh - who was paid more and why it’s important.

Since Padmavati revolves around Rani Padmavati and Deepika Padukone plays the title role, the actor should naturally be getting a bigger pay packet than her male co-stars, Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor for the film. But with the kind of gender pay gap that exists in most industries and especially in Bollywood - it always makes sense to double check.

It was perhaps this curiosity which made a reporter question Deepika about her fee for Padmavati at the 3D trailer launch of the period film on Tuesday. When quizzed if she had been paid more than Ranveer and Shahid for Padmavati, Deepika diplomatically responded:

“Talking about my remuneration is not exciting for me. I am confident and comfortable with what I am paid.”
Deepika Padukone
Deepika Padukone at the launch of the 3D trailer of <i>Padmavati.</i>
Deepika Padukone at the launch of the 3D trailer of Padmavati.
(Photo: Yogen Shah)

We wish she had answered that question to help send the right message out about female actors deserving an equal or higher wage (depending on the role) in the film industry.

The issue of the gender pay gap that exists in Bollywood is largely a result of a mindset that needs changing. When asked about the existing discrepancy in what a male and female actor is paid, Sonam Kapoor, one of Hindi cinema’s current crop of successful female actors, had stated that:

“It’s mathematics really. There is something called a market price in our industry. It does not make economic sense for the producer to give me the same price as the lead actor of the same category. Say a Ranbir Kapoor film will open to Rs 10 crore on Friday, but my films will open significantly low. So it’s important for the producer to earn the money invested. It makes mathematic sense.”
Sonam Kapoor
Sonam Kapoor and the mathematics of the gender pay gap.
Sonam Kapoor and the mathematics of the gender pay gap.
(Photo: Yogen Shah)

But logic now demands a rethink of this mathematical equation beyond the actor’s gender. Fact is that Ranbir Kapoor is also delivering duds like Jagga Jasoos, and Ranveer Singh’s last bonafide hits were both with Deepika - Ram Leela and Bajirao Mastani, his other recent films including Befikre didn’t find many takers.

While promoting her film NH 10 in 2015, Anushka Sharma had written a column revealing that female lead actors in Bollywood get a quarter of what their leading male counterparts make.

“I feel that in the film industry, the Government should take measures to encourage us by easing our taxes. In my industry, we women get paid about ¼ of the salary of our male counterparts. Imagine, our expenditure on dresses and accessories is almost 40% of our income. Yet we are given a standard citizen’s exemption limit.”
Anushka Sharma

Recently, during the release of Secret Superstar, Aamir Khan was posed a question about the gender wage gap in Bollywood and the actor brought “stardom” into the equation which determines how much an actor gets paid.

Aamir Khan believes stardom deserves extra payment.
Aamir Khan believes stardom deserves extra payment.
(Photo: Yogen Shah)
“In films, there are two levels of payments that we have. One is for the work that you are doing. What I am doing is equal to any other actor. They all should be paid the same amount. The other aspect is that there are just two or three people in the team (of a film) who can pull people in the theatres. The others can’t do the same. That’s what we describe as stardom. That could be Salim-Javed as writers or AR Rahman as music director or anyone. Anyone who has the ability to pull the crowd in theatres deserves bigger share of money.”
Aamir Khan

However, an actor like Kangana Ranaut doesn’t think the “stardom” factor should really come into play for an artist’s fee. Talking on the issue earlier this year Kangana had said:

“There are women in the industry who say that if actresses are unable to bring in crowds (in a theatre) that a male star can, how can they demand equal pay. If we, as actresses, keep instilling this inferiority complex in girls, there is no hope for better times. Personally, my logic for remuneration has always been that I have 365 days to work, as much as any male star. An actor’s pay must be determined by the amount of work s/he does. Your gender is no yardstick for it.”
Kangana Ranaut
Kangana Ranaut’s idealistic stance on equal pay for male and female actors.
Kangana Ranaut’s idealistic stance on equal pay for male and female actors.
(Photo courtesy: Twitter/TBH)

While what Kangana says is very idealistic, Aamir’s theory of scoring extra brownie points in the wage scale for stardom is realistic and practical. But, what’s also true is that both Kangana and Aamir’s beliefs reaffirm the theory that an actor’s fee should NOT be based on gender. The dynamics of a film’s box-office returns go beyond gender and films like Piku, Kahaani, The Dirty Picture, Queen, Neerja and Pink have proved that time and again.

However, the mindset that a female actor does not deserve the same fee as a male actor also continues to be a harsh reality. As Aamir Khan puts it, “What has happened is that most of us stars are males. The people who attract more people to theatres are males. Why male stars get paid more is because of the patriarchal society. Because as kids, whatever stories we have heard, have seen boys as heroes and saviours.”

It is in this context that the question whether Deepika got a fatter pay cheque than Ranveer and Shahid for Padmavati assumes importance. And it’s not just about Deepika being a bigger “star” than both the male actors, it would just help drive home the point that we have female heroes and saviours whose stories need to be told, and we have female actors who are no less than their male counterparts.

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