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Gender Pay Gap: Why Deepika and Kangana are Due for an Increment

It’s time Bollywood put their mouth where their money is and stopped asking “Film ka hero kaun hai?”

Updated
Entertainment
3 min read
Deepika Padukone’s box-office clout is as good or bad as that of any top Bollywood hero.
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“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

Whichever diet she is on, Sonam really needs to eat her words because her mathematics is currently making no sense at all. While Ranbir Kapoor’s Bombay Velvet is struggling to cross the Rs 25 cr mark at the box-office, Deepika Padukone’s Piku is flying high in its third week with Rs 72 cr and Kangana Ranaut’s Tanu Weds Manu Returns is eyeing the Rs 100 cr milestone having earned over Rs 55 cr in just 5 days.

Kangana Ranaut continues to be the Queen of Bollywood with the success of <i>Tanu Weds Manu Returns.</i>
Kangana Ranaut continues to be the Queen of Bollywood with the success of Tanu Weds Manu Returns.

And this not a flash in the pan or an exception - jog your memory to Anushka Sharma’s sleeper hit NH10 earlier this year or Vidya Balan’s previous golden run at the box-office with No One Killed Jessica (with Rani Mukerji), The Dirty Picture and Kahaani. The mathematics here pours cold water over the belief that’s been blindly bandied about for decades in the film industry – that heroes “deserve” to charge more money than heroines.

Vidya Balan rewrote the Kahaani for Bollywood heroines with back to back hits.
Vidya Balan rewrote the Kahaani for Bollywood heroines with back to back hits.

Just to put things into perspective - while Bollywood’s highest paid actress, Deepika Padukone, can ask for anything between Rs 7 to 9 cr per film, a Ranveer Singh is reportedly paid something between Rs 15 to 20 cr for the same (the top 3 Khans are in a totally different league with price tags of Rs 50 cr upwards).

This institutionalised gender disparity isn’t just a Bollywood anomaly. Remember Patricia Arquette’s Oscar acceptance speech this year?

“To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
Patricia Arquette
Patricia Arquette during her passionate Oscar speech about wage equality for women.
Patricia Arquette during her passionate Oscar speech about wage equality for women.

And believe it or not, women not only make up more than half of the professional and technical workforce in the United States, they are also increasingly outnumbering men in higher education.

Back home keeping with tradition, girls continue to top the Board Exams (say congrats to Delhi’s M Gayatri for an incredible 99.2% this year), right after five Indian women who have just made it to the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires.

Deepika Padukone in a still from her recent super hit <i>Piku.</i>
Deepika Padukone in a still from her recent super hit Piku.
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This really isn’t about girl power; it’s just common sense. A Ranveer Singh and a Deepika Padukone work in an 8-hour shift for about 40 days to complete a film. They both spend another month promoting it and have NO control over how the film will eventually perform at the box-office – so WHY should there be a disparity in their remuneration?

The first question any studio asks a filmmaker who is pitching a script is, “Hero kaun hai?”, it’s this khap panchayat-esque mindset that needs an overhaul. If you really believe that ‘content is king’, then put your mouth where your money is. And right now your money is with the Deepikas and the Kanganas of the industry.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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