The Fight for Equal Paychecks in Bollywood
“I was in Los Angeles sometime back when I got to know that Salt was actually written for Tom Cruise, ” explains Kareena. “And Angelina Jolie was actually the second choice; it wasn’t Brad Pitt or anyone else. In India, there’s no such choice.”
“It’s always between three or four Khans or other male actors. I guess female actors are there for just dancing with them. We have to stand behind Shah Rukh and Salman (Khan) and say, ‘Hey! I’m here too, give me something to do.’ And the paychecks… what Salman gets and what I get… let’s not even get there,” said Kareena.
Today, Kareena is the highest earning woman in Bollywood, reportedly demanding up to Rs.8 crore for Madhur Bhandarkar’s Heroine. But the actor still doesn’t consider herself a hero among women.
“I don’t get paid as much as leading men. I am not on the same platform as them. But I am going to fight for it, and hopefully one day we will get there. But I do believe that god has been kind. Somewhere my hard work has been recognized, and I am also gladened by the stellar performance of Vidya Balan who proved to be the hero of 2011 hit The Dirty Picture,” she added.
Although gender inequality also exists in the Hollywood film industry, the gap is slowly closing. Leading Bollywood actors will typically earn about $2-3 million per film while their leading ladies earn about half. Will the leading ladies of Bollywood mange to close the gender gap…or will producers turn to newer, fresher faces willing to accept the reduced wages?