The wage inequality in Bollywood became a talking point last year, when the likes of Kangana Ranaut, Richa Chadda, Priyanka Chopra, and Anushka Sharma spoke out against it. Anushka made waves when Anupama Chopra interviewed her. Her statements got right to the root of the issue, which is that despite no malicious intent on the part of producers, men are just treated better, because there is an instinctive assumption that they are more important for the film, and that women don’t “need” to be paid that much.
In the wake of all this, there is another small, but tangible step to reducing this wage gap. Deepika Padukone, whose astonishing success at the box office is one of the most underrated things in the Hindi film industry right now, is all set to become the highest paid female actor in the history of Bollywood by demanding INR 15 crore per film.
Image Source – Pinkvilla
This is an important step, because while it is important to keep fighting for wage equality, small victories need to be appreciated. Put together, these victories can result in substantial, long-term changes.
However, there are some important things that must be kept in mind. First, the fight is for wage equality, and not women making more money compared to other women. The idea is to first have actors be compensated according to their stardom and market value, and not their gender, which, unfortunately, is still happening in the industry. This was the case with Bajirao Mastani, when Ranveer Singh was able to negotiate for a share in the film’s profits, but Deepika and Priyanka, two much bigger stars, were not.
Second, the ultimate goal is to have equal representation for women in the stories that are told through cinema, so that there are as many films that have women in the lead as there are ones with male protagonists. This, in turn, will lead to the audience being exposed to stories that they have hitherto been deprived of, which will create a market for such films, which will hopefully lead to men and women having equal market values and, therefore, equal compensation.
Anyone who says that it is not possible to have more stories that involve women in significant roles, is not only sexist, but a rank moron. This is something that people like Salman Khan need to get through their thick skulls before saying that the wage equality debate is “bullshit.” There is a systematic inequality in the film industry, which cannot be justified by giving arguments about how men get paid more because they pull more people into theatres, because that isn’t always true.
Deepika Padukone has starred in 12 consecutive box office hits, going all the way back to 2011. She is equally responsible for pulling the audience in for films like Piku, Cocktail, Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela, and Bajirao Mastani, as her male co-stars. Films like Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani andTamasha owe their success to the lure of the Ranbir-Deepika coupling, but while Ranbir Kapoor can demand huge shares of film profits as remuneration, Deepika, who is an equal partner in this pair, cannot.
Deepika deserves to be congratulated on this achievement, but there is a long way to go in the battle for wage equality in Bollywood, which needs all the support it can get.