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The Glass Ceiling

Friday, August 19, 2016
By Deepa Gahlot

There is a little buzz around the report that Deepika Padukone is going to be paid Rs12 crore for her  next film, which would make her the highest paid actress in Indian cinema. The jubilation is justified on the one hand, for an actress it is a big jump from the current fee. But, if compared to what the males are getting, it is still a fraction, and the disparity is huge.

Like in every other field, the film industry too has a glass ceiling, which women will have a tough time breaking. The industry is so male dominated and money-oriented, that it might take years for the male-female pay gap to close. The way the business functions, the male superstars drive it, the massive opening figures are due to the presence of a male superstar. The leading ladies play supporting roles — even if the role is important, like that of Anushka Sharma in Sultan — and are mostly interchangeable. On their filmography, the heroines may have a 300-crore hit, but they know they can’t get credit for it. It’s not that the leading lady does not matter, it’s just that the leading man matters more.

This huge gap seems to be a result of the entry of the male superstar and the age of the action, when the actress receded into the background, and somehow never regained lost ground. When family dramas and romances were in vogue, the women had as much to do as the men, and the top female star did not complain of being paid less that the male star. Or maybe, the women then didn’t complain at all!

Now, some of the A list female stars have found that their films make money even without a strong male star, so why should they get paid less?  It has happened in recent times, that a star like Deepika Padukone, Kareena Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Kangana Ranaut has been paid more than the leading man. And these actresses have delivered results in hits without the male superstars too. It’s just that the hits have not been as big as, say, a Sultan. But they are inching there, and since the industry just understands profit, they are even considering making films with these actresses at the centre of the film.

That Deepika is getting paid that amount is all very well, but the question is whether the leading man is getting the same amount too. If yes, then it would be a show of woman power. If not, then the glass ceiling is still intact!

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