Mumbai: Bollywood stars, whose soaring fee demands continue to make headlines, also made a tidy packet from performances in award shows this season, which draws to a close on Friday with the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards in Bangkok.
Two of the most popular acts on the circuit this year have been Kareena Kapoor and Akshay Kumar, both of whom performed at the Filmfare awards—the original Indian awards ceremony, established in 1954, which was designed to emulate US’ Academy Awards. Kumar is also due to perform this weekend at the IIFA awards ceremony.
The incentive for such bankable stars to take the time to perform dance acts at award shows comes in the form of a pay package, estimated to be in the range of Rs2 lakh to Rs2 crore, with the organizers throwing in the cost of accommodation and first-class plane tickets to the ceremony’s often far-flung locations.
Expensive moves: Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut performs at the Stardust Awards 2007. (Photo: Punit Paranjpe/Mint)
With award shows multiplying, and corporate sponsors vying to throw their financial clout and brand behind the shows, stars are being offered ever-increasing amounts to bring glamour and pizzazz to the events. Representatives for the actors did not return calls for comment so the exact sums couldn’t be verified by Mint.
“There is no fixed price to get stars to perform at shows,” says Pradeep Guha, chief executive of Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd, host of the Zee Cine Awards, which entered its 12th year this year and like most shows, is held in a different global city each year. “The amount a star gets paid differs from year to year, and some get less and others more. But overall prices are going up, and stars are charging more this year than they were last year,” he adds.
Additionally, the value of a star can vary depending on whether he/she has performed at an awards show earlier in the season.
With new award shows cropping up on a near yearly basis, and each promoter clamouring to attach a roster of Bollywood stars to the event, there is a danger of brand exhaustion among audiences andorganizers.
“Award shows give the stars a platform as well as promotion straight off,” says Sabbas Joseph, director of Wizcraft International Entertainment Pvt. Ltd, the organizers of the IIFA awards, which claims to reel in 600 million viewers worldwide. “But having done previous shows will affect a star’s brand value, so we compensate them accordingly.”
This contrasts with the approach taken in the US, where performers at the Academy Awards are paid a minimum amount, in line with requirements stipulated by the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists union, while presenters are not paid at all for their appearances.
In addition to Filmfare and the Zee Cine Awards, the industry plays host to a range of shows, including the Star Screen Awards in January, which traditionally kicks off the season, as well as the government-hosted National Film Awards, Apsara, Stardust, the Global Indian Film Awards, and even the AXN Action Awards, aimed at rewarding action sequences in movies.
Despite the saturated market for awards shows, as well as previous allegations of rigging with awards reportedly going to stars closest to the organizers of the shows, or the ones able to rake in the greatest returns with a box office hit, awards shows veterans say the events do retain some credibility.
“The shows are more or less respected,” says Guha. “There was a great amount of respect initially with the launch of Filmfare as the Oscars of India. Now there is less respect, but it does determine how the industry decides who is recognized.”
Industry insiders also explain the reason behind the proliferation of shows, despite their estimated cost of between Rs10 crore and Rs20 crore, with Joseph putting the figure even higher at an average of between Rs30 crore and Rs50 crore for the IIFA awards, on a desire to rein in viewers on the back of “the Bollywood factor”.
“When the leading broadcasters show, everyone imitates,” reflects Uday Shankar, chief executive of Star India Pvt. Ltd, which is a sponsor of the IIFA awards and hosts its own awards shows, including the Star Screen Awards. “Other organizers set up wannabe shows because it gives them recognition, draws on the Bollywood factor and gets them viewership. They use it as a formula: a form of ‘me-too’ programming.”
“Bollywood is the biggest and most important source of entertainment, but to some extent, too many of these copies erode the value of the original,” he adds.
The urge to cash in on brands seems to outweigh any risk of overexposure for many actors, who instead find a ready platform in the shows to promote their films and cultivate their image.
“Traditional marketing and branding logic says too much exposure diminishes their exclusivity,” says Tarun Mehra, business head of Zee TV, whose Zee Cine Awards attracts nearly 20 millionviewers, “but that doesn’t appear to be the case here. I think probably if you see it from their point of view, they are cashing in on their popularity, as they don’t have a very long shelf life”.
He points out that although the shows are “very expensive” to host, the entire cost is usually covered by sponsors, ticket sales and sale of television rights to various channels.
The further dimension to the economics of awards shows is added through the purpose of each event, with the older, more established awards shows, such as Filmfare and the Zee Cine Awards, regarding the investment as a brand-building exercise, while shows such as the IIFA awards are more commercially driven, according to Guha.
“For event management companies, these shows are their bread and butter,” says Guha. “Their aim is to make money and build a property. For other shows such as Zee Cine, the exercise is aimed at brand building and cementing our place within the industry. The attempt is not so much to make money, as break even.”