With theatres shut, releases suspended and the film industry in a cash crisis, top actors across languages, including Mohanlal and Allu Arjun, stalwarts in the Malayalam and Telugu movie industries respectively, are beginning to accept less pay than what they got earlier.
Tamil movie actor Vijay Antony has announced a 25% pay cut for three upcoming films, Tamizharasan for FEFSI Shiva, Agni Siragugal for Amma Creations’ T. Siva, and Khaki for director Senthil Kumar. Some other Tamil producers have convinced actors to reduce their fee by nearly 50%, according to trade experts who spoke with Mint on the condition of anonymity.
Earlier this month, Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA), led by Mohanlal, held a virtual meeting on the role that artistes can play during the current crisis.
“There is a general agreement that filmmakers need a helping hand right now,"said Mukesh Mehta, the founder of the film production and distribution company E4 Entertainment. “Nobody is really opposed to the idea of reduction of salaries, especially because the Malayalam movie industry has always believed in the idea of working together without creating rifts. The relationship between producers and artistes is quite direct."
It helps that top Malayalam actors such as Mohanlal have interests elsewhere, including their own theatre chains, said Mehta. That helps them evaluate the prospects of recovery of the entire value chain better.
In the Telugu industry, too, actors such as Allu Arjun, Ram Charan, and Jr NTR have their own production houses and are expected to balance their shares from final profits.
In Bollywood, there are stars, such as Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar, who can take home 50-60% of the overall production budget of the films they feature in. For an industry with dwindling revenues, the larger-than-life star system is set for a major change. Besides a cut in their remunerations, actors are also likely to see fewer facilities to travel with large entourages and PR teams, at least in the near future.
“Under normal circumstances, stars would get full leeway, but now we are counting every penny and talent will have to understand that they are also part of the final profitability," a senior executive from a leading film studio said on the condition of anonymity.