New Delhi: Looking at liquidity crisis in the film industry owing to the pandemic, top film stars across languages are accepting lower remuneration. Among veterans who are open to the idea of pay cuts are southern film industry stalwarts such as Malayalam film actor Mohanlal and Telugu films’ stars like Allu Arjun.
Tamil movie industry actor Vijay Antony has already announced a 25% salary cut for three upcoming films, Tamizharasan for FEFSI Shiva, Agni Siragugal for AMMA Creations’ T Siva and Khaki for director Senthil Kumar of Open Theatre and Infiniti Film Ventures. Reportedly, a bunch of other Tamil producers have also managed to convince actors to reduce their fee by nearly 50% in this time of crisis.
Earlier this month, the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA) led by veteran actor Mohanlal had planned a meeting on the role that artistes can play in this time of crisis. “There is a general agreement that filmmakers need a helping hand right now," Mukesh Mehta of film production and distribution company E4 Entertainment said. “Basically, 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."
Mehta added that it is helpful that in the Malayalam movie industry, top artistes like Mohanlal have interests elsewhere, including their own theatre chains. That helps them evaluate the prospects of recovery of the entire value chain better. In the Telugu industry too, actors Allu Arjun, Ram Charan, Jr NTR and others have in-house productions and are expected to balance their shares from final profits.
Back in Bollywood, there are stars some of whom can take home as much as 50-60% of the overall production budget of the films they feature in. As of now, Kartik Aaryan is the only Hindi film actor to have gone on record to say he would be willing to take a pay cut for the good of the industry while there are reports that Ranbir Kapoor, Ayushmann Khurrana and Taapsee Pannu have also slashed rates. Trade experts point out that A-list male stars such as Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn and others might technically work on profit-sharing arrangements with producers but still charge a flat fee upfront besides taking a share of the backend post release. This can translate into as much as Rs.70 crore before release and another Rs. 40-45 crore post release, that is, if the film sets the cash registers ringing at the box office.
But for an industry grappling with dwindling revenues, the larger-than-life star system is set for major change. Apart from their own remunerations, actors are likely to see fewer facilities, at least in the near future, to travel with large entourages and PR teams and have all of them put up in expensive accommodation for promotions and marketing.
“Under normal circumstances, stars would get full leeway but now we’re counting every penny and talent will have to understand that they’re also part of the final profitability," a senior executive from a leading studio said on condition of anonymity.