(1) Amitabh Bachchan - ₹3cr (Maine kudh ko ₹3cr dene ka faisla kiya hain)
Bachchan is contracted to do one film a year for ABCL (Aamitabh Bachchan corporate Limited) , for which he will be paid Rs 3 crore per film
At Rs 3 crore, Amitabh Bachchan is grossly overpaid. He is no longer a hero." - Box office 1995.
(2) Sunny Deol - ₹70-80 lakhs
(3) Ajay Devgan - ₹70 lakhs (rumour)
(4) Akshy Kumar - ₹55 lakhs
(5) Madhuri Dixit - ₹50 lakhs (Highest Paid Actress ever at that time)
(5) Nana Patekar - ₹50 lakhs
(6) Anil Kapoor - ₹50 lakhs (rumour)
(7) Mithun Chakraborty - ₹40 lakh
(8) Sanjay Kapoor - ₹30 lakh+
(9) Akshaye Khanna - ₹30 lakh+
(10) Bobby Deol - ₹30 lakh+
(11) Sunil Shetty - ₹30 lakh (acc to rumors he was paid ₹50 lakh for a film)
(8) Shahrukh khan - under ₹30 lakh
Note -In an informal survey comparing box office openings in 1994 with star prices, FI concluded that only Shah Rukh, who has fixed his price at under Rs 30 lakh, is worth the money
(9) Sri Devi - ₹25 lakh
(10) Juhi Chawla - ₹20-25 lakh
(11) Kajol - ₹10-15 lakhs
(12) Raveena Tandon - ₹10-15 lakhs
(13) Karisma Kapoor - ₹10-15 lakhs
(14) Manisha Koirala - ₹10-15 lakhs
While production costs in Bollywood have doubled in the past five years, star prices have risen even faster. The Rs 50-lakh payment, once reserved for the top few, no longer raises eyebrows. Madhuri Dixit, the undisputed number one after HAHK, reportedly signed Rakesh Roshan's Koyla for Rs 50 lakh, be coming the highest paid heroine ever.
Nana Patekar, after the success of Krantiveer, has also entered the Rs 50 lakh bracket. Among the top-ranking heroines, actresses such as Juhi Chawla are charging Rs 20 lakh plus and fast-rising stars such as Kajol, Raveena Tandon, Karisma Kapoor and Manisha Koirala fall in the Rs 10 lakh to Rs 15-lakh bracket. But the big money is reserved for the heroes.
Amitabh Bachchan, number one despite his long absence, is believed to be worth several crores. ABCL or the Amitabh Bachchan Corporation Ltd, a company floated by the actor and managed by Kotak Mahindra, assesses his brand value in the market to be Rs 150 crore.
Bachchan is contracted to do one film a year for ABCL, for which he will be paid Rs 3 crore per film - all in white. The others, though nowhere close, are also making substantial sums. Ajay Devgan is rumoured to have been offered Rs 70 lakh. Sunny Deol is reportedly receiving Rs 50 lakh for 15 days work in Raj Kumar Kohli's yet-untitled production.
Sunil Shetty, after Anth, Mohra and Gopi Kishan last year, is believed to be receiving Rs 30 lakh for a month's work in Kohli's film. Mithun Chakraborty, despite umpteen consecutive flops, asks for Rs 40 lakh. Even novices such as Sanjay Kapoor, Akshaye Khanna and Bobby Deol are in the Rs 30-lakh plus category. Says one producer: "Today, a star can ask for what he wants and get it. It's a bidding war."
The demand far exceeds the supply. The industry has four or five saleable stars and an average of 150 films in production at any given time. The decline in film production - 119 films were released in 1994 as against 133 in 1993 - hasn't had much effect.
Producers, unwilling to risk launching new faces, are paying for names that sell. Shetty, a hot favourite, is booked till end-1997 and has 30 producers waiting to sign him. Shah Rukh Khan is booked for the next 18 months. Akshay Kumar, also hot after Yeh Dillagi and Mohra, has 12 films on the floor and a 30-producer waiting list.
The shortage has been further compounded by the Film Makers Combine (FMC) diktat, implemented in July 1989, that leading artists can have only 12 films on the floor at a time. Several, realising that less is more, are doing even fewer films.
Anil Kapoor, Sunny Deol, Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh and Ajay Devgan prefer to remain exclusive. One producer, who has recently signed Deol for Rs 60-lakh plus, calls it "fancy-buying". He says: "There are so few Sunny starrers, so the curiosity is still there. He has a draw."
But are the prices justified? "No," says Film Information (FI) editor Komal Nahta. "These prices are not commensurate with the stars' ability to draw the audience." In an informal survey comparing box office openings in 1994 with star prices, FI concluded that only Shah Rukh, who has fixed his price at under Rs 30 lakh, is worth the money.
The rest, including Deol, Salman Khan, Jackie Shroff and Saif Ali Khan, are overpaid. Says Amod Mehra, publisher of Box Office: "Today, only Sunny and Ajay are worth their price. At Rs 3 crore, Amitabh Bachchan is grossly overpaid. He is no longer a hero."
The stars, naturally, don't agree. Shetty denies being paid Rs 50 lakh but says that whatever his price, it is justified. He says: "The producer is selling the film on my name for Rs 60 lakh to Rs 75 lakh per major territory. So I should also get my share."
Anil Kapoor, who recently refused a Rs 75-lakh offer, agrees: "I'm taking money that I think I deserve. I'm worth this." He says he has reduced his price when the project demanded it - Lamhe and 1942: A Love Story - and even renumerated producers when films flopped.
There is also an element of raking in the money while the coffers are open.
Star fortunes change every Friday. Sridevi, the reigning queen only a few years ago, is rumoured to have brought her price of Rs 35 lakh down to Rs 25 lakh today. Salman Khan, after a meteoric rise and fall, is emerging from the shadows only after HAHK and now, Karan Arjun.
Says distributor Shyam Shroff: "The sale ability of a star depends on the last picture. Once you flop, people won't work with you for free."
Producer Pahlaj Nihalani, who denies rumours that he paid Anil Rs 50 lakh each for Andaaz and Mr Azad, calls the stars "sensible and practical". He says: "The market is good for good films. So why shouldn't we pay our actors. Mil baant ke khana chahie (You should share whatever you earn)."
The market is indeed good. HAHK has opened up the potential of the business. Increased ticket rates - as high as Rs 75 for 1942: A Love Story and Rs 100 for HAHK in Bombay - have seen collections ballooning. Audiences seemingly are returning to the theatre. Producers today have other sources of income - satellite, cable, music and overseas rights.
Today, a Rs 3-crore worth A-grade film can make Rs 5 crore plus on the sale of territory, music and overseas rights excluding television, satellite and cable rights, which are sold later.
What has changed dramatically is the box office potential. Earlier, an all-India gross of Rs 10 crore to Rs 15 crore was considered a bonanza. Today, HAHK's Rs 100-crore estimate is the benchmark. And stars, the main ingredients, naturally want a bigger share.
The danger lies in the unfounded optimism that all films will do an HAHK at the box office. Bollywood's flop to hit ratio remains 80:20. Says Nahta: "Business has increased for good films, not all films."
In a booming market, producers who were once asking for Rs 40 lakh per major territory are demanding and receiving Rs 70 lakh. Distributors paying these prices would need to gross Rs 1 crore plus at the box office just to break even.
In a year, not even 15 films touch the Rs 1-crore mark. Distributor Ramesh Sippy, in the business for 25 years, stopped buying films six months ago. He says: "It has become an extreme business. What works, really works and what doesn't becomes a disaster. The economics have gone haywire."
The question is, who stops the buck? Some believe that stars, taking a cue from Shah Rukh, should revise their prices. Shah Rukh makes a lot of money through shows abroad and endorsements but keeps his price well below what the market offers.
Says his agent Anwar Khan: "We want to make sure that everyone makes money and is happy. That will ensure a good demand in the long run." But stars believe the responsibility lies with the producers. Says Anil Kapoor: "The producer must be the one to refuse." And producers, as long as there are distributors lining up to buy films, will naturally keep chasing star names to prop up projects.
The realists see the chain breaking when distributors paying artificial prices suffer exorbitant losses. And some say, not even then. As Anil Kapoor says: "There will be a crash of the mediocre. The best will survive and charge astronomical sums." Clearly, the price war will go on.
- The figures are estimated earnings from industry sources.