In our last blog, we answered a few ‘frequently asked questions’ on Bollywood from the readers of this blog. Today, in the concluding part of the series, I am going to answer more such questions.
The answers seem a little harsh but they are the truth.
1. Is it true that most stars don’t step out without their PRs in tow?
Answer: Not exactly. The PRs usually decide how the stars should behave and talk to the media. Basically, the PR ensures that the star always gets a fair exposure in the media. These days the PR teams also manipulate the public life of a star and his/her social media handles as well. In most cases, the star in his private life and the star in his public life are completely different animals. Trust me, stars who seem very boring in their public life and specially in media interviews, are the ones who have exciting personal lives. Examples are aplenty. The PR controls and manipulates the star like a remote control. We must also understand here that the PR is simply doing his/her job.
2. Is it true that most Bollywood stars are unprofessional?
Answer: I am yet to come across any contemporary superstar who can be termed as a professional, barring Amitabh Bachchan (I have watched him as a professional only for the last 12 years or so). I have seen how Hollywood stars work and Bollywood is not even a pale shadow of it. Most male stars decide when they would report to work and when they would leave from work. If this is not all then some of the stars also have a huge say in who they will work with and how much money they would charge for a film project. They also lay down conditions on how they would like to be paid. These are hard-nosed negotiations but most of the time, the ball is in the hero’s court and they decide how they would play it. The producers, in most cases, are too submissive (barring a few) and are too obligated to the star to open their mouth in protest. Most of the producers are so focused on completing a film project that they ignore the tantrums of the hero and tend to rush through the shooting.
3. What about the heroines?
Answer: Being a top heroine in Bollywood requires you to play the game in a completely differently manner. You can expect a blog on it pretty soon.
4. Is it true that a chunk a film’s budget goes into paying the hero?
Answer: The lead stars (the lead actors and actresses of a film) are paid anything between 50% to 80% of the production costs if they have considerable brand value. In some cases, the heroes takes a chunk from the film’s profits too. If you are working with a star then you should be prepared to part with a chunk of your earnings as a producer. In Bollywood, this is a reason why some prominent filmmakers have stopped working with big stars. There is only one yardstick of being a star in Bollywood. You are a Bollywood star if you have the capability of pulling in audience on the first day of the show (which is termed as opening). Your capability to draw good openings decide your star value. It is because people or ‘fans’ who are coming into the theatre to see the first day shows of a film are still not aware about the quality of the film. They buy tickets only to see the star. Any Bollywood film earns the maximum amount of money in the first four days of its release. So, if you can guarantee a full house for the first four days, every producer will want to work with you. You are, therefore, a star. By that yardstick there are no female stars in Bollywood. There are only male stars and Salman Khan tops the list. Salman’s fans are expected to spend money to watch him even if the film is a very badly made product. Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn too have displayed such crowd pulling ability, where a film has garnered audience even though it had bad content. I am not counting Aamir Khan, Hrithik Roshan and Shah Rukh Khan in this list because they always had the backing of strong scripts, directors and co-actors.
5. If there’s so much money in Bollywood, then how come there’s exploitation of labour?
Answer: Bollywood spends a lot in marketing and making films but that doesn’t mean that it spends money to pay the people it employs while making a film. The technicians in Bollywood are ill-paid, mostly. The money that goes into paying script-writers, editors, assistant directors, post-production technicians are nothing compared to the money that goes into marketing and publicity or for that matter the number of foreign locations. You may go and ask any AD on a film set and some of them might even tell you that they are not even getting paid for their work. Bollywood has become such an aspirational place to be in that most people don’t even think twice before agreeing if they are asked forego their salaries or stipends to be on the sets of a big-budget production. This tendency to get a “break” in a Bollywood no matter how has prompted a section producers to exploit talent by not paying them. For producers, who are perennially short of cash after allocating budget for stars and promotions, there is sometimes no way out but to cut costs in this manner. However, most professionals do not complain about it or take it up as an issue to deal with. The daily labourers (spotboys, lightboys, porters, helps etc) on film sets have managed to arrive at an understanding with the producers about how much they should be paid on a daily basis. The unions of these labourers have strong political backup and most producers are not willing to rub them the wrong way because, as I have said earlier, they are too keen to finish the shoot on time. However the same cannot be said about the white-collar employees of Bollywood like script-writers etc. There are several proposals about regularising salaries of film technicians pending at different levels of the associations and the government as well.
First cartoon taken from here Second cartoon taken from here The meme pictures are taken from public forums