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Shah Rukh himself, as the biggest Bollywood star today, both in India and on the NRI circuit, could easily charge Rs. 7 crore per film, but doesn't. His logic is clear. "The film industry has made me the star I am today, so I won't overcharge the producers; I will, instead, make my money from endorsements and stage-shows."
So the King Khan doesn't, in fact, charge his producers a bomb. He'd rather work with the best of filmmakers and banners so that his films are hits, and then use his popularity to make the really big money. Steel magnate Laxmi Mittal paid Shah Rukh a fortune to dance at his daughter's wedding. In fact, you see more of the superstar in ad films than feature films.
Endorsements are a relatively new source of revenue for film stars, and that's where the big money really is. It's the cola companies, traditionally, that pay films stars the most for endorsements, and though the ministry of health keeps begging stars to stay away from colas, the fact remains that Shah Rukh and Aamir Khan make around Rs 6 crore for every beverage they ask you to drink.
International watch companies are known to pay the least for their ad campaigns, but that's because of the prestige value attached to endorsing such high-end time-machines. Hrithik Roshan only does ads that go with his up market image. Titan pays Aamir Rs. 10 crore for a three-years endorsement contract.
Aamir Khan is not as exclusive with his endorsement as he is with films. His price for feature films is about Rs 5 to 6 crore per film, and the producer doesn't get an actor who just shoots and leaves. Instead, he gets an actor who's involved in every stage of the film, from scripting to pre-production to post-production. For instance, Aamir has a lot to do with the script of Mangal Pandey and Rang De Basanti. He paid as much attention to the pre-re-lease publicity of these two movies as he did to the publicity of his home production, Lagaan.
Why is Aamir in a different league?
Although Aamir Khan is in the same bracket as Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar, as far as remunerations go, there's something that sets him apart.
Aamir has handled his career in a unique way. Salman and Akshay maybe seen in five, six and even seven films a year, but Aamir has one release in maybe three years. Rang De Basanti and Fanaa in 2006 were exceptions. Shah Rukh also works in few films, but the experimentative streak in Aamir makes him different from the King Khan. He does a Sarfarosh in spite of having a lover boy image - and succeeds too. He works in Rang De Basanti in which the climax belongs to a rank newcomer, Siddharth. He doesn't hesitate in playing a terrorist in Fanaa.
Even when Mangal Pandey failed to cover its huge cost, Aamir's popularity didn't take a beating. There was no question of his price coming down because star salaries never decline, not at the level at which he is today. What's more, his two films this year took phenomenal initials and went on to become hits. Aamir's popularity in the ad world also didn't diminish despite his divorce, mainly because he conducted himself with a lot of dignity. Generally, when deciding on their models, ad executive take into account their acceptability among the youth and families, and their market standing in public places. Aamir scores on all fronts, notwithstanding his divorce.
There are other factors as well, that influence star prices. In the early '90s, audio companies like Tips and Venus that ventured into filmmaking, lured the stars to their banners by paying them double their market rates. The music companies got into film production with tons of money. Today, ironically, these very companies complain that star prices are too high.
Myth Versus Reality
Myth: Shah Rukh Khan is the highest paid hero.
Reality: He can command the highest price, but he doesn't. Salman Khan, Aamir Khan and Akshay Kumar are the highest paid stars.
Myth: Stars charge a lot of black money.
Reality: Most stars today prefer to accept cheque payments.
Myth: Stars get their entire fee irrespective of the
losses of the producer.
Reality: Stars are a considerate lot. They sometimes do forgo their remuneration if they are convinced about the genuineness of the losses. If not, they may even take legal action to recover their fees. Amitabh Bachchan got the last installment of his pay for Boom from court.
Myth: Stars pay their make-up men and hair-dressers
Reality: They are paid by the producer. Even the personal staff of the stars like spotboys, attendants and drivers gets paid by the producer on the days of shooting, over and above their monthly salary from the star.
Star Bucks and Net Appeal - Part II
Star Bucks and Net Appeal - Part III
BAFTA Goes Bollywood Weekend