Caught in choppy market, hit by an economic tsunami world's largest film industry, Bollywood is also facing rough weather. The boat is rocking. Big budget projects are folding up, expansion plans are being kept on hold and worst of all corporate houses are calling off their fancy multi-film contracts. But are stars affected by this sudden bubble burst? Most importantly will they also take pay-cuts like the rest of working class?
Senior chartered accountant Satish Pai declares ominously,"This is just the begining of the meltdown, it will continue for the next five years and financial scene will be really grim in the years to come. Very soon the biggest star will definitely have to take a pay cut," he stresses.
In the last three years, ever since corporate funding flushed into filmdom, talent cost shot up. Stars witnessed a euphoric hike in their fees, "Shahrukh Khan was the only star who had seen that kind of money earlier and that too because he used to have 50 per cent partnership in his films.
But with the corporate boom even second-rung actors clinched plum multi-crore deals," trade analyst N P Yadav points out.
So does it really mean that even Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar and Sanjay Dutt - the three stars who benefited the most by the corporate boom-will have to revise their charges? "They will have to slash their fees or stick to working in films made under their own banners," declares analyst Vinod Mirani. While Akshay Kumar laughs off his enviable Rs 60 crore tag as "way too bloated", Salman Khan brushes off the possibility of cutting his price saying,"Recession is for those who overcharge and certainly not for me who works hard and honestly. I charge what I deserve. So where is the question of slashing my price?" he counters.
On the other hand, Sanjay Dutt admits, "When the going was good, I took a handsome price. But when there is a downslide, I am prepared to face a pay cut. Why only me, all of us will have to play it to the market mood," he adds sportingly.
Irfan, the poster boy of new-wave mid-budget cinema informs that the budgets of two of his UTV films have been "re-negotiated" but he argues that he never shot up his charges so he's not "cutting down" his price. However he concedes, "For an appropriate project, I am game for a slight cut."
Trade insiders have it that the only stars who have never been in the "rat-race" and are above the recession are Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan and Aamir Khan because unlike their contemporaries they never hiked their prices disproportionately. Ajay Devgan, who also had stoically held his own and commanded a steady market price even after Golmaal turned out to be a hit, has surprisingly chosen these troubled times to hike his fees, "After the success of Golmaal Returns he is contemplating raising his price," said his spokesperson, Parag Desai.
If the male bastion is facing the axe, the going doesn't look too good for the female of the species,"The first to succumb to recession will be the girls. It doesn't make too much difference if you cast a newbie opposite Salman Khan," reasons Vinod Mirani.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, one of the highest-paid actors agrees,"The economic crisis has touched every person's life, and we will all deal with it in whatever way it hits us. I do not know much about the business aspects of films, but work wise, so far so good."
Vidya Balan's business manager K S Sanjay explains, "Vidya is known as a reasonably-priced actor. We always knew this was a bubble that would burst and we always charged a fee that was viable for filmmakers. So we remain unaffected it," he says firmly.
Newcomer Sada, who has a few Southern hits to her credit and makes her Hindi debut withKhalbali, elaborates, "If producers ask me to cut down my fees because of the recession, I will surely consider doing so provided the story and director are good enough. The number of films I act in doesn't depend on how much I am paid," she stresses. And Bengal-import Rituparna Sengupta is also prepared for the eventuality of "cut" as she feels it is a global phenomenon and everyone will have to face the brunt.
Veteran actor Farooque Shaikh is of the view that "only the highest-paid actors will be affected" while Sonu Sood, whose Ek Vivaah - aisi bhi released recently is open for a pay-cut,"Together we should bail out the industry out of this crisis," he suggests.
While multi-crore, multi-film deals have been put on backburners by corporate companies and it seems like an uphill task for actors, the importance of big stars and grand cinema cannot be undermined. With mushrooming multiplexes all over the country, super stars and super cinema will continue to rule. As of now, we do not know of a single instance where a star has gone back on his contract and corrected his remuneration. No one has been really "cut to size" so far!