Shocking! Akshay, Saif & Ranbir cut fees following Bollywood's economic hassles ?

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2015 has been one of Bollywood’s worst years so far. Most bankable projects & films have fallen flat, thereby leading to a revision in the approach to ‘bankable’ stars (read male stars).

In most recent developments, Akshay Kumar, amongst the highest paid Bollywood actors at 35 crores and above per film, has reportedly agreed to revise his remuneration. Both releases of Akshay this year- Baby & Gabbar is Back- have crawled to the guaranteed 100 crore mark of the action star. Ranbir Kapoor is also reported to have knocked off a couple of crores from his compensation of ‘Bombay Velvet’ recently, although no one from the film’s team is saying anything. And Saif Ali Khan, who used to refuse to budge from his 15 crore compensation, has decided to knock off his fee substantially in the past one year (for Devotion of Suspect X). It should be noted that these fees are often linked to a share in profit percentages from the film. Making a star co producer also dilutes their fee substantially. So for instance, making a star a co producer in a film (like NH 10 and Anushka Sharma) knocks off a chunk of the fee.

Profit percentages are the method that Aamir Khan has used so far to collect his pay cheque. Aamir who is the only actor in India to have delivered a 300 crore film (grossing a lot more in China currently), with PK, approaches his payment differently. In an interview to Hindustan Times, Aamir said, “When I do a film, I don’t charge a fee. What it does is that it immediately takes away the weight or pressure of signing a big star. I am like a street performer. I do a film for which I don’t charge anything. If the film is good, people will come to the theatres and pay money for the tickets, making the film a success. And then, I will charge from the box-office earnings as per how the film has done economically.

While his contemporary Khans have also worked with profit percentages, producers seem to be wary of this approach too. Look at Salman Khan’s jocular comment that he didn’t work in Shuddhi as it’s producer, Karan Johar, wanted to work with a less expensive actor. With the producers association strongly lobbying against entourage costs of stars, this current turn of poor business in films has ensured that producers negotiate hard on fee reduction. Entourage costs, particularly of leading ladies, tend to go up to 1.5 lakh per day.

While no one comes on the record so far, reports suggest that the film producers’ association might soon be working towards contractual accountability of a star. This means that final payments will be linked to a film’s box office performance. Perhaps that’s why an upcoming male star with a big film hitting theatres this week was ruefully recounting how their lot has ‘missed the bus’ on profit percentages.

Will these changes from Bollywood stars ring in a paradigm shift in skewed film economics? Like the fate of a film, it is too soon to speak on that.

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