Around the world, and particularly in the world of cinema, women are seen in different ways. Some are seen as strong, powerful figures who stand up for what they believe is right, who work hard to achieve their dreams and are genuine success stories no matter what background they’ve come from. Others are portrayed as sex objects who are only famous for being beautiful and appearing on the television, big screen or radio. Then there are others who fall between the two categories.
You can work hard and make a successful career as a woman, particularly in cinema where women have taken on a variety of roles from Presidents to action heroes. While a lot of the top Hollywood actresses are famous for being in one or two major blockbusters and then just about every advert you see on television, they’re nearly always listed after their male co-stars on the posters. In Bollywood, however, actresses are right up there in the list of superstars and you only have to look on erosnow.com to see the vast array of movies where the leading female actress is listed before their male co-star. While this all sounds great in the battle for equality and women’s rights, the problem with all of this is that some women are seen as being exploited in cinema, and Indian cinema in particular.
One Bollywood star in particular, Kangna Ranaut, has spoken out recently about how female actresses are exploited with her particular gripe being about the money they receive in comparison to male stars. In a recent interview ahead of the release of “Queen”, in which Kangna plays the role of Rani, a girl lacking in self confidence and self respect, she said “Bollywood is a part of society and here too there is exploitation of women. This can happen at a physical or mental level. The salaries are so different. What guys get, their counterparts don’t even get 30% of it despite the fact that females give similar amounts of dedication and working hours.”
If this is true, and we have no reason to doubt the word of Kangna, it is a shame. Bollywood actresses, and all actresses for that matter, should be rewarded for the work they put into these top films. The commitment to learning the roles and then producing them in accordance to the way that the director has demanded is admirable; they should not only receive higher wages for doing their own stunts (for example), they should be rewarded for putting the same work in as their male co-stars.
We’re all well aware of how much money producers have to spend when it comes to making their next movie, it’s in the papers for all to see more often than not, and there’s no reason why the stars should not be allocated their fees from the remaining budgets. If women are going to act, dance, sing and produce performances of the same standard – or even higher – than male actors, then they should get the same pay and not be exploited just because their co-star might be a little bit higher up the ‘A list.’
To many young actresses it may simply seem as though this is “the norm” and that all young film stars will be paid less than their elders and those more experienced, however there comes a time when either the pay needs to be matched or the stars themselves need to speak out. Not just because they want a higher wage, they’re still paid very well in comparison to the everyday man or woman in the street making a living, but to raise awareness of the gaps in so-called ‘equality.’ Sure, it’s never going to be easy to stand up among a crowd of producers, directors and film stars, but by doing so Kangna has potentially opened the door for other actresses to speak up and hopefully improve the conditions and standards for women in Indian cinema.