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Top Bollywood stars put their business skills to test

Apart from their regular acting fee, Bollywood’s top stars have been enthusiastically taking a share of risks and revenues for each of their projects...

In current times, an actor's role in a film is no longer limited to just acting, at least as far as the Bollywood biggies are concerned. Besides hogging the limelight for their histrionics, they are also actively getting involved with the production work and putting their business skills to test — invariably, to great results.

Aamir Khan

Says an industry source, "Until the '90s, actors used to be paid a certain amount of money for a project. Their film's performance at the box office was of consequence only to their image, and not their remuneration. Then came a time when they started asking for a percentage of the film's profits along with their acting fee. But now, we have actors who want to capitalise on their stardom and market value. They are plunging into production, investing money and also ensuring that they recover what they put in. While co-producing, they at times consider making a concession in their fee depending on the script or the director."

Ajay Devgn
Ajay Devgn

While co-productions are not a new trend in Bollywood, they have almost become the norm since major corporate film studios made their way into the film industry. They all about defraying risks and sharing costs — and profits too. Moreover, such an arrangement helps create buzz around a film. Trade expert Taran Adarsh says, "The stars are aware of the kind of revenue that can be generated from various avenues. When a film is selling in their name, it ensures huge audience turnout. So, they know they need to get attached to a project in more ways than one. The best way to do so is by coming on board as a producer or a partner. All top actors of the industry are following that model, which is popular in Hollywood. It's very healthy for the industry. Today, most studios and production houses are open to the idea of shaking hands with an actor and making a film jointly because the burden of investment/ loss reduces."

Aamir Khan, Akshay Kumar, Shah Rukh Khan, Hrithik Roshan and Salman Khan
Aamir Khan, Akshay Kumar, Shah Rukh Khan, Hrithik Roshan and Salman Khan

Vijay Singh, CEO of Fox Star India, believes that the industry as a whole is now increasingly aligned regarding films profitability and the concept of return on investment (RoI). "The reality is that the number of films being green-lit have gone down and actors accepting a combination of fixed fees plus back-ends is going to be the norm in future. This structuring helps build greater alignment and commitment by the actors to the eventual success of the film. Going forward, actors' fees will get more closely aligned to the day one opening of their film," he asserts.

In the past too, actors asked for more than their acting fee, says Girish Johar of Essel Vision. "They would claim particular territories and revenue from there would go into their pockets. For instance, Dharmendra used to insist taking profits from Punjab. There were others who claimed Mumbai or an overseas market. But what is happening now is that the chances of a film hitting the bull's eye is slimmer and big actors have big costs attached to them. Instead of grabbing territories, they are now asking for profits from every aspect of the filmmaking business, which includes distribution, music and satellite rights," he explains.

For example, stars like Salman Khan and Ajay Devgn have a deal with a general entertainment channel for the satellite rights of all their films for a particular period. The deal is estimated to be around Rs 400-500 crore. The music rights range between Rs 1 crore to Rs 19 crore. "There are a few actors who take their fee from the sale of satellite rights only and profit sharing percentage is additional. So, if the project doesn't do well, the producer is eventually less burdened," adds Johar.

Distributor Girish Wankhede feels that stars have been becoming more business smart as they realise their worth. "A project sells on star value. So when these actors know that they can generate a good amount of market share, they produce the film. They have also understood that this is only way of moving forward. They want to expand their business and cash in on their brand value," he concludes.

Moolah route
Music rights – Rs 1cr to Rs 19cr
Satellite rights – Rs 5cr to Rs 50cr
Profit sharing – 40 to 80 per cent
(Figures per film vary as per the market value of the stars)

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