Taapsee Pannu Says Male Actors Who Started With Her Earn 3-5 Times More Than Her. Will Bollywood Ever Address Its Pay Disparity?
Taapsee Pannu isn’t one to mince words, and more often than not, her words on social media and during interviews serve the purpose of one of her film’s titles. Meaning, they’re a slap on certain problematic practices that we see in the society and the film industry. While her new film on Netflix, Haseen Dillruba and Taapsee’s tussle with critics over the film’s messaging are a heated debate, there’s at least one front where her stance is undoubtedly appreciated—the gender pay disparity in Bollywood.
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The Thappad actress, in an interview with The National Bulletin, called out Bollywood, where male actors who began their careers with her have managed to get paid 3-5 times more than her. While no one is trying to downplay their talent, the fact that an equally or more talented Taapsee can’t get paid the same amount despite such an impressive filmography reeks of unfair practices. What’s worse is that if a female actor were to step up and ask for more, like Kareena Kapoor Khan recently did for playing a lead role in a Mahabharata adaptation, they’re criticised severely for it.
“If a female actor asks more, she is termed difficult and problematic and if a man asks more it’s a mark of his success. Difference is, the men who started with me earn 3-5 times more than what I do. And the gap keeps increasing as we go in higher star category.”
It sucks that an actor who has worked for half a decade can hike their price, but an actor like Kareena who has spent almost two decades in the industry has to justify her fee hike and eligibility for the role.
Also Read: Taapsee Pannu Said Kareena Kapoor Being Trolled For Hiking Her Fees For Sita Reeks Of Sexism. We Agree!
And while the industry itself is to blame for it, there’s some amount of blame to be devolved on the Indian audience as well, which chooses to hype up the ‘hero’ over the ‘heroine’.
“Even now we struggle with budgets. Everyone hears that since it’s a female-driven film budgets will have to be slashed and that’s because our returns are always unfair in comparison to our male counterparts. And audience is a big reason behind that,” Taapsee Pannu said.
One of the the worst, and I mean THE WORST, workplace policies is the utmost secrecy around salaries. Because this lack of transparency around who is getting paid how much and for doing what work actually enables employers to carry on discrimination on the payscale. So even if an organisation claims that it is a staunch believer in equal opportunities, and has women on its workforce to prove that, they could still be engaging in gender pay gap by paying their female employees a pittance compared to their male employees in similar positions.
Now, while corporates are known for pulling such shady crap (you’d be surprised how often), our industries like film and sports have a slightly different issue. Their problem isn’t transparency, because star payments are one of the worst kept secrets in the industry. But as Taapsee Pannu pointed out, it is all about saleability and popularity, and despite women doing some incredible work, they’re getting paid less because a patriarchal nation’s audience prefers spending money on men over women.
This is why we need a higher influx of stories of women, for women and by women, so we can change this sexist conditioning of the audience and show them that gender doesn’t matter, talent does.