Two women — both sassy, good to look at, popular, bankable actors, star kids — headline a film about female friendships and the big fat Indian wedding. This is a one liner for Veere Di Wedding and the two women I am talking about are Sonam Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor Khan.
And then, there are two men; both also sassy, good to look at, and popular, bankable stars; who headlined a successful 2016 buddy cop film. They are John Abraham and Varun Dhawan, and the film is Dishoom.
Both films seem to be the typical mainstream Bollywood film that large sections of Hindi-speaking audiences would be more than happy to watch. And yet, in a recent interview with Film Companion, Sonam Kapoor has spoken about how she is facing issues raising money for the budget of Veere Di Wedding.
Why, you ask? Because there are two women headlining the film, as opposed to two men. If you ever needed a reason to believe how unfortunately rampant the wage gap is in our entertainment industry, here's a big one.
In the interview, you can see the frustration dripping from Sonam's tone. She sits back with her arms folded, while her brother tells her how Bollywood should be working towards a day when it would not be a struggle to raise 50-60 crores for a solo-heroine project like Tomb Raider or Salt.
Sonam isn't buying his optimism, and neither are we. "The thing is, we are getting an okay budget for Veere Di Wedding but not what we wanted. I have to cut my fee, Bebo has to cut hers to get the film there. We need to work extra hard to look a certain way," she reveals.
It's easy for us to, at this point, say: Atleast she's getting money for a film. Isn't that a big deal? Neerja happened this year and made lots of money. So that had to be good news right? Well, partially. Yes, a solo-heroine film did very well at the box-office but was it enough? Clearly not.
When Harshvardhan asks her if she can now make a film with 70 percent more of a budget given her last few films have been a success, she flat out denies it.
"Kareena and I are two huge stars, she's given Ki and Ka, I've had Neerja, and still as a woman in this industry, I don't get my price. I'm still having difficulties getting projects off the floor with the budgets that I need, to shoot them properly. My sister had said (Rhea Kapoor), how many films will you have to do and how many hits will you have to give before you get what you want?"
This is just heart-breaking. As a sarcastic cherry on the cake, she then reveals that John and Varun got a lot more money for Dishoom than she is getting to make Veere Di Wedding.
As a consumer of Bollywood films, that is plain baffling to me. Here's a film with four women, female friendships, travel, wedding, glamour, fashion and it can't get enough money to be made? These are, quite literally, the most salable things one can put in a film.
Do the people pumping in money into this project know how much money women's products and services make every year? Why is it still assumed that only male-centric films make money at the box office?
This trend was squashed way back in 2012 when Vidya Balan-starrer Kahaani was released. The film was made on a rough budget of 10 crores, and managed to get close to 75 crores at the box office. This was four years ago, and we are still struggling with equal pay for female actors. It's important to note that in 2012, big films such as Agneepath, Ek Tha Tiger and Barfi! also released.
Well, at least we have an unabashed Sonam Kapoor, who doesn't shy away from calling a spade a spade.
While we loved Dishoom (and you, Varun), it's about bloody time investors start to realise the potential market that female actors can tap into. (Have they seen the number of dance tutorials there are of 'Kala Chasma' on YouTube? Is that because of Sidharth Malhotra or Katrina Kaif?)
Watch the whole interview here: