Aamir Khan’s paycheque for Secret Superstar wasn’t smaller than Zaira Wasim. Here’s why BY SAEED NASIR

Ask Aamir Khan about the gender pay disparity in the industry however the Secret Superstar producer doesn’t see it as a gender issue at all.

Aamir Khan plays a successful musician in Secret Superstar.

Indian audience and the film industry may have accepted films which may have women as their protagonist but men and women being paid at par in Bollywood continues to be a fantasy. Ask Aamir Khan about the gender pay disparity in the industry but the Secret Superstar producer doesn’t view it as a gender issue by any means.

“You can find films developing powerful women characters. Kangana Ranaut’s Queen had a robust character, even her recent film, Simran, centered on the woman character. I’ve done two such films – Dangal and now Secret Superstar. I believe we are relocating the right direction. We are showcasing women characters, their stories and their problems,” Aamir says.

 

He believes things are changing behind the camera too. “If you take a look at a crew in Bombay, women are doing all the key jobs and they’re not viewed any differently from the men, their gender will not matter. Dangal crew was mainly women — we’ve directors of photography, we’ve directors, camerapersons. On film crews, it is fairly common to have men and women in equal,” he says.

He believes gender is immaterial so long as people include the mandatory talent. “More often than not, I don’t see people differentiating between men and women on the market. You will find women doing very important jobs, there are directors – Reema Kagti and Kiran Rao is there,” he says.

Making it more direct, we ask if Zaira Wasim – riding high on Dangal’s success and Secret Superstar’s protagonist – was paid more than him. Aamir’s role is smaller than Zaira’s in the film. “No. I’d not have an inferior paycheque because I don’t take money upfront. For my last 10 films, I haven’t charged a fee, I take a percentage of profit. That’s assuming the film will do well. Fortunately my films did well, but if it doesn’t work, I am the guy who takes the hit. I follow the oldest approach to asking for profit performing arts. Once you perform, remove your hat and have for money, if you liked my work you gives money otherwise you will just leave.”

He further explained the economics of payment to artists as a producer: “In films, there are two types of degrees of payment – you are for the task that you will be doing. Now the work that I do is equal to other actor and the distance of the role is not important. I believe all people of the creative team should be paid equally and perhaps writer and director are the only ones who should be paid higher.”

“Now in this team, there are perhaps two of us who will have the ability to pull people where the others cannot, whether I am a man or a woman. That’s something unique which i am increasing the film which is that which we describe as stardom. That may be Salim-Javed or AR Rahman, anybody who has the capacity to fill seats gets a greater payment. Your day she (Zaira) can pull more seats than me, I’d be pleased to give her a larger pay cheque, In fact, as a producer I would want her to. To be a producer, I don’t care if you are a guy or a female. You will be an animal, but if you can pull people in, I’d want you get a bigger paycheque.”

Aamir then continued to elaborate on why women still get a much lower payment than their male counterparts. “Unfortunately, almost all of the stars inside our country are males. That’s also a result of our patriarchal society. Even as kids, we have been told stories where gender roles are predefined. Adventure stories are always about boys who have leadership qualities and are the saviours. We have been raised to see males as heroes. We start planting these thoughts in our heads since childhood.”

He, however, is hopeful of change. ” There has to be a paradigm shift for the reason that. I am somebody who strongly believes in equality whether you are man or a woman. But in the end in the economics of cinema anyone who pulls people in will be paid higher. There is absolutely no question about any of it,” he said.

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