#Opinion

Not A Penny More, Not A Penny Less: Why Equal Pay Is Such An Issue?

Deepika Padukone equal pay
Deepika Padukone Equal Pay: Deepika Padukone doesn’t mince her words, whether it is about stigmas that surround mental health in our country, feminism or equal pay. The news is out that Padukone has walked out of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s next film Baiju Bawra after the makers weren’t able to pay equal wages as the male lead, in this case, her husband, actor Ranveer Singh.

The truth in this news will probably come out in the days to come, as so far there have been no official statements from either the makers of Baiju Bawra, or Padukone herself. But why should an actor of Deepika Padukone’s stature have to ask for equal pay at all? Hasn’t she earned that right already? A few weeks ago, actor Kareena Kapoor Khan made headlines after she reportedly sought ₹12 crores to play the role of Sita in Alaukik Desai’s Ramayan. As seasoned professionals, both these women know their worth and standing in the industry, so what is wrong with asking for more money? And why, when they do so, is it looked down upon?

“Apparently, Deepika wants the same remuneration as her husband. Not a penny more, not a penny less,” a source has confirmed to Bollywood Hungama. But is that an unfair demand?

This isn’t the first time Padukone has walked away from a project when her demands of pay that did justice to her stature in the entertainment industry were not met. Back in January 2019, Padukone had spoken about letting go of a film because the director said he “couldn’t afford her” as he had to “accommodate” the male actor.

Padukone has a huge body of work behind her, both critically and commercially successful, which should enable her to negotiate her own terms. Don’t you think it is going to let her sleep more peacefully at night knowing that what she did was right? Why should she be content being underpaid even after putting in equal creative contribution as her male co-star?

In World Economic Forums Global Gender Gap Report 2021 India has slipped 28 places. It is ranked 140th among 156 participating nations. We are the third-worst performer in South Asia. Women’s labour force participation rate and women in technical roles have also slipped in 2020, the estimated earned income of women is one-fifth that of men. When bankable names like Padukone have to face such discrimination the plight of an average Indian woman is but understandable.

Not going to be able to see your favourite Deep-Veer in the next Bollywood magnum opus can be upsetting when you are reading your page three gossip but it is discouraging beyond words to read that even top tier actresses in Bollywood have to struggle just to get what they deserve. No Indian woman actor has been part of the Forbes World’s Highest-Paid Celebrities but several male names from Bollywood have made it time and again. Isn’t that enough to highlight the inherent bias in the system? It is about time we change this.

The views expressed are the author’s own.