Big stars, bigger money - Films, endorsements & events: Odia actors, actresses rake in moolah like never before

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By NAMITA PANDA
  • Published 27.11.11
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Bhubaneswar, Nov. 26: Being a movie star is a pretty profitable enterprise, not just in Bollywood but in the Odia film industry, too.

Even as Bollywood stars are raking in the moolah and demanding hike in salaries after every subsequent hit, Odia film stars are not too far behind.

Anubhav Mohanty and Barsha Priyadrashini have emerged as the highest paid actors in the Odia film industry. Anubhav charges Rs 15 lakh a film whereas Barsha commands a price of over Rs 5 lakh. Their film Balunga Toka topped charts during Dussehra and Diwali and still continues to run in Bhubaneswar theatres.

The Odia film industry has evolved into a multi-crore enterprise with the actors and actresses earning high returns for brand value. A far cry from the pay-to-get-a-role days, today Odia films have become a lucrative career option. Gone are the days when superstars of the likes of Uttam Mohanty and Aparajita had to be content with only a few thousand rupees despite a series of successful films.

Today, not only do films offer great packages, actors are frequently seen endorsing brands.

Last year many film stars were roped in as brand ambassadors for the inaugural edition of the Odisha Premier League (OPL) T-20 cricket tournament. Then there are appearances at stage shows, corporate events and television reality shows that use the brand image of the stars to pull in crowds. In return, these stars get fat paycheques.

This year, Anubhav was seen in three films – Most Wanted, Kiese Dakuchi Kouthi Mate and Balunga Toka. The actor turned into an icon after his first film I Love You (2005) broke all box-office records. It still is the biggest Odia grosser. Anubhav, who recently ventured into film production with his upcoming project Something Something, is currently the ambassador for a shopping mall, mineral water company, shirt line and television channel. The star demands about 2 lakh for each, says industry sources. He was also one of the brand ambassadors of OPL and is believed to have made between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 8 lakh from the event. Anubhav charges over Rs 30,000 for appearances at events as a guest for about a couple of hours.

Actor-turned-MP Siddhant Mohapatra is concentrating more on his political career now and his popularity appears to have decreased with only a couple of films being released every year. However, he still charges Rs 5 lakh for a film. He endorses a number of products and was recently roped in as the brand ambassador of a popular jewellery chain for which, sources say, he received more than Rs 1 lakh. He charges between Rs 15,000 and Rs 20,000 for stage appearances.

Other popular heroes such as Sabyasachi, Babushan, Aakash and Arindam, also charge between Rs 3 lakh and Rs 4 lakh for a film and with three to four releases every year. These stars are paid between Rs 20,000 and Rs 30,000 for appearances at programmes and around Rs 1.5 lakh per endorsement.

“During the eighties, most actors were offered only a couple of thousands for a film. Even the top actors had to be satisfied with around Rs 20,000 as remuneration for a film. But things have changed. From the Rs 8-10 lakh multi-star films of then, the minimum cost of production of a commercial film is Rs 80 lakh now. Hence, lead actors are paid in lakhs,” said film critic Ashok Palit.

Actresses, too, charge high fees now. While Barsha Priyadrashini is the highest paid among the female stars, Archita is catching up with her growing popularity and more number of films and gets around Rs 3.5 lakh for a movie. Anu Choudhury, who spends most of her time in Mumbai these days, has lost some following and receives between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 3 lakh for each film, which is similar to what Priya Choudhury charges. Actresses Megha Ghosh and Arpita Bannerjee charge over Rs 1.5 lakh for a film.

When it comes to endorsements, Archita and Barsha, who are ambassadors for several brands, demand about Rs 1.5 lakh for each endorsement. While Archita is seen regularly at cultural events and is paid between Rs 20,000 and Rs 30,000 for each of them, Barsha rarely attends public events.

Comedian Pappu, who has a large fan following among people of all ages, has emerged the highest paid comedian for Odia films. He receives Rs 20,000 for stage programmes and charges Rs 12,000 a day for film shoots.

“My part in a film usually takes less time to shoot and gets over in 8 to 10 days. Since television shows and stage events keep me busy, I demand a daily payment of Rs 12,000 so that my part is shot in the scheduled time and I get my remuneration properly while not missing out on my other commitments. Comedians are yet to be valued by the industry. But I’m satisfied with my payment,” he said.

Filmmakers and producers feel that the growing budget of films as well as the growth of media and publicity has led to creation of larger-than-life images of actors.

“With actors such as Uttam Mohanty and Bijay Mohanty, we were more like family members. They knew every detail of the budget of the film, which used to be quite low. Today, since computer graphics and outdoor shoots are unavoidable, the budget has gone up. Hence, actors also demand a higher fee,” said Sanjay Nayak of Brajraj movies.

“Though the personal touch in our relationship with the actors may be missing to some extent, filmmakers do not mind since this has made the industry more professional. With the growing number of Odia entertainment programmes and channels, film actors have got the status of stars because of greater publicity. It has only helped in creating a bigger image for the Odia film industry,” Nayak said.

The number of movie theatres has reduced from over a 100 to 80 in the state, but film producers say the business is thriving.

“My film Mate Bohu Kari Nei Jaa was made for a budget of over Rs 2 crore because we shot the entire movie in Bangkok for which the crew had to stay there for a couple of months. Though I did not make huge profits, the film managed to break even,” said producer Gyanaranjan Priyadarshan.

The Odia film industry provides employment to more than 6,000 people, says Odisha Film Development Corporation (OFDC).

“We had conducted a survey about four years ago. We found out that every year, 15 to 20 Odia films release in the state with an average production cost of Rs 80 lakh. More than 6,000 people, directly and indirectly, work in the state’s film industry,” said P.K. Mishra, OFDC’s deputy general manager of finance.