Popular Bollywood film critic lauds Ajith and Nayanthara

Ajith-and-NayantharaPopular Bollywood film critic Anupama Chopra has indirectly lauded Ajith and Nayanthara for their policy of not attending any film-related events to promote their films and requested Bollywood stars to follow the same to avoid the burgeoning entourage cost. Even Vijay, Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan usually at least attend the audio launch functions of their films.

“One of the more astounding things I’ve heard this week is that the entourage cost on the promotions of Bajirao Mastani is one crore. Which means that the producers – in this case Eros International and Bhansali Productions – are paying this much money for hair, make-up, security, stylists and staff of the principal cast as they promote the film.

So here’s what an entourage bill typically looks like. Preferred make-up artists charge 75,000 (mid-level artists are at 30,000 each for hair and make-up), stylists routinely bill 30,000 per look (the more expensive ones go into one lakh), those burly security men take approximately 10,000 per day and even drivers are now billed at 7000 to 8000 per day.

Apparently artists are demanding entourage fees even when they come for rehearsals. For a producer, it’s debilitating. And the unkindest cut is that this money doesn’t go into making the film. This is money that isn’t seen onscreen.

The logical solution is that producers should put their foot down and simply stop paying. But here’s the other side of the story. Stardom in India has become a spectator sport. Stars are brands, which need to be on 24/7.

There are cameras everywhere, pictures are circulated instantly on the net and a bad-hair day can be preserved for all posterity. Which means that artists must appear groomed permanently. “One day you aren’t perfect,” a talent manager tells me, “and the media just kills you – especially the girls.

There is just too much pressure.” Producers foot the bill during a film’s promotions. For events and television shows, the organizers usually pick up the tab and there are times when artists foot the bill themselves – like for the Mumbai Film Festival.

Not one artist asked for hair and make-up charges for events during the festival – for which we were very grateful. While the A-list can easily afford these payments, the bill becomes brutal for upcoming names. They need the media coverage but can’t invest in the upkeep. Each ‘appearance’ comes with a price tag of 25,000 to 50,000. So the artist must constantly assess – is this worth it?

I know, I know. It’s pretty tough to feel sorry for stars. In a world where everyone is desperately seeking attention, too much attention hardly seems like a pressing problem. After all, this is what they signed up for.

But how, I wonder, will this play out? If so much money goes into maintaining brands rather than actually creating content and nurturing talent, eventually won’t the movies suffer?
Should Bollywood consider taking a leaf from the Tamil film industry? I’ve read that several leading Tamil stars choose not to participate in the promotion circus. They let the work speak for itself. What a compelling idea.”

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