In a powerful statement against the persistent gender pay gap in the film industry, Malayalam actress Parvathy Thiruvothu minced no words, describing the exorbitant salaries of male heroes in the Telugu film industry as dystopian. During a panel discussion hosted by Netflix and the National Commission for Women, the acclaimed actress passionately addressed the issue, highlighting how this wage gap hinders the progress of women in the film world.
Parvathy pointed out that despite the presence of content-driven and female-centric films in Malayalam cinema, a significant pay disparity persists between male heroes and commercially successful female actors.
Using her own experiences as an example, she recounted, “Movies like ‘Uyare’ and ‘Take Off’ were massive commercial successes, as was ‘Bangalore Days,’ directed by Anjali Menon. Even in Hindi, ‘Qarib Qarib Singlle’ garnered attention, especially in the OTT space. So, my question is this… I received a movie offer about five years ago. All my recent films had been commercial hits, and the producer said, ‘This is your story, your character leads it. Yes, there’s a superstar hero who’ll be there for about 20 days.’ So, I quoted my price, what I believed I deserved and still do.”
Despite her successful track record, Parvathy was dismayed to find that she was not compensated as expected. To add to her disappointment, the male hero who was part of the project was promised three times more than her fee.
She continued, “The producer said, ‘Parvathy, you understand how the market works, right? We need an actor who can perform exceptionally well. It’s a female-oriented film, beautifully written.’ There was no shortage of well-written roles in Malayalam, but there was no way I was going to receive fair compensation for my contribution. I committed 62 days to the film, while the hero’s commitment was only about 20 days, yet he was paid three times more than me. So, I asked, ‘Why not make this film without a female lead? Why not save that much?'”
Parvathy questioned the allocation of budgets in the film industry, emphasizing that currently, a significant 80 percent of the budget goes to the male heroes, leaving the rest to be distributed among other essential team members, including cinematographers, directors, and various departments. She stressed that this pay disparity persists even when male heroes deliver box office flops.
In a candid assessment of the situation, Parvathy declared, “It’s obscene, the amounts they’re paid, even in Malayalam. But when we look at the Telugu industry, it’s mind-boggling. To me, this is dystopian. There is a certain risk women must be willing to take.”
Parvathy’s passionate stand against the gender pay gap serves as a powerful call to action for the film industry to address this issue and ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work.