Bollywood stars are assured huge payouts every time they sign on to a new project, be it a big-budget or an indie film. But, there are instances where actors accept little to no amount for their services, for the pure joy of portraying a role, or as a favour or token of respect to the filmmaker. These are times when the softer and more humane side of celebrities comes into the limelight. They’re people after all, lucky enough to practice the profession they love. There are also times when novice actors forgo their first payouts in exchange for a breakthrough role. Let’s take a look at some of the movies Bollywood actors did for free or accepted only token amount as payment.
1. Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Manto, 2018)
Nawazuddin Siddiqui charged Re. 1 for his role in the Nandita Das-directorial Manto. He was not alone, though. Co-actors Rishi Kapoor, Javed Akhtar, Gurdas Maan, Rajshree Deshpande, Ranvir Shorey, Swanand Kirkire charged nothing to work in the film. Manto earned acclaim in film festivals at Cannes, Toronto and the Asia Pacific Screen Awards, where Siddiqui won the Best Actor Award.
2. Shahrukh Khan (Hey Ram, 2000)
Two years ago at a film event, director Kamal Haasan had revealed that Shah Rukh Khan, who played an extended cameo in Hey Ram, still hadn’t taken any money for the film.
3. Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Haraamkhor, 2015)
Nawazuddin Siddiqui charged Re. 1 as token amount to work in Haraamkhor alongside Shweta Tripathi.
4. Shahid Kapoor (Haider, 2014)
Both Shahid Kapoor and director Vishal Bhardwaj chose to forgo their fee for the film. Haider went on to become the actor-director duo’s best and arguably, Bhardwaj’s finest film.
5. Farhan Akhtar (Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, 2013)
For all the work and effort into bringing the character of Milkha Singh to the big screen, Farhan Akhtar took only Rs 11 as a token amount. Like Farhan, Sonam Kapoor too accepted a fee of Rs. 11 for her role in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag for sheer belief in the script.
6. Deepika Padukone (Om Shanti Om, 2007)
Fortunate to make her cinematic debut opposite Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika made her breakthrough in Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om way back in 2007. Ironically, the highest earning Bollywood actress today, did the role for free back then.
7. Amitabh Bachchan (Black, 2005)
Working with the veteran actor would usually require big fees, but Amitabh Bachchan was so impressed with the script of Black that he decided to forgo the fee in exchange for the opportunity to work with Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
8. Parzania (2005)
The critically-acclaimed film was made on a budget of $700,000. Rahul Dholakia directed the film, which was funded by two of his friends, over three months. Most of the artistes, including Naseeruddin Shah, worked for no money.
9. Ashvin Kumar’s short films
(i) Little Terrorist (2004)
All the artists associated with this short film didn’t charge a single penny as payment. Little Terrorist managed to secure an Oscar nomination for Best Live Action Short Film.
(ii) Irffan Khan, Koel Puri (Road To Ladakh, 2004)
Ashvin Kumar’s first feature film, which he calls his ‘film school’ was shot in 16 days. Th road movie featuring Irrfan Khan and Koel Puri had its actors work for free.
10. Om Puri (Ghasiram Kotwal, 1976)
Made on a budget of Rs 1.5 lakhs, the Marathi film was written off at the time of its release. Based on a Marathi play of the same name by Vijay Tendulkar, the film was selected to be screened at the Berlin Film Festival in 1978. Ghasiram Kotwal has seen a revival of critical interest in the recent years. In 2014, it was selected for screening in the Forum section of the Berlin Film Festival. Om Puri, who made his debut with this film, did it for free. Here’s an interesting piece on what went behind its making.
11. Meena Kumari (Pakeezah, 1972)
Meena Kumari charged only Re 1 for her role in the Kamal Amrohi-classic Pakeezah. (Source: Pakeezah by Meghnad Desai) Tragically, this was also her last film, as she died battling cirrhosis of the liver a few weeks after the film’s release. The movie has since achieved cult status and is regarded one of Meena Kumari’s finest performances.
I'm an engineering graduate trying to make the most out of what life throws at me. Currently working as a Brand Strategist at Mitsogo Inc, Chennai. Outside work, you can find me on a football pitch, a basketball court, or in front of a tea stall - still trying to make the most out of what I get.