Veteran actor Zeenat Aman has spoken about how the Hindi film industry has changed in the last few decades. She however pointed out that the ‘gender pay gap’ has remained the same. Zeenat recalled that she was the ‘highest paid female actor’ in her career but the disparity in the pay cheque between her and her male co-stars ‘was so vast it was laughable’.
Taking to Instagram on Saturday, Zeenat took a trip down memory lane and posted an old video. The clip featured her rehearsing for her song Laila O Laila from Qurbani (1980). The video also gave a glimpse of actor Feroz Khan behind the camera. As the scene ended, Feroz said, “Ya, I don’t like the frame.”
Zeenat in the video then said to a person behind the camera, “90 percent of the time, most of the women here are just playing ornamental roles, purely ornamental. They sing and dance and sort of prance around the leading man. That’s about it. What I feel is happening now is there are changes coming about.”
She also added, “There are women demanding good roles and refusing to work in films, let’s say have participation. They want to do something, they demand something, they are getting something to do. I think that’s exciting. I think women in India should have something to identify with, other than just ornamentation.”
The veteran actor captioned the post, “In the late 70s, Keith Adam from the Australian Broadcasting Commission popped by the set of Qurbani, where I was rehearsing for Laila O Laila, and snagged himself an interview. It’s been nearly 50 years since this footage was shot, and the industry has changed immensely since. The roles available to women are clearly not just ornamental anymore.”
She continued, “What hasn’t changed though is the gender pay gap. In my time I was lauded as the ‘highest paid female actor’, but the disparity in the pay cheque between my male co-stars and myself was so vast it was laughable. The Zeenat you see in this clip was quite certain that half a century would be enough time to even the scales. So it disappoints me that even today women in the film industry don’t have wage parity.”
“Women have consistently put in the work, and I really think that the onus is now on our men – actors, directors, producers – to ensure that their female co-workers (not just stars) are paid fairly. It seems such a simple and obvious thing, and yet it would be revolutionary if any man actually did this (purple heart emoji),” she concluded.
Qurbani (1980) is an action thriller film produced, directed by and starring Feroz Khan. Apart from Zeenat and Feroz, the film also features Vinod Khanna, Amjad Khan, Shakti Kapoor, Aruna Irani, Amrish Puri, and Kadar Khan. Qurbani was famous for its music, especially the songs–Aap Jaisa Koi and Laila O Laila.