Due the pandemic, it’s been a roller coaster ride for the film industry. With theatres closing down, there has been a slew of content for OTT platforms and a decrease in production budgets. Actors and their popularity has remained constant throughout. Names such as Rajinikanth and Vijay are sure to ring a bell with people outside South India. When it comes to drawing crowds in considerable numbers to the theatres, these actors never fail. Their mere presence adds immense value to any film. The bankability of these stalwarts is what lends them their brand value and makes them unique. Read on to know how much money they earn and what makes these stars popular. Deepthi Parthasarathy list the highest paid actors in tamil industry ruling the roost in South Indian cinema
1. Joseph Vijay Chandrasekhar
Popularly known as Thalapathy by his fans, Vijay has captured a place in the hearts of the young and old alike with his charming personality. He was paid a whopping Rs.110 Cr for his latest film, Master, directed by Atlee. Apart from being a sought-out actor in Kollywood, he is a dancer, singer, and philanthropist known for his noble deeds. The actor completed 64 films in 2021 and is looking forward to his next release, Beast, whose motion poster created a buzz on Twitter. Vijay’s debut as a lead was in 1992’s Naalaiya Theerpu, followed by his first blockbuster in 1996 with Poove Unakkaga. Some of his superhit films include Kaththi, Thuppakki, Mersal, Ghilli, Nanban, Pokkiri, Theri, Bigil, Sarkar, Kushi, Sachein, and Friends.
Superstar Rajinikanth features on the list of the highest-paid actors in Asia at Rs.110 Cr per movie. He continues to win over the Tamil cinema industry with his impeccable charisma and energy even at the age of 71. His journey as a movie star started by chance at the Madras Film Institute. Rajinikanth, a former bus conductor in Karnataka, left passengers awe-struck with his unique mannerisms and stylish flipping of cigarettes with his mouth. Spotted by director K. Balachander, Rajinikanth’s career took a 360-degree turn after his role in Apoorva Raagangal (1975), and the rest is history. He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 2016 and was conferred the ‘Centenary Award for Indian Film Personality of the Year’ in 2014. His famous films include Enthiran, Sivaji, Petta, Padayappa, Thalapathi, Muthu, Chandramukhi, Baba, Mannan, and Apoorva Raagangal.
3. Ajith Kumar
Thala, as he is popularly known, is an actor and car racer who is one of the leading stars of the Tamil cinema industry. He earns anywhere between Rs.50 Cr to Rs.65 Cr for a single film. Having worked in Telugu films as a supporting actor before foraying into Tamil cinema, he only gained critical recognition with the Tamil thriller, Aasai, in 1995. The prefix Kadhal Mannan was added to his name as he aced his roles as a romantic hero in a couple of films before establishing himself as a method actor and then an action hero later. He embraced his salt and pepper hairstyle and was one of the first actors to do so in the industry. Ajith Kumar has won three Filmfare Best Actor awards and continues to cast a spell on scores of fans who throng to the theatres to catch him on the big screen. Ajith Kumar’s popular films include Kadhal Mannan, Vaali, Kandukondain Kandukondain, Citizen, Amarkalam, Dheena, Billa, Nerkonda Paarvai, Mankatha, and Yennai Arindhal.
4. Kamal Hassan
As a parallel competitor to Rajinikanth in politics and films, Kamal Hassan is one of the few actors who has proved that age is just a number. The 67-year-old actor started his acting career as a child artist in Kalathur Kannamma in 1960 and has completed a whopping 220 films to date. He earns between Rs.30 Cr to Rs.55 Cr per movie. Kamal Hassan came to be known for his multi-faceted roles and versatile acting skills, spanning over six decades in the industry. What sets this actor apart from the rest is that his skills extend to direction, writing, singing, and choreography. His films have become cult classics over time. Kamal Hassan has acted in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, and Kannada movies. His popular movies include Sathyaa, Apoorva Sagodharargal, Hey Ram, Avvai Shanmugi, Mahanadi, Thevar Magan, Anbe Sivam, Panchathanthiram, and Pammal K Samdandam.
Suriya earned his rightful place in the Tamil cinema industry as a young actor with various roles, ranging from an ex-convict in Nandha to a cop in Kaakha Kaakha. He makes anywhere between Rs.35 Cr to Rs.45 Cr on average. As a former garment exporter, Suriya’s rise to stardom began at 22, when he starred in Nerukku Ner in 1997. Suriya’s cult classics were released in early 2000, and he became a renowned actor. He won the Tamil Nadu State Film Award for the best actor in Nandha, helmed by director Bala. He came back with a bang after some average films at the box office with Singam 2 in 2013. He went on to act in 24 in 2016 and Thaanaa Serndha Koottam in 2017, which were critically acclaimed hits. Suriya’s latest film, Jai Bhim, which Suriya produced and starred in, was released on Amazon Prime in 2021. It was declared a crucial film by critics.
Earnings: Rs.20 crore- Rs.50 crore
Dhanush entered the Tamil cinema industry in 2002 with Thulluvadho Ilamai, and from then on, there has been no looking back for the young actor who has worked in 44 films to date. Initially ridiculed for his looks and build, Dhanush grew tremendously over the years and won the National Film Award for the Best Actor in Aadukalam, directed by Vetrimaran. He has four National Film Awards to his credit, including two as a producer. In addition to being a fabulous actor, he also donned many hats, such as producer, playback singer, and lyricist. His voice reached the global stage with Why This Kolaveri Di, the most-viewed song on Youtube in 2011. He was featured six times on the Forbes India Celebrity 100 list. His must-watch films include Velaiyilla Pattathari, Vada Chennai, Asuran, Maari, Maryan, Aadukalam, Moonu, Yaaradi Nee Mohini, Karnan, Jagame Thanthiram, and Mayakkam Enna.
Earnings: Rs.20 crore per movie
Popularly known as Chiyaan Vikram, this seven-time Filmfare Award South winner rose to stardom with Sethu in 1999. He also acted in a couple of Malayam, Telugu, and Tamil films in the 1990s, which went unnoticed. His stint with Masala films began in the early 2000s, and he won the National Award for the best actor in 2003 for Pithamagan. He began handpicking diverse roles in Anniyan, Raavanan, Deiva Thirumagal, which critics widely appreciated. In 2015, he starred in I, directed by Shankar, which ended up as the sixth highest-grossing Tamil film of all time. The Forbes India Celebrity 100 list featured him in 2016 and 2018. His popular films include Sethu, Dhill, Kasi, Gemini, Dhool, Saamy, Pithamagan, Anniyan, Kanthaswamy, Bheemaa, Raavanan, Deiva Thirumagal, Thaandavam, I, and David.
8. Karthik Sivakumar
Earnings: Rs.15 crore to Rs.20 crore per movie
Having a successful sibling in the same industry did not deter Karthi, who made a name for himself. He chose roles that showed his finesse in acting and passion for cinema. He initially started as an assistant director to Mani Ratnam. His debut, Paruthiveeran, in 2007 was critically acclaimed and landed him the Filmfare Award for the best actor. He acted in a slew of commercial films starting from 2010, where he played the character of a boy-next-door. He began picking movies that had solid storylines and screenplays from 2014. It was a full circle in his cinema journey when he acted in Kaatru Veliyidai in 2017, directed by Mani Ratnam, his mentor. Here are his films you should not miss- Paruthiveeran, Aayirathil Oruvan, Paiyaa, Naan Mahaan Alla, Siruthai, Saguni, Madras, Thozha, Kaatru Veliyidai, Theeran Adhigaram Ondru, Kadaikutti Singam, Dev, Thambi, and Sultan.
9. Vijay Sethupathi
Earnings: Rs.3 crore to Rs.12 crore per movie
Referred to as Makkal Selvan by his fans, Vijay Sethupathi has acted in more than 55 films, majorly in Tamil. He was an accountant in Dubai before he ventured into acting. He got his first significant break with Thenmerku Paruvakatru in 2010. The films Pizza and Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kanom were major turning points in his career in 2012 and bought him under the limelight. His roles in both films were critically acclaimed and raked in box-office numbers. From 2014 onwards, the actor bagged the lead in many movies in which he played versatile characters- from a 40-year-old kidnapper in Soodhu Kavvum to a transwoman in Super Deluxe. His performance in Super Deluxe was ranked among the 100 Greatest Performances of the Decade by the Film Companion and won many awards. Here are some of his super-hit movies- Master, Sethupathi, 96, Vikram Vedha, Naanum Rowdy Dhaan, Kavan, Puriyatha Pudhir, Petta, Kadhalum Kandandhu Pogum, and Idharkuthane Aasaipattai Balakumara.
Earnings: Rs.15 crore to Rs.25 crore per movie
Sivakarthikeyan, also known as SK, was a television presenter and mimicry artist on Star Vijay. His first lead role was in the movie Marina which opened to positive reviews. After a string of films catering to a rural audience, he played the lead in Ethir Neechal, which was actor Dhanush’s debut production. Sivakarthikeyan soon began acting with well-known faces such as Nayanthara, Samantha, Priya Anand, Fahad Faasil, Sathyaraj, and Aishwarya Rajesh. He was last seen in Doctor, which turned out to be the highest-grossing film in his career at over 100 crores. From humble beginnings in the television industry to one of the well-known names in the industry, Sivakarthikeyan has come a long way in his film career. His famous films include Marina, Moonu, Kedi Billa Killadi Ranga, Ethir Neechal, Varuthapadaadha Vaalibar Sangam, Maan Karate, Kaaki Sattai, Rajinimurugan, Velaikkaran, Remo, Hero, and Doctor.