Should the no-pregnancy clause be included in an actress' contract?

  | March 20, 2014 10:11 IST (Mumbai)
Kangana Ranaut

Vidya Balan is reportedly pregnant

Vidya Balan has reportedly been replaced by Kangna Ranaut in Sujoy Ghosh's next film that is ready to go on the floors.

Vidya Balan has reportedly been replaced by Kangna Ranaut in Sujoy Ghosh's next film that is ready to go on the floors. Vidya's favourite director apparently finalised another name for the film due to her pregnancy. While there is no confirmation yet about this, an actress letting go of projects due to pregnancy is not exactly new in Bollywood. It may be noted here that Kareena Kapoor replaced Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in the film Heroine after director Madhur Bhandarkar learnt that Ash was pregnant.

Interestingly, in a recent interview to hitlist, Vidya had said, "I have signed contracts which specify that I can't get pregnant for the next two years." But with recent media reports stating otherwise, the no-pregnancy clause has come under the spotlight again.

Mukesh Bhatt, who is producing Hamari Adhuri Kahani, starring Vidya Balan and Emraan Hashmi, says, "It is mandatory to have a no-pregnancy clause as the actress needs to show her commitment towards a project. It is a healthy clause and is needed in today's times." Bhatt's film is supposed to go on the floors soon. But now with reports of Vidya Balan's alleged pregnancy, the fate of the film is uncertain. He says that he had met the actress just before she left for the USA and will be meeting her once she returns to India next week. "I don't think Vidya is pregnant. She would've told us if she was expecting. I have complete faith in her, she will not keep anyone in the dark. And even if she is pregnant, I am happy for her."

Given that a lot of money is riding on films - and also the fact that they are all being made in a stipulated period of time - the stakes today are higher than in the earlier days, says Hema Malini. The actress, who was pregnant during the making of Satte Pe Satta, says, "Back then, film shoots would go on endlessly and it was not always possible for an artiste to wait for the producer to finish shooting. Today the no-pregnancy clause should be made mandatory, but only for a certain time period, say a maximum of six months. If the artiste gets pregnant before the film goes on the floors, she should inform the producer. But if the film gets delayed for other reasons, then it's wrong to expect the actress to wait. She can't be held responsible in such a situation."

Some more industry people are drumming up support for the clause. When Aishwarya was replaced by Kareena in Heroine, actress and activist Shabana Azmi had tweeted, "Insurance companies in Hollywood insist on many clauses, including no-pregnancy to safeguard their huge monetary investments. It's not sexist at all."

Madhur Bhandarkar, who allegedly incurred losses to the tune of Rs 4 crore when he realised that Aishwarya wouldn't be able to do the film due to her pregnancy, had vented his frustration to hitlist, "The entire event would not have taken place if the actress would have informed the state of her health - an impending maternity. The truth was hidden from us."

Indeed, when a huge sum is invested in pre-production - which includes workshops and developing the heroine's look - a pregnancy can put a spanner in the works. But interpersonal relationships are equally important say some industry insiders.

For instance, producer Ramesh Taurani says that in Bollywood, work is centred around the rapport between the concerned people, and contracts are secondary. He says that it's alright for an actress to give importance to her personal life. "At the end of the day, it is just about a film and I don't think it's a big deal. If a film hasn't gone on the floors, the question of monetary loss does not arise at all."

It may be pointed out here that Kareena Kapoor, who reportedly walked out of Ram-Leela soon after her marriage, allegedly prompted filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali to say that he didn't want a married heroine to play Juliet in the film. Kareena makes a valid point: "We are constantly trying to ape the West. If we want the no-pregnancy clause to be included in the contract, then actors here should be insured just like they are in Hollywood."

Lawyer Ameet Naik, a legal consultant to many producers, says that a no-pregnancy clause is a must. "The idea is to secure the producer for making a significant investment for his film's production. The lead actress of a film conceiving during the filming schedule can cause irreparable damage to all stakeholders of the film. Also, there is no insurance cover for such a contingency."

After 12 years of marriage, Juhi Chawla continues to work in Bollywood, and she is yet to see such a clause. "Today's world is contract driven. Soon no-pregnancy clauses may have to be signed by all newly married actresses."

What the no-pregnancy clause spells out

"The artiste has specifically represented to the producer that the artist shall not get married or shall not plan pregnancy during the term of this agreement and the artiste further acknowledges that based on this specific representation of the artiste, the producer has agreed to engage him/her for the role and has decided to invest huge amount of money for the production of the film. The artist acknowledges that breach of this representation will cause grave and irreparable loss to the producer, which shall not be compensated in terms of money."