Film actors enjoy a sort of a cult following in South India. There has been a history of South Indian actors going on to become Chief Ministers of the respective states. The prime examples of such popular stars include N T Ramarao, M G Ramachandran, and Jayalalitha. The film stars in South India can influence the people largely. Each of them has a special fan following. The fans owe devoted allegiance to their idols going to the extent of worshipping them like demigods.
When we speak of South India, we include the states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and Karnataka. Out of these four states, the Malayalam and the Kannada film industry do not have the same amount of fan following as the ones from the other two states have. If acting abilities were the main consideration then Mammotty and Mohanlal from the Malayalam film industry should have found a place.
Of course, you cannot compete with the Bollywood Film Industry because they have a higher reach. We shall look at the top 10 highest paid South Indian actors in this list.
10. Vikram: INR 15 crores
One of the most intense Tamil film actors, Vikram Chiyan stands at No. 10 on this list. Capable of carrying any kind of film on his sculpted shoulders, Vikram is an actor par excellence. Some of his notable performances are in the film ‘I’ where he portrayed the role of the jilted lover to the hilt. His performance as a deranged person in Deiva Thirumagal won him many accolades in the industry. Having won five Filmfare awards, Vikram is a critically acclaimed actor charging INR 15 crores per film.
9. Junior NTR: INR 12 crores to INR 18 crores
At No. 9 we have Junior NTR, grandson of the legendary NT Ramarao. This Telugu film actor was a child star in his own right. He has graduated into performing lead roles in Telugu films. An accomplished Kuchipudi dancer and playback singer, he has worked in around 26 films. Charging around INR 12 crores to INR 18 crores, he has political leanings as well owing allegiance to his grandfather’s political party, Telugu Desam Party.
8. Prabhas: INR 15 crores to INR 25 crores
Prabhas is in the news recently because of his lead role in the magnum opus, Baahubali II. This film and its prequel, Baahubali I are two of the most expensive films made in the Indian film industry. A good-looking actor, he has a good following in the South Indian film industry. His role in the tri-lingual Baahubali has allowed him to gain a foothold in the Hindi film industry. Charging INR 15 crores to INR 25 crores per film, Prabhas is No. 8 on this list.
7. Pawan Kalyan: INR 18 crores to INR 22 crores
At No. 7 on the list, we have Pawan Kalyan, brother of the legendary Telugu actor, Chiranjeevi. A successful actor in his own right, Pawan Kalyan charges around INR 18 crores to INR 22 crores per film. A good dancer in his own right, he has worked in several critically acclaimed films. Not many people know that he is an accomplished martial arts performer as well. He has a philanthropic side to his personality. People all over South India had a glimpse of his generosity when he donated a sum of INR 2 crores as flood relief during the Chennai floods in 2015.
6. Mahesh Babu: INR 18 crores to INR 25 crores
Usually, all the South Indian film actors have a family background in the industry. Mahesh Babu is no different. He is the son of noted Telugu film actor Krishna Ghattamaneni. Born in Chennai, he lived the earlier part of his life in Chennai before making a mark in the Telugu film industry as one of its most stylish heroes. Earning around INR 18 crores to INR 25 crores per film, Mahesh Babu is No. 6 on this list. His wife is the former Miss India, Namrata Shirodkar. One of the most handsome actors, he is one of the few actors who has never worked in a remake film in his career.
5. Suriya: INR 20 crores to INR 25 crores
Son of the legendary Tamil actor, Sivakumar, Suriya is an actor who loves to experiment a lot. An intense looking actor with a bewitching smile, Suriya can pull off any film with a great degree of ease. His original name is Saravanan. The famous director Mani Ratnam gave him the screen name Suriya to avoid confusing with another actor by the same name. He is famous for his strong portrayal of a strict and no-nonsense police inspector in the Singham trilogy. He is not a tall actor but makes up for it with his excellent histrionics. Charging INR 20 crores to INR 25 crores per film, he is at No 5 in this list of successful South Indian actors.
4. Ajith Kumar: INR 20 crores to INR 25 crores
At No. 4, we have Ajith Kumar, one of the present-day superstars of Tamil films. This intense actor does not have any Godfather in the film industry. He has made his mark on his own. Ajith Kumar is a racing enthusiast having participated in the Formula 2 car races. An actor, known for performing his own stunts, Ajith is injury prone. He has suffered many accidents in his film journey. Ajith has a great philanthropic attitude. Ajith has acted in some notable films like The Godfather – Varalaaru, Citizen, Villain, etc. Known to charge INR 20 crores to INR 25 crores per film, Ajith has a tremendous fan following in the industry.
3. Vijay: INR 25 crores to INR 30 crores
Son of director S A Chandrasekhar, Joseph Vijay is a rival to Ajith Kumar as far as fan following is concerned. An excellent dancer, Vijay is a good singer as well. He is famous for the portrayal of a tough Army commando in the film, Thuppaki. He did another notable role in the film, Kaththi where he highlighted the plight of the farmers in Tamil Nadu. His fan following is more or less equal to that of Ajith Kumar. Both their careers run parallel to each other. They avoid releasing films simultaneously. They have done only one film together. Known to charge INR 25 crores to INR 30 crores, Vijay is No. 3 on this list.
2. Kamal Haasan: INR 25 crores to INR 30 crores
Arguably, one of the finest film actors of all time, Kamal Haasan is at No. 2 on the list of the highest paid South Indian actors. As far as acting histrionics are concerned, he does not have any equal in the film industry. Maybe, the great Amitabh Bachchan is the only actor capable of matching him. He is famous for performing diverse roles in films like Apoorva Sahodarargal, Dasavatharam, etc. Kamal Haasan charges around INR 25 crores to INR 30 crores per film. An excellent dancer, he is the most decorated actor in the Indian film industry. He has won the maximum number of National Awards and Filmfare awards.
1. Rajnikanth: INR 50 crores to INR 60 crores
At No. 1 on this list, we have the ultimate Superstar of India, the one and only Rajnikanth. An icon in his own right, Rajinikanth has the highest number of followers in the Tamil Film industry. Of Maharashtrian origin, Rajnikanth had his initial upbringing in Karnataka. He was a bus conductor known for mimicking other film stars. He had his initial break as a villain in Tamil films. He formed an excellent association with Kamal Haasan, one of the top stars at that time. Today, he is in a league of his own. Capable of swinging the moods of the people politically, many political parties are wooing him. Charging in the range of INR 50 crores to INR 60 crores per film, Rajnikanth is the undisputed No. 1.
The South Indian Film industry is a disciplined one. The films are aesthetically as good as the Hindi films are. However, due to the language issue, these films do not have a strong market in the northern Hindi belt of India. Nevertheless, they are now breaking the mold with many Tamil and Telugu films doing well internationally.