Despite the fact that Bollywood exceeds Hollywood in film output, Bollywood has a much smaller star system, which means Indian actors appear in far more films than their American counterparts-some doing as many as five movies a year. Luckily, that makes it easier for new fans to figure out who’s who. Nepotism is common in Bollywood and many actors and filmmakers come from family dynasties that have been in the movie business for generations-however, there are many celebrities with the same common surnames, particularly Khan and Kapoor, who are not related. Indian Actors The following, while by no means comprehensive, is a rundown of the biggest and brightest male stars in the Bollywood universe.
Known as King Khan, the Badshah of Bollywood, or simply, SRK, Shahrukh is one of the “big three Khans”-along with Aamir Khan and Salman Khan-who have dominated Bollywood for two decades, although Shahrukh has arguably surpassed the other two in terms of commercial power and global recognition, and unlike the other two, Shahrukh does not come from an established film family. He made his debut in 1992 in Deewana and catapulted to superstardom in 1995 with Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, or DDLJ as it’s know, which is still showing in theaters in Mumbai, making it the longest running movie in history. His character in DDLJ, Raj, became the archetype for the modern romantic Bollywood hero-brash, hip, and Westernized, but Indian at heart. His top hits include Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001), Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003), and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006). Despite his age (he was born in 1965), he revealed a surprisingly ripped physique in Om Shanti Om (2007), which became the highest-grossing Hindi film of all-time, proving that he was far from being eclipsed by younger aspirants to his throne (while poking fun at Bollywood’s standards of male beauty). In 2008, Newsweek magazine named him one of the 50 most powerful people in the world. He’s married to his childhood sweetheart, Gauri, with whom he has a son and a daughter.
If Shahrukh Khan is king, then Amitabh is god. His 1975 film, Sholay, the first “Curry Western” (the Indian version of the Spaghetti Western), is one of the most beloved Bollywood films ever. That same year, he appeared in Deewaar, a groundbreaking film that established him as the “angry young man,” a character type that reflected the frustration and disillusionment of the times. Amitabh went on to excel in drama, action, romance, and comedy, making him the quintessential “masala” actor. After he was nearly killed in 1982 from an injury sustained during a fight scene, he made unsuccessful forays into politics and business and then struggled for years to make a comeback in film-but comeback he did. In 2000, he became the host of India’s version of the TV show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and film success-some commercial, some critical-followed, including Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001), Bunty Aur Babli (2005), Sarkar (2005), Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (2006), Baabul (2006), and Eklavya (2007). He’s married to actress Jaya Bhaduri and their son is actor Abhishek Bachchan, who’s married to actress Aishwarya Rai.
Aamir is considered the “serious” actor of the big Khans and widely regarded as the most talented Indian star in terms of sheer acting ability. While he’s been in plenty of commercial hits, he’s always had an artistic bent, and his projects are usually of the highest quality. He started his career as a child actor in 1973, made his first film as an adult in 1984, and after several nominations, won his first Filmfare Best Actor Award in 1996 for his turn in Raja Hindustani-in which he famously kissed his co-star Karisma Kapoor (kissing was a rare enough occurrence then to cause quite a stir). He received international attention for his role in Lagaan (2001), which was the first film he produced. The movie was critically praised around the world and received an Academy Award nod for Best Foreign Film. (It was only the third time in history that an Indian film has been nominated, and no Indian film has ever won the award.) Mangal Pandey: The Rising (2005) and Rang De Basanti (2006) are also among his best pictures. He debuted as a director in 2007 with Taare Zameen Par. His 2008 film Ghajini became the highest-grossing Hindi film of all time. In 2002, he divorced his wife of 15 years, with whom he has two children, and in 2005, he married an assistant director. He does not attend film award ceremonies.