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'King of Bollywood' Shah Rukh Khan turns 50

Elizabeth GrenierNovember 2, 2015

If there is one actor who incarnates the Bollywood dream, it's Shah Rukh Khan. The charismatic Indian superstar has many reasons to be called the "King of Bollywood."

Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan, Copyright: picture-alliance/dpa/B. Pedersen
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/B. Pedersen

Born in New Delhi on November 2, 1965, Shah Rukh Khan moved to Mumbai to become an actor. Like so many others, the young man was hoping to make it big in the Indian film industry. While most successful actors in the business now come from Bollywood families, he managed to rise to the top without any mentors.

Having already dabbled in television series in the late 80s, Shah Rukh Khan's film debut came in 1992 with "Deewana" ("Crazy in Love"). Stardom followed quickly.

Among all of the films he starred in, one has been shown in cinemas in Mumbai continuously for 20 years, the cult blockbuster "Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge" (aka DDLJ or "The Brave-Hearted Will Take Away the Bride") from 1995.

This film and many of Khan's other romantic Bollywood flicks are typically built on a "boy-meets-girl" plot, where the hero, with his charm, manages to win over the woman's family, who are unconvinced at first. Stories which encourage one to follow the call of the heart while respecting family values have made Khan popular among viewers of all ages.

Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan, Copyright: picture-alliance/dpa/B. Pedersen
India's quintessential romantic heroImage: picture alliance/Mary Evans Picture Library

India's film industry churns out hundreds of movies each year. In a career spanning over two decades, Khan has acted in 80 films. The actor does not plan to slow down now that he has turned 50: "I decided that from the age of 50-55, I want to do 15 very nice films, and that will include popular films, offbeat films, mad films and many more," he recently told the IANS news agency.

His movies from 2000 to 2014 earned 14.72 billion rupees (about $226 million, 200 million euros) at the box office in India.

Marketing genius

Shah Rukh Khan is also a producer, a TV host and the owner of a cricket team. The media call him "Brand SRK," as he endorses about two dozen products, including Tag Heuer watches, Hyundai cars and the Indian telecom company Airtel. In 2015, Forbes estimated his earnings at $26 million. He ranks as the world's 18th most highly paid actor.

His films have a large following at home and overseas, and not just among the Indian diaspora. He has many fans in Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as in Russia and Iran too.

Khan lives with his wife and three kids in a large white mansion in Mumbai. To celebrate his 50th birthday, thousands of fans gathered in front of the villa for a huge party. The superstar came out to greet them and posted selfies on the Internet:

Fans received another birthday present today: The second trailer of his upcoming movie, "Fan," which will be released next year on April 15. In this film, Shah Rukh Khan will depict a die-hard fan of… Shah Rukh Khan.

With over 15 million followers on Facebook and just as many on Twitter, his numerous admirers will undoubtedly identify with the character.

In a "Twittter town hall" organized by the television channel "India Today," Khan also commented today on the current political situation in India, condemning the climate of "extreme intolerance" in a country known for its religious diversity.

The Bollywood actor is a Muslim, his wife is a Punjabi Hindu, and their children are raised with both religions.