Arms spread wide, hair gently ruffled by the breeze, dimpled smile and a song on his lips, the trademark pose of Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan belies his 50 years as he promises his millions of fans in India and abroad that there is more to come.
“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 … I want to do as many films as possible before I die,” Khan was quoted as saying recently by IANS news agency.
A Delhi boy with a passion for acting, Khan landed in Mumbai like so many others hoping to make it in Bollywood and went on to become one of the biggest success stories of India’s hyperactive film factory that churns out hundreds of movies annually.
After dabbling in television serials in the late 1980s, Khan’s first film Deewana (Crazy in Love) was released in 1992.
Stardom followed fast with roles in a series of romantic films including the smash hit Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (DDLJ, The Brave-hearted Will Take Away the Bride, 1995), which marked its 20th year of continuous shows in a Mumbai theatre this year.
In a decade spanning more than two decades, Khan has acted in over 80 films – many of them runaway successes including Dil to Pagal Hai (The Heart is Mad, 1997), Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (Something, Something Happens, 1998) and Chennai Express (2013).
Khan’s romantic films, including DDLJ, often follow a boy-meets-girl plot where the woman’s family is at first unhappy but eventually won over by the charming hero.
The films are often partly set in India, partly abroad and have a large following at home and overseas, among the Indian diaspora and others.
Khan’s popularity is evident in the 15 million likes and daily expressions of adulation by fans on his Facebook page.
His fan base extends to Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as Russia and Iran, but not to every critic even locally.
“It’s been (in)famously said that Shah Rukh Khan is the sum total of five expressions. He’s been accused of overacting, hamming,” film critic Suparna Sharma wrote.
“While that may be true, Shah Rukh Khan is still a superstar. He has the power to connect with every member of the audience individually,” she said in an email to dpa.
“He emotes, yet he can make you cry, laugh and fall in love with a girl. He can make fans feel the intensity of love and longing, facilitating the most vicarious role play for two-and-a-half hours.”
In an industry where most of the successful actors of the past decade are second-generation Bollywood kids, Khan broke through without any mentors and rose right to the top.
He had several flops in the mid-90s, but resurrected himself and has had six consecutive hits since 2009.
The domestic box-office collections of his movies from 2000 to 2014 stand at Rs14.72 billion (about $226 million).
“Who is the world’s biggest movie star? Brad? Will? Nah. His name is Shah Rukh Khan, and he’s the king of Bollywood,” international Newsweek magazine wrote in 2008.
Today Khan is much more than an actor – the media calls him Brand SRK. He does endorsements worth millions of rupees every year for two dozen products including Tag Heuer watches, Hyundai cars, and Indian telecom company Airtel.
His personal earnings were estimated to be $26 million by Forbes in 2015 and it ranked him as the world’s 18th most highly paid actor.
He is also co-chairman of production company Red Chillies Entertainment and co-owner of Indian Premier League cricket team Kolkata Knight Riders.
Khan, a Muslim, married his sweetheart of six years Gauri Chibber in 1991 in a Hindu ceremony. The actor prides himself in the syncretic culture in his home where the Koran sits alongside Hindu idols.
The home, in superstar style, is a palatial white mansion in Mumbai where Khan lives with his wife and three kids – two sons and a daughter.
Sharma says 50 for Khan (his birthday falls on (Nov. 2) and his fans is just a number. “He is one of the most intelligent, forthright, political of the actors we have today. He’ll reinvent himself.”