In our era of heavily branded franchise filmmaking in Hollywood, celebrity obsession is at an all-time high and the same applies to Bollywood, where they take fandom to a whole other level. As we unfortunately found out earlier this year, not even manslaughter charges can deter the diehard support. The simple fact is that movie stars are the lifeblood of Bollywood, no matter how hard the directors and writers are trying to change that. It doesn't seem likely to change anytime soon either, with the advent of the "100 Crore Club" (referring to box office grosses of 100 crore or more) driving competition between actors to get butts in seats. This elite status offers an enticing pay-off, as it ensures further high-profile acting gigs, increased earnings and the adoration of some of the world's most devoted cinephiles.
Below are some of the actors we can't get enough of, all of whom have lead multiple films to the 100 Crore Club. I present to you 10 of Bollywood's Hottest Stars:
The 3 Khans - Aamir, Salman & Shahrukh
Arriving like a supernova in 1965 (the year they were born), some ardent fans of Bollywood's 3 Khans Aamir, Salman and Shahrukh would claim that they are gods, even likening them to Hinduism's Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. Indeed, it's hard to imagine the Hindi film industry without these megastars who have dominated Indian screens since their breakthrough in the 90s.
The most talented of the trio is perhaps Aamir Khan, a versatile method actor who also has considerable directing chops, as proven by his award-winning debut "Taare Zameen Par". He's skilled in virtually every genre and has been on an impressive run as of late, with 4 of his recent films - "Ghajini", "3 Idiots", "Dhoom 3" and "PK" - smashing box office records.
Salman Khan on the other hand, has been just as successful despite a more limited range. A real "man's man", he exudes confidence and has carved out his own niche as the go-to action star in films like "Dabangg", "Bodyguard", "Ek Tha Tiger" and "Kick".
As celebrated as these two are though, Bollywood enthusiasts know there's only one King Khan - Shahrukh. There was a period of time when I resented the now 49-year old actor for his ubiquity - he has 89 credits to his name, almost all of them in starring roles - but my recent reacquaintance with the actor's filmography gave me a renewed appreciation for his work ethic and undeniable talent. He's one of the most generous screen partners among Bollywood's leading men and his comic skills are unmatched. It's no wonder he's been so in demand for many of the biggest romantic comedies/dramas of the past two decades.
As the son of a living legend in the industry (Amitabh Bachchan), there was definitely a lot of pressure on Abhishek Bachchan to succed. Now 15 years into his acting career, he's certainly proven himself with an impressive filmography that includes the "Dhoom" trilogy, the biggest film franchise in Bollywood history. Though he doesn't possess the same star wattage as the Khans, his more laid-back style has served him well, winning most of his accolades from supporting roles. From the admittedly small sample of his films that I've seen, I think of him as "Mr. Cool", seemingly most comfortable behind a pair of stylish shades.
I'll never forget my first introduction to Hrithik Roshan, when I saw his fantastic performance in "Dhoom 2". Playing a master thief with a wealth of disguises, he dazzled me with his magnetic aura and I've had a bit of a man crush ever since. With dance moves like Channing Tatum, charisma to rival Tom Cruise and a Chris Hemsworth body, he's basically the ultimate movie star.
In 2007, Deepika Padukone had one of the biggest breakthroughs in Bollywood history when she starred in "Om Shanti Om" (the highest grossing Bollywood film at the time). The performance garnered her significant awards attention, including a Asian Film Award nomination for Best Actress. Since then, her star has only continued to rise. Padukone is essentially India's answer to Jennifer Lawrence, with immense popularity as Bollywood's "It Girl". If she continues giving breathtakingly sensuous performances like that in "Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela", she'll hold that title for a long time indeed.
Coming from one of the most well-known film families in India, Kareena Kapoor was destined for the big screen. She started out in 2000 with a role in the film "Refugee" - for which she won a Filmfare award for Best Debut - and before long, she was the talk of the town with her striking face and captivating presence. She won further acclaim in a number of other dramatic roles, but it was a romantic comedy that would result in her signature performance. The film was "Jab We Met" and in it she gave one of the most inspired takes on the manic pixie dream girl, infusing it with a genuine sincerity and spirit. And the rest, as they say, is history. Now she's one of the most bankable stars, with more smash hits to her name than any other actress.
Truth be told, it's common knowledge that foreign-born Katrina Kaif is not the best of actresses. Having grown up outside of India, her unfamiliarity with Hindi has been a struggle from the start. But Kaif has persevered by using her greatest asset, her undeniable beauty. Indeed, it's almost impossible to take your eyes off this stunning actress and as such, she's landed many roles as a love interest and is one of Bollywood's favourite "item girls", due to her remarkable dancing skills. Though her characters haven't been anything noteworthy thus far, there's something fresh about Kaif, like a work-in-progress destined for greatness.
Like a number of other actresses, the gorgeous Priyanka Chopra started out as beauty queen, using the platform of her pageants to launch an acting career. But where others have failed due to lack of talent, this former Miss World has proven to be more than just a pretty face. Over her career she has made it her mission to seek out challenging material, including roles as an autistic woman in "Barfi!" and champion boxer in the biopic "Mary Kom". Throughout he displayed an astonishing ability to disappear into her characters, earning her respect as one of her generation's most gifted actresses. Now she's set to take on Hollywood, as she'll grace TV screens this fall in the anticipated ABC thriller "Quantico". As she's already done through her work in Bollywood, I'm sure she'll win the hearts of her new Western audience.
One of the newer A-listers in Bollywood, Mumbai native Sonakshi Sinha actually started out as a costume designer before taking up acting in 2010. And it was a quick climb to the top too, as her debut film was the Salman Khan-starring "Dabangg", which ended up being the highest grossing Bollywood film of that year. The film's success resulted in the uncommonly voluptuous beauty being typecast as the love interest in further action movies, gaining a strong fan base at the box office. But it wasn't until "Lootera" that we saw what she could really do. In this more understated romance drama, Sinha was able to rely on her expressive eyes rather than her sex appeal. In this rich performance she managed to convey a demure exterior that belied a vulnerable but passionate soul, and critics proclaimed that she had finally come into her own as an actress. Having firmly established her acting cred to go along with her box office dominance, the sky is the limit for this promising 28-year old.