How Shah Rukh Khan Became Bollywood’s Biggest Hero

ike so many figures who capture mass attention, Shah Rukh Khan can seem to have been born to throw matters of identity into question. The son of a Pathan father from Afghanistan and a Hyderabadi mother, he grew up in Delhi, a middle-class boy who attended a prestigious local private school. That history helps explain his appeal, or so argued a pair of born-and-bred Mumbaikers to me recently: He’s the rare outsider to become Bollywood’s consummate insider, a carefully educated convent-school boy in a sea of unworldly nepo babies who know nothing else. This pedigree is also why, they suggested, he’s kept a relatively sterling reputation, free of the rumors of ultrasleazy or violent behavior that attend some peers. In college, Khan began to study acting and left a master’s degree in communications early to pursue an acting career. In his mid-20s, before he was a household name, he married Gauri Chhibber, a hometown sweetheart, a Delhi girl known to him since he was 18 and she was 14, according to an interview he gave in the 2005 BBC documentary The Inner Life of Shah Rukh Khan.

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