Shah Rukh Khan has been making movies since 1992. He's the biggest movie star in a country with the second-biggest population in the world. He also happens to be the second-wealthiest celebrity on Earth.
And if you live in the U.S., you probably haven't heard of him.
Khan is a Bollywood movie star and heartthrob. He has been anchoring India's biggest movies for over two decades, and has starred in some of Bollywood's highest-grossing movies — including Chennai Express, My Name is Khan and Ra.One — and has hosted India's versions of Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Khan is one of the most recognizable faces in the country. His Hindi films are quotable fan favorites that have shattered box office records, and his iconic status — he's called King Khan — has defined what it means to be a movie star in today's India.
Amidst his undeniable fame, his financial glory and his ever-growing cinematic reach, Khan remains virtually unknown to American audiences.
Khan's fortune is valued at $600 million — second only in the acting world's to Jerry Seinfeld's $820 million. Thanks to a list published by the Singapore-based Wealth-X we now know exactly how the 10 richest actors in the world financially measure up. While the list highlights some disappointing truths about the entertainment industry, it is populated exclusively by men over 40, Khan's nod spotlights a heartening truth about financial success in the industry: Contrary to popular American opinion, Hollywood is not the only means to achieving mega success in entertainment.
Bollywood produces roughly 1,000 movies a year, nearly double the number that come out of Hollywood. But while America exports its films all over the world — including to India — Bollywood movies, by and large, stay in the neighborhood. There have been hypotheses as to why that is, and why specifically Bollywood doesn't more actively seek American audiences. As Phil Hoad wrote for the Guardian, [Bollywood] is too culturally alien to appeal to anyone else: too long, too repetitive, and, yes, all those bloody songs." Khan, in this respect, is no exception.
While a few of Khan's film's have achieved mega international success like My Name is Khan, his biggest successes, his extreme wealth and his celebrity status are thanks to Indian audiences and to the Indian entertainment industry. An industry large enough to make Khan a more financially successful actor than the likes of Tom Cruise or Tom Hanks.
While Khan often fields questions about an interest in furthering his position as an international, i.e. American, star his commitment to the Indian market and Hindi films also speaks to the idea that international entertainers don't need Hollywood. Khan told the Hollywood Reporter, "I wouldn't just get into an international film because it's international. I am extremely happy making a Hindi film which Insha'Allah ("God willing") will be accepted by the whole world."
Check out the list of the top 10 richest actors in the world:
1. Jerry Seinfeld, $820 million