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Known as King Khan, the Badshah of Bollywood, or simply, SRK, Shahrukh is one of the “big three Khans”—along with Aamir Khan and Salman Khan—who have dominated Bollywood for two decades, although Shahrukh has surpassed the other two in terms of global recognition, and unlike the other two, Shahrukh does not come from an established film family. He made his debut in 1992 in Deewana and catapulted to superstardom in 1995 with Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, or DDLJ as it’s know, which is still showing in Mumbai, making it the longest running movie in history. His character in DDLJ, Raj, is the archetype of the modern romantic Bollywood hero—brash, hip, and Westernized, but Indian at heart. His top hits include Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001), Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003), Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006), Om Shanti Om (2007), and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008). In 2008, Newsweek magazine named him one of the 50 most powerful people in the world. He’s married to his childhood sweetheart, Gauri, with whom he has a son and a daughter.

If Shahrukh Khan is king, then Amitabh is God. His 1975 film, Sholay, the first “Curry Western” (the Indian version of the Spaghetti Western), is one of the most beloved Bollywood films ever. That same year, he appeared in Deewaar, a groundbreaking film that established him as the “angry young man,” a character type that reflected the frustration and disillusionment of the times. Amitabh went on to excel in drama, action, romance, and comedy, making him the quintessential “masala” actor. For many years, he was practically a one-man industry. After he was nearly killed in 1982 from an injury sustained during a fight scene, he made unsuccessful forays into politics and business and then struggled for years to make a comeback in film—but comeback he did. In 2000, he became the host of India’s version of the TV show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and film success followed, including Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001), Sarkar (2005), Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006), and Paa (2009). He’s married to actress Jaya Bhaduri and their son is actor Abhishek Bachchan, who’s married to actress Aishwarya Rai.

One of the “big three Khans,” Aamir is called “The Perfectionist.” While he’s a hit commercial actor, he’s always had an artistic bent, and his projects are usually of the highest quality. He started his career as a child actor in 1973, made his first film as an adult in 1984, and after several nominations, won his first Filmfare Best Actor Award in 1996 for his turn in Raja Hindustani—in which he famously kissed his co-star Karisma Kapoor (kissing was a rare enough occurrence then to cause quite a stir). He received international attention for his role in Lagaan (2001), which was the first film he produced. The movie was critically praised around the world and received an Academy Award nod for Best Foreign Film. (It was only the third time in history that an Indian film has been nominated.) He debuted as a director in 2007 with Taare Zameen Par. His 2009 film 3 Idiots became the highest-grossing Hindi film of all time, breaking the record he set with his 2008 film Ghajini. In 2002, he divorced his wife of 15 years, with whom he has two children, and in 2005, he married director Kiran Rao. He does not attend film award ceremonies.

While Aamir is the Khan popular with the classes, Salman is the Khan for the masses. And with his bedroom eyes, bulging biceps, and velvety voice that would make any woman swoon, Salman is the ultimate heartthrob—and his bad-boy reputation only adds to his sex appeal. He’s been in trouble with the law, several fatwas have been issued against him, and his romantic relationships with ex-girlfriends Aishwarya Rai and Katrina Kaif (who’s 20 years his junior) have been filled with tumult. His combativeness with the press doesn’t help his image and neither do the well-publicized blow-ups he’s had with colleagues. But he’s also known for his generous philanthropic work. He got started in film in 1988 and appeared in his first smash-hit, Maine Pyar Kiya, a year later—and he’s been churning them out ever since, including Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999), Partner (2007), and Dabangg (2010). He’s had plenty of flops, too—including an English-language Hollywood production, Marigold (2007), opposite American actress Ali Larter (who starred in the U.S. TV show Heroes).

The son of a stunt choreographer, Ajay Devgn naturally focused on the action genre when he got into acting in 1991. But he branched out into comedy and romance, and later, serious dramatic roles. In 1998, he starred opposite his future wife, Kajol, in Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha, a remake of the Hollywood hit, French Kiss. One of his notable critical and commercial successes was Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999) with Salman Khan and Aishwarya Rai. He gave astounding performances as the smoldering lead characters in the gangster drama Company (2002) and in Omkara (2006), an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello. While he has evolved into one of the best tragedians in world cinema, he also has light and enjoyable comedic flair, making him one of the most versatile actors in Bollywood. He married Kajol in 1999 and they have a daughter and a son. He starred opposite his wife in his directorial debut, U Me Aur Hum, in 2008. His recent hits include Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai (2010), Raajneeti (2010), and Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge (2010).  An intensely private man, he’s known to stay out of the limelight.

Part action hero with martial-arts skills, part comedian with a knack for farce, part handsome leading man who can dance—like a cross between Jackie Chan, Jerry Lewis, and John Travolta—Akshay is simultaneously a tough guy and a goofball—and he always gets the girl. While he’s enormously popular in India for his everyman qualities, he’s an acquired taste for most Americans. His first film came out in 1991 and he hit it big a year later in Khiladi. He’s appeared in more than 80 movies since then, with a decent track record. The year 2007 belonged to Akshay with four hits—Namastey London, Heyy Babyy, Bhool Bhulaiyaa, and Welcome. In 2008, his film Tashan failed to do well, but Singh is Kinng (which included a cameo by American rapper Snoop Dogg on the title track) had a record opening. In 2009, his film Chandni Chowk to China was the first Hindi film made and distributed by American studio Warner Brothers, and it flopped in both India and North America. Later that year, he starred in the commercially successful, critically panned Kambakkht Ishq, playing an Indian stuntman in Hollywood, and the film featured cameos by Sylvester Stallone and Denise Richards. He has a son with his wife, Twinkle Khanna, a former actress.

Hrithik’s 2000 film debut as the romantic lead in Kaho Naa…Pyaar Hai made him an instant star—and his dreamy green eyes and buff bod have made him an enduring sex symbol. He’s the son of director Rakesh Roshan, who’s directed Hrithik in some of his most important projects. Hrithik received accolades for his turns in Mission Kashmir later in 2000 and in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham the following year. After a series of flops, he made a comeback in 2003 with the sci-fi film Koi…Mil Gaya. He took a break from acting and returned in 2006 as a superhero in Krrish, the sequel to Koi…Mil Gaya. His next two big films were the hit action flick Dhoom 2 (2006) and the award-winning historical drama Jodhaa Akbar (2008), both opposite Aishwarya Rai. In 2010, he starred in Kites opposite Mexican actress Barbara Mori, and the film garnered overwhelmingly positive reviews from U.S. critics and became the first Bollywood film to crack the North American box office top 10 during its opening weekend. He subsequently appeared in Guzaarish (2010), Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011), and Agneepath (2012). He and his wife Suzanne have two sons.

While he’s the son of screen icon Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek struggled to prove himself as an actor. And even though he’s tall, dark, and oh-so handsome, he nonetheless catches flak for not being as muscle-bound as his peers. He appeared as the lead in his first film, Refugee, in 2000, opposite Kareena Kapoor in her debut, and then spent the next four years making a dozen abysmal movies. Finally, in 2004, he was critically praised for his performance as a thug in Yuva and he also starred in his first commercial hit, Dhoom. In 2005, he had four hits with Bunty Aur Babli, Sarkar, Dus, and Bluffmaster and two more in 2006 with Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna and Dhoom 2. The following year, he received accolades for his performance in Guru, opposite his then-fiance Aishwarya Rai. He’s had a spotty record since with winners such as Dostana (2008) and losers such as Drona (2008). Abhishek’s mother is actress Jaya Bhaduri. Abhishek became engaged to actress Karisma Kapoor in 2002, but they broke it off in 2003. He married superstar Aishwarya Rai in 2007.

Shahid started out as a bubble-gum heartthrob and slowly evolved into one of Bollywood’s finest actors. And he’s always been one of the industry’s best dancers. He debuted in 2003 in Ishq Vishk, which earned him a Filmfare Best Male Debut Award. But several so-so films later, including Shikhar (2005), 36 China Town (2006), and Chup Chup Ke (2006), Shahid still hadn’t lived up to his full potential. He started to come into his own in Vivah—his first hit—in 2006, and he blossomed in the blockbuster Jab We Met the following year. Then he took his acting to a whole new level in the edgy drama Kaminey (2009). But he still likes to play the popcorn hero now and again, such as in Chance Pe Dance (2010). In 2011, he starred in Mausam, the directorial debut of his father, actor Pankaj Kapoor. Since the end of Shahid’s three-year relationship with Kareena Kapoor in 2007, he has earned a reputation as a man about town and has been linked to actresses Vidya Balan, Priyanka Chopra, Anushka Sharma, and Bipasha Basu.

The son of a nawab (an Indian prince), Saif is the heir to the royal houses of Bhopal and Pataudi (princely states in India). His father and grandfather were captains of India’s national cricket team. And with his devastating looks and solid acting chops, Saif has become prominent in his own right. However, his career was slow to take off. He debuted in 1992 and had some early successes, but he mostly floundered throughout the 90s. He started to gain traction in supporting roles in Dil Chahta Hai (2001) and Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003). His 2005 film Salaam Namaste with Preity Zinta was a huge hit, and he won accolades for his work in Parineeta (2005), Omkara (2006), and Eklavya (2007). He started his own production company in 2009 and its first film, Love Aaj Kal, in which Saif starred opposite Deepika Padukone, was a hit. At the age of 21, he married a woman 12 years his senior. The couple had two children and divorced in 2004 after 13 years of marriage. He is currently involved with actress Kareena Kapoor, with whom he co-starred in Kurbaan in 2009. Saif’s mother, a former actress, was once head of the Indian film censorship board. One of his two sisters, Soha Ali Khan, is also an actor.

A model-turned-actor who’s equal parts sexy and sweet, John has long been regarded as Bollywood’s favorite eye candy—a position he cemented in Dostana (2008), in which he famously emerged from the ocean Ursula Andress-style—a shimmering Adonis in tight swim trunks. But John has proven he can take on serious roles (and look good doing it), such as in the acclaimed 7 Khoon Maaf (2011), the terrorist-thriller New York (2009), the art-house thriller No Smoking (2007), and the sports drama Goal (2007). He was nominated for a Filmfare Best Supporting Actor award for his performance in the family melodrama Baabul (2006) and a Filmfare Best Villain award for his turn in the action hit Dhoom (2004). He made his debut in 2003 in Jism, opposite screen siren Bipasha Basu, and the two were a couple off-screen until they broke up in 2011.

Ranbir is the grandson of the granddaddy of Indian film, actor Raj Kapoor, and he’s also the son of actor Rishi Kapoor and the cousin of actress Kareena Kapoor. He made his debut in 2007 in Saawariya, opposite newcomer Sonam Kapoor (no relation). His next film was the romantic comedy Bachna Ae Haseeno (2008), which means “Beware, O beautiful ones.” Beware, indeed, because this babe with a mischievous smile is setting hearts on fire as he scorches his way to the top. In his subsequent films, Wake Up Sid (2009) and Raajneeti (2010), he proved that he’s on track to becoming one of the best in Bollywood. He was once involved with his Bachna Ae Hasseno co-star, Deepika Padukone, and he has been linked with actresses Katrina Kaif and Nargis Fakhri.

Model-turned-actor Arjun Rampal made his film debut in 2001 and spent the next several years appearing in largely unremarkable movies. But a supporting role in Don: The Chase Begins Again (2006), starring Shahrukh Khan, marked a turning point in his career—Rampal went from so-so to solid as a desperate father in search of his son. He again delivered a memorable performance in a Shahrukh Khan film in 2007 as the villain in Om Shanti Om. One year later, his turn as the lead guitarist in a rock band in the critically acclaimed hit Rock On!! earned him a prestigious National Film Award. If anyone thought his Rock On!! success was a fluke, he put those doubts to rest as a ruthless politician in Raajneeti (2010), where he stood out in an all-star cast that included the likes of Ajay Devgn, Nana Patekar, and Naseeruddin Shah. He appeared as the villain in Shahrukh Khan's 2011 superhero flick Ra.One. Rampal is married to a former Miss India, with whom he has two daughters.

The son of actor Suresh Oberoi, Vivek made a promising debut in 2002 in the gangster film Company, established himself as a matinee idol that same year in the romantic drama Saathiya, started dating one of the biggest stars in the business, Aishwarya Rai, and then proceeded to blow his momentum with a string of poorly chosen projects and a growing reputation for being difficult. But the move most detrimental to his career was his decision in 2003 to call a press conference and announce on live television that he was being harassed and threatened by Aishwarya’s ex, Salman Khan. The stunt received enormous media attention and many industry insiders were angry that Vivek had aired dirty laundry about one of their own in public. He and Aishwarya broke up in 2005. He was praised for his performances in the multistarrers Yuva (2004) and Omkara (2006), but it wasn’t until 2007 that he had a modest comeback as the lead in Shootout at Lokhandwala, in which he delivered an explosive performance playing real-life gangster Maya Dolas. He was praised for his turns in the terrorist thriller Kurbaan (2009) and the biopic Rakht Charitra (2010). In 2010, he married politician’s daughter Priyanka Alva.


There’s little physical resemblance between fledgling actor Imran Khan and his uncle, Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan, but the young man has obviously inherited the same acting gene. Imran was a child actor in Aamir’s films Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988) and Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (1992), and he made his film debut as an adult in Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na (2008), which was produced by Aamir and became a box-office hit. His subsequent films Kidnap (2008) and Luck (2009), both with Sanjay Dutt, flopped. But I Hate Luv Storys (2010), with Sonam Kapoor, was a moderate success at the box office, despite lukewarm response from critics. His latest, Delhi Belly, is a largely English-language comedy produced by Aamir. Sorry ladies, this doll is taken—he’s married to his long-time sweetheart Avantika Malik.

Most Americans first got to know him as the sleazy game-show host in Slumdog Millionaire (and subsequently on the U.S. TV show 24 and in the Tom Cruise-starrer Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol), but Anil has been in show business for decades (he debuted in 1979). He was arguably the biggest star in Bollywood in the late 80s and early 90s, and he has a long list of hits and awards to his name. Of late, he’s been appearing mostly in multistarrers (with mixed success), including No Entry (2005) with Salman Khan and Lara Dutta, Welcome (2007) with Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif, Tashan (2008) with Akshay Kumar, Saif Ali Khan, and Kareena Kapoor, and Race (2008) with Saif Ali Khan, Akshaye Khanna, Bipasha Basu, and Katrina Kaif. Anil’s oldest daughter is actress Sonam Kapoor.


In his two decades in Bollywood, Irrfan has established himself as a character actor par excellence, and in recent years, he has quietly become the most successful Bollywood actor to crossover to the West with appearances in the English-language films The Namesake (2006), A Mighty Heart (2007), The Darjeeling Limited (2007), Slumdog Millionaire (2008), and New York I Love You (2009). He won two Filmfare Awards for his performances in Haasil (2003) and Life in a…Metro (2007) and a Screen Actors Guild Award for his role in Slumdog Millionaire. He is set to appear in the Hollywood productions The Amazing Spider-Man and Life of Pi. It’s rumored he may appear in a film adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s 1981 novel, Midnight’s Children, directed by Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta.



Often called the most beautiful woman in the world, Aishwarya, also known as “Ash,” is a former Miss World. She made her Bollywood debut in 1997 in Aur Pyar Ho Gaya. In 1999, she won the Filmfare Best Actress Award for her performance in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. In 2002, she appeared in Devdas, which was screened at the Cannes Film Festival, and she became the first Indian actress to serve as a Cannes jury member. She went on to appear in such hits as Dhoom 2 (2006) and Jodhaa Akbar (2008). She is the first big-name Bollywood actor to significantly crossover to the West, appearing in The Mistress of Spices (2005) with Dylan McDermott, The Last Legion (2007) with Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley, and Pink Panther 2 (2009) with Steve Martin. She has also garnered more high-profile publicity in the West than any other Bollywood actor, having appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Late Show with David Letterman, and 60 Minutes. Following turbulent relationships with actors Salman Khan and Vivek Oberoi, Aishwarya married into Bollywood royalty in 2007 when she wed Abhishek Bachchan, son of screen legend Amitabh Bachchan. In 2011, she gave birth to a daughter.

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, Shahrukh Khan and Kajol—the most beloved onscreen couples of all time. And Kajol is a one-of-a-kind who needs no last name. She starred in her first film, Bekhudi, in 1992, and first appeared with Shahrukh in Baazigar in 1993. Two years later, the pair made history together in the landmark film, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. She later co-starred with such actors as Salman Khan, Anil Kapoor, and Ajay Devgn, whom she married in 1999. Kajol appeared with Shahrukh again in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai in 1998 and in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham in 2001. She then took a five-year break from acting and had a daughter in 2003. She made a successful comeback in 2006 in Fanaa, opposite Aamir Khan, and won her fourth Filmfare Best Actress Award for her performance. In 2008, she appeared in U Me Aur Hum, her husband’s directorial debut. She reunited with Shahrukh for the first time in nearly a decade in the 2010 film My Name is Khan. From the feisty tomboy of her early career to the radiant woman she is today, Kajol keeps getting better with time.

Shahrukh Khan has said that he owes much of his success to two of his famous co-stars—Kajol and Rani (who is Kajol’s second cousin). Therefore, it’s only fitting that one of King Khan’s favorites has a first name that means “queen.” However, while Rani is a top Bollywood actress, she’s always had a shaky claim to the top. She started in film in 1996 and had her first big hit in 1998 with Shahrukh and Kajol in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Her other successes include Saathiya (2002), Chalte Chalte (2003), Veer-Zaara (2004), Bunty Aur Babli (2005), and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006). She’s been critically praised for her exceptional performances in such films as Yuva (2004) and Black (2005), and she’s won many awards throughout her career. However, she’s had her fair share of bombs as well. The spirited, adorable actress has been romantically linked with many, but she refuses to discuss her private life.

Kareena, or Bebo as she’s known, comes from a storied film family. She’s the granddaughter of legendary actor Raj Kapoor, the niece of actor Rishi Kapoor, and the cousin of actor Ranbir Kapoor. Both of her parents were actors as well, but her father didn’t believe acting was a seemly profession for women and he disapproved of Kareena and her older sister Karisma carrying on the family tradition. Her parents split and the two girls became stars (Karisma is now retired). Kareena made her acting debut in 2000 in Refugee, alongside then-newcomer Abhishek Bachchan (who was once engaged to Karisma). She followed up with roles in Asoka, with Shahrukh Khan, and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, opposite Hrithik Roshan—both in 2001. After a string of unremarkable films, she delivered acclaimed performances in Dev (2004) and Omkara (2006). She won a Filmfare Best Actress Award in 2007 for her role in the blockbuster Jab We Met (2007), in which she was paired with her then-boyfriend Shahid Kapoor. She’s currently dating Saif Ali Khan, her co-star in Tashan (2008) and Kurbaan (2009).

One of India’s top stars doesn’t even hail from India. Katrina, who has a Kashmiri father and a British mother, was born in Hong Kong and raised in Hawaii and London, where her family currently lives (she is one of eight children). She was modeling in London when she was discovered by a Bollywood filmmaker who cast her in Boom in 2003. She moved to Mumbai to pursue a film career, even though she couldn’t speak Hindi (she learned it on the fly). She had a small role in The Godfather-remake Sarkar (2005) and then appeared as the lead in Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya (2005), opposite Salman Khan, with whom she had a rocky romantic relationship. She has since appeared with Salman Khan in Partner (2007), Akshay Kumar in Namastey London (2007) and Singh is Kinng (2008), Saif Ali Khan in Race (2008), and John Abraham in New York (2009). She was once linked with her Raajneeti (2010) co-star Ranbir Kapoor. She is the model for Mattel’s Bollywood Barbie.

The year 2000 was a big one for Indian beauty pageant contestants—Lara Dutta and Dia Mirza won Miss Universe and Miss Asia Pacific respectively (and both went on to become Bollywood actresses) and Priyanka won Miss World, becoming the fifth Indian ever to win the title. She debuted in film in 2003, and for her performance in Aitraaz the following year, she won the Filmfare Best Villain Award (don’t you wish the Oscars had categories like that?)—and she’s only the second woman ever to win it. She appeared with Shahrukh Khan in the hit remake of the Hindi classic Don (2006), won the Filmfare Best Actress Award for playing a troubled model in Fashion (2008), and turned in a career-best as an unglamorous spitfire in the edgy drama Kaminey (2009). She was once linked with her Kaminey co-star Shahid Kapoor.

Vidya’s girl-next-door looks belie her versatility and sexiness. She was known early in her career for the sweetness and vulnerability she exuded in her strong Bollywood debut, the award-winning Parineeta (2005), as well as in her critically praised performances in the 2007 films Guru, Salaam-E-Ishq, and Eklavya. But audiences discovered a much different side of her in Ishqiya (2010), a curry Western in which she played a commanding, sexually bold woman. The following year, she diminished her natural prettiness to play the dowdy, cowed sister of a murder victim in No One Killed Jessica. And in her upcoming release, The Dirty Picture, she portrays real-life soft-porn star Silk Smitha. Her past hits include Lage Raho Munna Bhai (2006) and Heyy Babyy (2007). Her 2008 film Kismat Konnection with Shahid Kapoor (with whom she was romantically linked at the time), failed to do well, despite high expectations. In 2009, she won the Filmfare Best Actress Award for her performance as a courageous single mother to a disease-afflicted son in Paa.

Deepika burst on the scene in 2007 with her debut in Om Shanti Om, playing opposite Shahrukh Khan. She then appeared in Bachna Ae Haseeno (2008) with Ranbir Kapoor (with whom she was once romantically involved, and his initials are still tattooed on her neck), the bomb Chandni Chowk to China (2009) opposite Akshay Kumar, and the hit Love Aaj Kal (2009) alongside Saif Ali Khan. She starred in five films in 2010—Karthik Calling Karthik, Housefull, Lafangey Parindey, Break Ke Baad, Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey—with mixed results. She was born in Denmark to Indian parents. Her father is a famous badminton player, and in her teens, Deepika was a tough competitor in the sport, which she gave up for a career in modeling and acting.

One of the sexiest women in film and unafraid to take on racy roles, Bipasha, or Bips as she’s known, has been burning up the screen since her debut in Ajnabee in 2001, playing a married woman on an adulterous mission. From Jism in 2003 (in which she appeared with her then-boyfriend John Abraham) to Race in 2008 (opposite Saif Ali Khan), Bipasha doesn’t flinch from getting hot and heavy with her co-stars (by Bollywood standards, that is). She’s tried her hand at sweet and innocent characters and troubled damsels in distress, but those are hard to pull off when you’re as strong and smoking as she is. She was born for roles like the one she played in Bachna Ae Haseeno (2008), that of a driven superstar who might be hurt by heartache but can’t be stopped by anything.

Sonam is the daughter of veteran actor Anil Kapoor. She appeared in her first film, Saawariya, an adaptation of Dostoevsky’s short story “White Nights,” in 2007, with fellow debutant Ranbir Kapoor. The film was a dud, but her performance was praised. She also had a fine showing in her second film Delhi-6 (2009), opposite Abhishek Bachchan, also a flop. In 2010, she appeared with Imran Khan in the modestly successful I Hate Luv Storys and in the title role of Aisha, an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma set in modern-day Delhi, opposite Abhay Deol. Her latest film is the romantic epic Mausam (2011) with Shahid Kapoor. The outspoken actress has been known to ruffle feathers, including those of her former co-stars. She has been romantically linked with her I Hate Luv Storys director, Punit Malhotra.

The confident, poised Anushka has always seemed like a seasoned pro—which is likely why the venerable Yash Raj production house offered her a three-film contract before she’d ever even stepped in front of a camera. And she proved her employer right with assured performances that point to even greater promise. She had a dream debut alongside Shahrukh Khan in the 2008 blockbuster Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi—and unlike some debutantes, she was required to be more than just a pretty face. Hers was a role with substance—a female character as developed as, perhaps even more so than, the male lead—and she held her own opposite the likes of her co-star. Moderate successes followed—which showed off her versatility—including the crime caper Badmaash Company (2010) with Shahid Kapoor. By her third outing—Band Baaja Baaraat (2010)—she was carrying a film on her own, with newcomer Ranveer Singh making his debut opposite her. Her fourth film, Patiala House (2011), with Akshay Kumar, was a flop. Her latest movie is Ladies vs Ricky Bahl (2011) with her Band Baaja Baaraat co-star. She has been romantically linked to Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor.

Kangna exploded out of the blocks with her award-winning debut as an alcoholic moll in Gangster (2006), followed by strong performances as a schizophrenic actress in the biopic Woh Lamhe (2006) and as a suicidal mistress in Life In A… Metro (2007). She then bagged a Filmfare Award and a National Film Award for her portrayal of a drug-addicted supermodel in Fashion (2008). Of late, she's been trying to avoid typecasting as a trainwreck. She made a blink-and-miss-it appearance in the Hrithik Roshan-starrer Kites (2010) as the sweet (but slightly unstable) fiance of a con man. She then went on to again essay the roll of gangster girlfriend in Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai (2010), opposite Ajay Devgn, but this time, her character had her emotional act together. Kangna had a slew of releases in 2011, mostly comedies, including Tanu Weds Manu, Double Dhamaal, and Rascals.

Preity is much like many of the characters she plays: a proud, independent woman of warmth and depth. She made her acting debut in Dil Se (1998) and won a Filmfare Best Actress Award for Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003), both opposite Shahrukh Khan. Her hits include Koi...Mil Gaya (2003), Salaam Namaste (2005), and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006). Recently, she has ventured into art film, appearing with Amitabh Bachchan in The Last Lear, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2007. She won the Best Actress award at the 2008 Chicago International Film Festival for her role in the Canadian film, Heaven on Earth, which was based on the true story of a battered wife in Canada’s Punjabi community. When, in 2008, she purchased an ownership stake in the professional Indian cricket team, the Kings XI Punjab, she was the youngest owner (she was born in 1975) and the only female owner in the league. In 2009, she ended a four-year relationship with businessman Ness Wadia.

Konkona is the daughter of Aparna Sen, an acclaimed director of Indian art film (known as “parallel cinema”). Konkona appeared in two of her mother’s award-winning films, Mr. and Mrs. Iyer (2002) and 15 Park Avenue (2005), both English-language movies. Prior to those, she appeared as a child actor in Indira (1983) and made her first film as an adult in the Bengali movie Ek Je Aachhe Kanya (2001). Her role as a misfit entertainment journalist in the Hindi film Page 3 (2005) put her on the Bollywood map. She won Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Awards for her turns in Omkara (2006) and Life in a…Metro (2007) and was praised for her performances in the unsuccessful films Laaga Chunari Mein Daag (2007) with Rani Mukerji and Abhishek Bachchan, Aaja Nachle (2007) with Madhuri Dixit, and Luck by Chance (2009) with Farhan Akhtar. She finally had a hit in 2009 as the lead in Wake Up Sid opposite Ranbir Kapoor, and then another in 2010 in Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge? with Paresh Rawal and Ajay Devgn. She’s married to actor Ranvir Shorey and they have a son.

In an industry filled with talented dancers, Madhuri is a cut-above the rest—and she can act to boot. She debuted in 1984 and became a star as the lead in Tezaab in 1988. She won her first Filmfare Best Actress Award for her performance opposite Aamir Khan in the smash-hit romantic drama Dil in 1990—and many more hits and awards followed. She has danced to many of the most famous Bollywood songs ever, including “Maar Daala” from the lush drama Devdas (2002), in which she appeared with Shahrukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai. She married an Indian-American doctor in 1999 and moved to Denver, where she currently lives with her husband and two sons. After a long hiatus, the 40-something actress made a comeback in 2007 in Aaja Nachle—a mediocre film, but in it, she proved she’s still got the moves.

Controversy seems to follow this Bollywood beauty, often overshadowing her film career. In 2003, her parents were allegedly linked to members of organized crime. In 2007, American actor Richard Gere caused an international uproar when he kissed Shilpa at an AIDS awareness event, prompting protests and legal action because such public displays are considered obscene by many Indians. Later in 2007, she appeared on the British reality TV show, Celebrity Big Brother, and her fellow contestant Jade Goody was accused of racism toward Shilpa and evicted from the show. (Shilpa was voted the winner.) Through it all, she’s maintained a respectable track record in film. Some of her notable pictures include her debut Baazigar (1993), with Shahrukh Khan and Kajol, Phir Milenge (2004), and Life in a...Metro (2007). In 2009, Shilpa became a part-owner of the professional Indian cricket team, the Rajasthan Royals. She once dated Akshay Kumar and is now married to British-Indian businessman Raj Kundra. Her younger sister Shamita Shetty is also an actress.

Meet the stars

Despite the fact that Bollywood exceeds Hollywood in film output, Bollywood has a much smaller star system, which means Indian actors appear in far more films than their American counterparts—some doing as many as five movies a year. Luckily, that makes it easier for new fans to figure out who’s who. Nepotism is common in Bollywood and many actors and filmmakers come from family dynasties that have been in the movie business for generations—however, there are many celebrities with the same common surnames, particularly Khan and Kapoor, who are not related. The following, while by no means comprehensive, is a rundown of the biggest and brightest in the Bollywood universe.