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Meet Shah Rukh Khan, the World’s Biggest Movie Star You’ve Never Heard Of

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Shah Rukh Khan signs deal with Netflix.
Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan gestures during a press interaction to launch a new television show on February 24, 2015. (STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)

 

The biggest film star in the world belongs at the top of any marquee above the likes of Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson,Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt and Jackie Chan.

And no, it’s not Robert Downey Jr., Will Smith or George Clooney.

That’s because the highest-earning movie star—in terms of audience size, volume of high-grossing films, and international box office appeal—is not even from Hollywood. That title belongs to Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan, according to the likes of Forbes and The Guardian.

But “King Khan,” as he’s known in India, is not just an actor. The 51-year-old owns the production company Red Chillies Entertainment (RCE), which produces many of his movies. He also owns Indian Premier League cricket team Kolkata Knight Riders. And just for good measure, he has a stake in the children’s entertainment company, KidZania.

Given his immense popularity in India (and its 1.3 billion people), it makes perfect sense that Netflix would also want to cast him—as a partner. And in a bid to corner the streaming-video market in India, the Los Gatos, California–based company recently signed Khan and his RCE production house to a massive long-term deal.

Shah Rukh Khan signs a deal with Netflix.
Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan (center) poses during the production of an upcoming film in Mumbai on December 10, 2016. (AFP/Getty Images)

 

The agreement means that new films starring Shah Rukh Khan will be exclusively available to Netflix’s 86 million members globally. The deal is the first of its kind with any Indian film production company. It also means Netflix members will have exclusive access to dozens of past RCE films. Members will also have access to new films that will hit Indian theaters over the next three years.

Obviously, this is a shrewd investment and a big “get” for Netflix. And they are applauding themselves for the landing their star.

“Shah Rukh Khan is the most sought-after actor in the Indian film industry, and has played a huge role in bringing Indian cinema to the world stage,” said Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos in a statement. “His moniker ‘King Khan’ speaks to his status as a cultural icon and to the incredible popularity of his films among audiences worldwide.”

The first title that will hit Netflix is Dear Zindagi. It was released theatrically in November 2016. The highly anticipated film stars Khan and Alia Bhatt. Among other RCE titles available on Netflix will be the Indian box-office hits Happy New Year, Dilwale, and Om Shanti Om.

The deal comes as competition in the streaming-video space ramps up in India, which could bring more than 700 million people—and potential subscribers—online by 2020.

—Shawn Donnelly for RealClearLife