Bollywood Rising: India's Biggest Movie Star Shah Rukh Khan

Producers of Hindi films are beginning to show an interest in capitalizing on its growing appeal. As Chopra pointed out, "there is some interest among filmmakers in reaching out to people outside India."

"It is great to see people taking interest in our films worldwide," director Johar acknowledged. He added, however, that "it's not a priority for us to win over new audiences. We are very happy with our audience and our audience numbers."

"Frankly," Chopra said, "Bollywood filmmakers are not going to change what they do best — the songs, the dances, the heightened emotions — in order to get the attention of the West."

Regardless of Western audiences, however, the films are changing, and perhaps no one is as emblematic of this change as Khan.

To Chopra, whose latest book, "King of Bollywood: Shah Rukh Khan," profiles the movie star's impact on the industry and on India, Khan is "the face of industrialized, millennium-era India."

"His films," Chopra told ABC News, "reflect how Bollywood has evolved in the 1990s."

After the 1980s, an era Johar described as "a total assault on aesthetic sensibilities in Bollywood," the 1990s brought something new to the scene.

To begin with, there was a generational shift at work.

Recalling her early days as a journalist covering Hindi films, Chopra said, "when I started working in 1991, the youngest director must have been some 50 years old!"

The Film That Changed Everything

But, in the mid-90s, the success of one film — "Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge" (known in India as DDLJ, and loosely translated as "The Brave-Hearted One Will Take the Bride") a romance set in England and in India — changed all that.

Marking the debut of 23-year-old director, Aditya Chopra (no relation to Anupama Chopra), and starring a young Khan, the film continues to break box office records, celebrating its 600th week at a local cinema in Mumbai in April.

"That film brought a new world into focus," Anupama Chopra said.

"With this film," she said, "we suddenly saw that a 20-something, a kid could make a movie and generate massive revenues at the box office."

"With DDLJ," she concluded, "the people making Hindi movies changed."

DDLJ was one of the first Hindi films to earn huge revenues outside the country, generating hysteria among the Indian diaspora in the United Kingdom.

To Johar, who assisted Aditya Chopra on the film, "DDLJ was one of the first Hindi films to combine a Western look, a modern hip-ness, with Indian soul." Quite like Khan himself, the well-educated, secular Muslim boy from Delhi, who broke with convention by marrying a Hindu woman, but is still traditional enough to refuse to enact any kissing scenes in his films.

He started his career with a string of anti-hero performances: an early success showed him throwing a woman off a building in a bid to avenge humiliation by her father.

Today, he is known more for his oeuvre of romantic films — always emotional, usually funny, and occasionally heartbreaking.

To Johar, "the secret of Shah Rukh's appeal to the audience lies more in his off-screen persona than in his on-screen presence. He has a compassion, a vulnerability which pulls people in."

"How else," he continued, "could he have convinced an audience to empathize with him even when he was playing a murderer or a psychopath?"

Khan's own take on his success is more modest.

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