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

"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.

In an interview with ABC News, he said, "I think I de-mystify stardom to people. I am not like the larger-than-life heroes who dominated Hindi films before me. I am very casual, I remember people telling me to wear suits when I started working in the industry!"

Not all of the advice was so innocuous.

Khan recalled one director, whom he won't name, telling him to underplay his education. "He told me that he wanted to sell me to the public as an illiterate Muslim boy from Jama Masjid in Old Delhi."

Khan refused, and signed five films in his first year.

Since then, he has managed to avoid controversy, remaining unruffled by rumours suggesting that he is in fact gay.

"It doesn't bother me when people write that I am homosexual," he told ABC News.

"Recently they started calling me a metrosexual — I wasn't even sure what that word meant when I heard it for the first time. I looked it up and found out that it has something to do with getting regular manicures and so on — I think the state of my nails pretty much disqualifies me from being one!"

Warming to the subject, he continued, "maybe they say these things because I am not particularly macho. I have always been very comfortable around women, because my father died when I was very young and I spent a lot of time with my mother and sister."

"I am very impressed by how hard women work, and I have made it a point to do films that portray women positively, give them important roles. I worked with some incredible actresses early in my career and realized immediately that they are more talented than me, they work hard, and it's important to give them their due, it's better for the film," he said.

That sensibility is part of the reason Anupama Chopra sees Khan as the flag-bearer for today's Bollywood.

But the actor himself has few such pretensions.

"I am not attached to my legacy. I have never seen a film of mine twice. It's not that I am embarrassed, I am just not interested," he told ABC News.

"The only thing I want," he said, "is to someday make an Indian film which would make an impact in the world, which would go beyond the Indian audience."

For this Bollywood superstar it seems, taking his films to the world is more important than making a career in Hollywood.

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