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From Rajinikanth to Shah Rukh Khan and Ranveer Singh – Here are the 25 most popular actors in India

Many Indian actors are popular for their charming looks and acting prowess nationally as well as globally. We list the 25 most popular actors in India.

From Rajinikanth to Shah Rukh Khan and Ranveer Singh – Here are the 25 most popular actors in India
L-R: Rajinikanth, Shah Rukh Khan and Ranveer Singh

Last Updated: 01.32 PM, Apr 12, 2024

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The Indian film industry has been home to some of the biggest actors of all time who have received love, admiration and acclaim, both nationally and internationally. Right from the downright charming Shah Rukh Khan to Kollywood’s revered Rajinikanth and more, they all have given us some timeless onscreen performances. Here's a compilation of the top 25 Indian actors who are immensely popular among audiences:  

25 most popular actors in India

Shahrukh Khan

Bollywood’s original 1990s romance king, Shah Rukh Khan, is one of the most popular actors not just in India but worldwide too. Described as one of the most successful film stars globally, Shah Rukh started his showbiz career with the 1988 Hindi TV serial Fauji and later debuted with Deewana in 1992. Shah Rukh’s career-defining roles came with top grossers such as Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995), Dil To Pagal Hai (1997), Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), Mohabbatein (2000), Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham... (2001), Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003), Veer-Zaara (2004) and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006). In addition, Shah Rukh is a co-owner of the Indian Premier League cricket franchise Kolkata Knight Riders and co-chairman of Red Chillies Entertainment, a production firm.  

Amitabh Bachchan

Hailed as the greatest actor of the century, Amitabh Bachchan has been Bollywood’s living legend since the 1970s. Initially mocked and rejected for his unusual height, and thick baritone, he debuted with Khwaja Ahmad Abbas’ Saat Hindustani (1969) where he essayed the role of a poet Anwar Ali from Bihar and bagged his first National Award for the Most Promising Newcomer. Later, Amitabh went on to achieve stardom with his angry young man image in iconic films like Don, Deewar, Sholay, and Zanjeer, among others. In a career spanning 55 years, Amitabh has appeared in over 200 films to date.    

Amitabh Bachchan made an appearance in Aditya Chopra's Mohabbatein in 2000, playing a supporting part for which he won the Best Supporting Actor Filmfare Award. He debuted on television that year as the game show host Kaun Banega Crorepati. Since then, he has hosted all but the third season of the show. He is widely regarded as one of the most accomplished and significant actors in Indian cinema. In recognition of his artistic contributions, the Government of India has given him the Padma Shri in 1984, the Padma Bhushan in 2001, the Padma Vibhushan in 2015, and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, India's highest honour in the field of cinema in 2018.  

Rajinikanth

Shivaji Rao Gaekwad, popularly known as Rajinikanth, has worked in more than 160 films, mostly Tamil cinema or Kollywood. Recognised for his distinct dialogue delivery and signature actions in films, he possesses an enormous global fan base. Interestingly, Rajinikanth aka Thalaivar started off as a bus conductor before he joined the Madras Film Institute and debuted in Katha Sangama in 1976 and shot to fame with Apoorva Raagangal in 1975. His signature actions, like tossing a cigarette in the air and catching it with his mouth, define his distinct acting style. For his contribution to the arts, the Indian government awarded him the Padma Bhushan in 2000 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2016. He received the "Centenary Award for Indian Film Personality of the Year" at the 45th International Film Festival of India (2014).  

Aamir Khan

Bollywood’s Mr Perfectionist, Aamir Khan is a well-known Indian actor, producer, filmmaker and TV show host. Aamir Khan made his movie debut as a child actor in the 1973 film Yaadon Ki Baaraat, directed by his uncle Nasir Hussain. His debut role as a hero in a feature film was in Holi (1984). In 1988, he made his acting debut in the feature film Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak. He received a National Film Award in the Special Mention category for his role in Raakh (1989). In the 1990s, he made a name for himself as a prominent actor by starring in several box office hits, such as Dil (1990), Rangeela (1995), Raja Hindustani (1996), for which he received his first Filmfare Award for Best Actor.   

Aamir also started his production company, Aamir Khan Productions, in 1999. Lagaan (2001), his first feature film as a producer, earned him an Academy Award nomination for the Best Foreign Language Film. The film won Filmfare Awards for Best Film and Best Actor. Aamir’s directorial debut Taare Zameen Par (2007) took home the Filmfare Awards for Best Director and Best Film that year. Ghajini (2008), 3 Idiots (2009), Dhoom 3 (2013), PK (2014), and Dangal (2016) have all been among Aamir’s highest grossing films.  

Salman Khan

Born to famous screenwriter Salim Khan and his wife Sushila Charak, Salman Khan started off with a supporting role in Biwi Ho To Aisi (1988) followed shortly by a blockbuster Maine Pyar Kiya (1989) in Sooraj Barjatya’s directorial. Barjatya's family dramas Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! (1994) and Hum Saath-Saath Hain (1999) cemented Salman’s position as a bankable Bollywood actor and he returned to top Bollywood grossers like Dabangg (2010), Ready (2011), Bodyguard (2011), Ek Tha Tiger (2012), Dabangg 2 (2012), Kick (2014), and Tiger Zinda Hai (2017) in the latter half of 2000s. In addition to being an actor and producer, Salman also hosts the reality show Big Boss on Colors TV.  

Ranveer Singh

Ranveer wanted to be an actor since childhood, but during college, he was more inclined towards creative writing than acting. After passing out from Indiana University Bloomington, Ranveer worked in the advertising industry for a couple of years before auditioning for Yash Raj Films (YRF)’s romantic comedy Band Baaja Baaraat (2010) that also marked his Bollywood debut. He went on to win the Filmfare Award for Best Male Debut for it and attained star status with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s films - Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela (2013), Bajirao Mastani (2015) and Padmaavat (2018). He received the Filmfare Award for Best Actor for Bajirao Mastani and he received the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actor for Padmaavat. He is one of the highest paid actors in India and has been listed in the Celebrity 100 list of Forbes India since 2012.   

Jr. NTR

Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao, popularly known as Jr NTR or Tarak is a Telugu film actor. He is the grandson of Telugu matinee idol, NT Rama Rao Sr, who was also Andhra Pradesh’s former chief minister. Jr NTR starred as a child actor in films like Brahmarshi Viswamitra (1991) and Ramayanam (1997) and later debuted as a lead hero with Ninnu Choodalani (2001). One of the highest-paid Telugu film stars, Jr. NTR was rated 28th on Forbes India Celebrity 100 list with an annual salary of ₹280 million in 2018.  

Mahesh Babu

Another highly-paid actor in Telugu film industry, Mahesh Babu is the younger son of veteran Telugu actor, Krishna. Mahesh Babu made his debut in a lead role with Rajakumarudu (1999) for which he received the Nandi Award for Best Male Debut. He continued acting in more box office hits, including Arjun (2004), Athadu (2005), Pokiri (2006), Dookudu (2011), and Businessman (2012), among others    

Saif Ali Khan

Born to Bollywood actress Sharmila Tagore and cricketer Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, Saif Ali Khan debuted with Yash Chopra-directed Parampara (1993), though he was successful as part of multi-starrers such as Yeh Dillagi (1994), Main Khiladi Tu Anari (1994), Kachche Dhaage (1999) and Hum Saath-Saath Hain (1999). As a solo male actor, he enjoyed success in romantic films such as Hum Tum (2004), Parineeta (2005), Salaam Namaste (2005), and Ta Ra Rum Pum (2007). He received recognition in the 2000s for his appearances in the romantic comedy Dil Chahta Hai (2001) and Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003). Saif received praise for starring in the first-ever Indian original series on Netflix, Sacred Games (2018–2019), and he had his best box office success with the historical drama Tanhaji (2020).  

Ranbir Kapoor

Belonging to Bollywood’s first film family, the son of actors Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh – Ranbir Kapoor is among one of the highly paid and most popular actors in India. Ranbir studied method acting and filmmaking at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute and the School of Visual Arts, respectively. After that, he worked with Sanjay Leela Bhansali on the movie Black (2005) and debuted as an actor in Bhansali's melancholy romance Saawariya (2007), which did not do well at the box office. His acting abilities were demonstrated in Wake Up Sid, Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani (both 2009), and the political drama Raajneeti (2010). He has won two consecutive Filmfare Awards for Best Actor for his roles as a happy deaf and dumb guy in Barfi! (2012) and a tormented musician in Rockstar (2011). Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013), a romantic comedy, helped him solidify his stardom.  

Vicky Kaushal

Son of prominent action director Sham Kaushal, Vicky Kaushal is an engineer by qualification and actor by passion. In 2015, Vicky made his big screen debut as the lead in the independent drama film Masaan, which was directed by Neeraj Ghaywan. The movie was chosen to be screened at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, where it took home two prizes: the International Jury of Film Critics Award, and the Promising Future prize in the Un Certain Regard category. Vicky became a well-known actor after playing a military officer in the 2019 war movie Uri: The Surgical Strike, which also earned him the National Film Award for Best Actor.  

Ayushmann Khurrana

Ayushmann Khurrana, who is well-known for playing ordinary individuals who frequently defy social conventions, made his screen debut in the romantic comedy Vicky Donor in 2012. For his role as a sperm donor, he was awarded the Filmfare Award for Best Male Debut. Ayushmann's career began with a number of successful films, such as the thriller Andhadhun (2018), the criminal drama Article 15 (2019), and the comedy-dramas Bareilly Ki Barfi (2017), Shubh Mangal Saavdhan (2017), Badhaai Ho (2018), Dream Girl (2019), and Bala (2019).  

Akshay Kumar

Born as Rajiv Bhatia, Akshay Kumar has worked in more than 100 films over his three-decade-long film career. Considered one of the most prolific actors in Bollywood, Akshay debuted with Saugandh (1991) but tasted commercial success with Abbas-Mustan's action thriller Khiladi a year later. In addition to his slapstick comedic roles in several films, including Hera Pheri (2000), Mujhse Shaadi Karogi (2004), Phir Hera Pheri (2006), Bhool Bhulaiyaa (2007), and Singh Is Kinng (2008), Akshay became well-known for his romantic movies Dhadkan (2000), Andaaz (2003), and Namastey London (2007).   

Ajay Devgn

Bollywood’s Singham, aka Ajay Devgn, made his 70 mm screen debut with the action romance film Phool Aur Kaante (1991) which also earned him the Filmfare Award for Best Male Debut. He was twice awarded the National Film Award for Best Actor, for his roles as Bhagat Singh in The Legend of Bhagat Singh (2002) and a riot victim in Zakhm (1998). Additionally, he received recognition for the crime dramas Omkara (2006) and Company (2002). Ajay worked with Rohit Shetty on several action and comic films, including Golmaal Returns (2008), Golmaal 3 (2010), Singham (2011), etc.  

Hrithik Roshan

Popular for his dancing skills, Hrithik Roshan debuted in his home production Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai (2000) alongside Ameesha Patel. His acting career was cemented with roles in the ensemble family drama Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001) and the terrorism drama Fiza (2000). A turning point in Hrithik's career was the science fiction film Koi... Mil Gaya (2003), for which he won two Filmfare Awards. He went on to play the title character in the film's sequels, Krrish (2006) and Krrish 3 (2013).  

Irrfan Khan

Late actor Irrfan Khan debuted with a small role in Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay (1988). His breakthrough performances came in the dramas Haasil (2003) and Maqbool (2004), following his appearance in the British film The Warrior (2001). He later received praise from critics for his performances in Life in a... Metro (2007), Paan Singh Tomar (2011), and The Namesake (2006), for which he was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male. Irrfan also received the National Film Award for Best Actor and the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actor for his performance as Paan Singh Tomar in the critically acclaimed biographical sports drama Paan Singh Tomar (2011).  

Naseeruddin Shah

An institution of acting himself, veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah pursued his graduation from Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and later joined the National School of Drama (NSD) to pursue his acting dreams. Shah made his acting debut in the 1975 Hindi film Nishant as Vishwan. Since then, he has primarily acted in Hindi films, but he has also worked on several English-language and regional Indian films.  

Kamal Haasan

Tamil actor and filmmaker Kamal Haasan, who is regarded as one of the best actors in Indian cinema, began working as a child artist at the age of six in the 1960 Tamil film Kalathur Kannamma, for which he was awarded the President's Gold Medal. His big break as a leading man came in the K Balachander-directed drama Apoorva Raagangal (1975), where he portrayed a young rebel who falls in love with an elderly lady. In Moondram Pirai (1982), he played an honest schoolteacher who takes care of a woman who has retrograde amnesia, and for that role he earned his first National Film Award.  

Yash

KGF star Yash debuted in 2007 with romantic drama Jambada Hudugi. He starred opposite Radhika Pandit in the male lead role in Moggina Manasu, his second film. He won the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor for the movie, which became a commercial success. Yash became well-known for his role as Rocky Bhai in the movie KGF (2018).  

Shahid Kapoor

Son of veteran actors Pankaj Kapoor and Neelima Azeem, Shahid Kapoor had dance training at the institute of Shiamak Davar. In the 1990s, he starred in music videos, TV advertisements, and a few films as a background dancer. In 2003, he made his big screen debut in the romantic comedy Ishq Vishk, which won him the Filmfare Award for Best Male Debut. Shahid was praised for his roles as twin brothers in Vishal Bhardwaj's action flick Kaminey (2009) and a disturbed businessman in Imtiaz Ali's romantic comedy Jab We Met (2007). The roles he played in Bhardwaj's tragedy Haider (2014) and as a drug-abusing singer in the crime drama Udta Punjab (2016) won him more acclaim. 

Randeep Hooda

With Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding (2001), Randeep Hooda made his film debut in Hindi cinema. His performance in the gangster thriller Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai (2010) was a turning point in his career. He went on to act in Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster (2011), Rang Rasiya (2014), Highway (2014), and Sarbjit (2016). Randeep was last seen in the recently released Swatantra Veer Savarkar as the titular character opposite Ankita Lokhande.  

Anil Kapoor

Born to film producer Surinder Kapoor, Anil made his Bollywood debut in the romantic drama Hamare Tumhare (1979) and then starred in the Telugu film Vamsa Vruksham (1980). Mashaal (1984), an action drama, made Anil a star. He further cemented his reputation with appearances in Meri Jung (1985), Karma (1986), Mr. India (1987), Tezaab (1988), and Ram Lakhan (1989). For his performance as an army man in Pukar (2000), he received the National Film Award for Best Actor. For Gandhi, My Father (2007), he received the Special Jury Award. Slumdog Millionaire (2008), directed by Danny Boyle, was his first role in an international motion picture. Anil featured in the TV show revivals of The Night Manager (2023) and 24 (2013–2016).  

Vijay  

Joseph Vijay Chandrasekhar, popularly known as Vijay, debuted in the Tamil film Vetri (1984) and had his first lead role in the film Naalaiya Theerpu (1992) when he was barely 18 years old. Vijay’s 2003 film Ghilli was the first Tamil film to have grossed over ₹500 million at the box office. Vijay declared in February 2024 that he would be leaving the movie industry and entering politics with the formation of Tamilaga Vettri Kazhagam.

Allu Arjun

One of the highest paid actors in India, Allu Arjun made his film debut with Gangotri (2003). After starring in Sukumar's cult masterpiece Arya (2004), for which he won a Nandi Special Jury Award, he became well-known and cemented his reputation with Bunny (2005) and (2007). Most recently, Allu Arjun was seen in Pushpa: The Rise (2021) as the titular character Pushpa Raj, a daily wage worker who overthrows Mangalam Srinu.  

Abhay Deol

Making his Hindi film debut with Imtiaz Ali’s Socha Na Tha (2005), Abhay Deol's breakthrough role was in Anurag Kashyap’s black comedy called Dev.D, a modern take on Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s Devdas. Abhay began his career primarily starring in indie films before he was cast in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, a road trip movie, directed by Zoya Akhtar that went on to become one of Bollywood's highest-grossing movies. He received positive feedback for his portrayal and was nominated for the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor for the first tim

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