It’s a fact: India produces more films than Hollywood, and around 40% of the revenue generated by Indian cinema comes from Bollywood. Why “Bollywood”? Mumbai was formerly called Bombay. So, “B” for Bombay and the rest is for Hollywood. The style is unmistakable. Think Hindi language Indian films with over the top everything, from music to dancing to costumes and sets. And there’s big bucks in Bollywood. The richest Bollywood star, 50 year old Shahrukh Khan, is worth $600 million, more than Tom Cruise at $480 million. Amitabh Bachchan, now in his 70s, is worth $425 million, the same as Mel Gibson. The world has moved on since the first Indian silent film in 1913. These days, there is “old” Bollywood, with classic Indian dresses and dance numbers. And there is new Bollywood, where clubbing and bikinis on the beach are the norm. Don’t speak Hindi? Don’t worry. You’ll understand what’s going on. Singing and dancing, occasionally interrupted by acting.
But what about the new generation? Well, they are still very Bollywood, but, unlike the older generation of Bollywood stars, you would be forgiven for thinking they are straight out of Hollywood. The younger stars often channel that Hollywood vibe. Our number 12 just finished filming opposite Hollywood biggie Vin Diesel. Our number 10, Priyanka Chopra, appeared with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in Baywatch. Most are Indian home grown, but there are a few imports from England and the U.S., and we may encounter a former adult star or two. Here are 15 Bollywood stars that sizzle and are worth millions.
15. Sunny Leone – $2.5 million
She was born Karenjit Kaur Vohra, in Ontario, Canada. Her friends call her Karen. She thrived in the cold and snow of the Canadian winters. Then, in 1996, her family moved to Southern California. People told her she should be a model and so she did some “glamour” modeling and got into adult entertainment. She even got to the heady heights of Penthouse (Playmate of the month). Her adult career flourished and she was named a top adult star by both Maxim and Genesis. Then a move to Mumbai, India and an appearance on Indian reality TV led to offers from Bollywood. And she’s been pretty busy ever since. Admittedly bisexual, she has said she prefers men. In 2011, she married fellow adult film star Daniel Weber. She’s taking Hindi lessons and getting into the Indian thing. Bollywood rallied to her cause recently following an insulting interview with an Indian CNN reporter who kept harking back to her adult career.
14. Katrina Kaif – $5 million
Another import, English actress Katrina Kaif was born Katrina Turquotte in British Hong Kong. When she made her first movie in Bollywood, the press were told her father was one Mohammed Kaif. It was a lie intended to get Indians on her side. And it’s worked a treat. The 30-something won a Hawaiian beauty contest when she was 14 and did modeling before settling into Bollywood stardom. And she has done well for herself: she is one of the most highly paid Bollywood actresses. It all started when she was walking the catwalk at London Fashion Week and was spotted by an Indian filmmaker. Her first Bollywood film was described as a “Hindi erotic heist film”. Maybe she got advice from her sister Cindy, who IMDb reports is an adult film star. After her first Indian film, she was deluged with offers and decided to stay in India. It’s not always been easy for her, as the press initially criticized both her acting and her Hindi. Bring on the Hindi teacher.
13. Kareena Kapoor – $6 million
Her nickname is Bebo. But why? Some uncharitable souls have said it is a baby name and suits her mentality. She dropped out of Law College after a year and, against her actor father Randhir’s advice, took up acting. And like a lot of Bollywood stars, it runs in the family. Acting is in her genes, as she comes from a long line of Indian actors. IMDb reports that she herself has said, “I am a hell raiser”. And she also says her co-stars think she is selfish. Does she care? Not a bit. She is what she is. And what she is is a genuine Indian A-Lister. She married actor Saif Ali Khan in 2012. The couple’s net worth? A cool $175 million. They are both very Bollywood bankable. Maybe being selfish and a hell raiser pays off?
12. Deepika Padukone – $7.5 million
Deepika has hit Hollywood with a part opposite Vin Diesel in xXx: The Return of Xander Cage. It won’t surprise you to hear that she and Vin share some clinches. A green carpet (in India, it’s green and not red) regular, Deepika has been a busy Bollywood actress since her debut in 2006. Her big break came in 2012 with the Bollywood romantic comedy Cocktail. It’s new generation Bollywood, with Deepika’s character swigging wine from the bottle and club dancing in her sparkling little grey mini-dress. In 2012, the Indian edition of People dubbed her India’s most beautiful woman. After xXx, she gave Indian gifts to her co-stars. There were saris for the females and Vin Diesel reportedly got a sherwani, an elaborate brocade coat dress. We don’t expect the guy to show up dressed in that any time soon.
11. Anushka Sharma – $8 million
Her philosophy? Drink lots of water and try to be happy. Sounds good to us. And she’s been in the highest grossing Indian film of all time, 2014’s PK. It’s a satirical science fiction spoof kind of thing. Currently, rumor is that she may move into the $5 million Mumbai flat that her boyfriend and international cricketer Virat Kohli, recently purchased. And there’s more good news for Anushka: according to Bollywood site koimoi, her most recent film Sultan, beat PK for its opening weekend, taking in $21 million. It’s about a wrestler (played by Salman Khan). Critics have called it okay, but the fans seem to love it. Muscle man and actor Salman Khan is, according to Forbes, one of the highest paid actors in the world, with a per film salary of $33.5 million. Who’s first? Robert Downey, Jr., who gets $80 million per film.
10. Priyanka Chopra – $8 million
We predict there will be more millions in her bank account before she’s finished. Her TV show Quantico, is aired in over 200 countries. And she stars alongside Zac Efron and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in 2017’s Baywatch. And she’s the villain, the mean and nasty ice queen Victoria Leeds. She said she loved being the bad girl and that she still misses the other actors on the film. A genuinely nice girl, “PeeCee” or Piggy Chops”, as Bollywood insiders call her, has a Twitter account. In fact, she is the most followed Indian actress on Twitter. She does a lot of charitable work through her foundation. And she has a Hasbro doll made in her likeness. Apparently, she’s in the Legends of Bollywood series. She has represented Guess and the clothing company’s CEO has called her a young Sophia Loren. We totally see it.
9. Bipasha Basu – $15 million
Oay, she’s different. Her “thing” in Bollywood is horror and thrillers, where she usually plays a s*x symbol. Like Raaz 3 (Secret 3). Well, Bipasha does mean deep and dark desire, but she’s a nice girl really. Her Facebook page has cute little pictures of kittens and cozy shots with her actor hubbie and almost toy boy, Karan Singh Grover. Although, one comment made a big deal of the fact that the guy had been married twice before. Not nice. According to IMDb, she had planned to go into medicine. But that plan came to a screeching halt when she fainted dead away while dissecting a rat. Then she planned to become an accountant. Instead, she ended up being the Ford Supermodel of the World at the tender age of 17. And then came Bollywood. She answers to “Bipsy” or the “Bengali Bombshell”.
8. Freida Pinto – $15 million
We’re cheating a little on this one. She’s from Mumbai (that she still calls Bombay), but has worked most of her life in Hollywood. She has appeared in Bollywood music videos and auditioned for the odd Bollywood films. She first hit the big screen in 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire, which is set in Mumbai (or Bombay, or whatever). She’s the love interest to Dev Patel’s Jamal. It’s about a poor Mumbai slum kid who wins a million and gets accused of cheating. The film has a happy ending Bollywood dance piece at the end. Toy boy Dev, and the older Freida, were an item for a while. She is a dab foot at classical Indian dancing, as well as Salsa. And when she made Slumdog Millionaire, she had never really acted before. Like a lot of Bollywood types, she has modeled. Is she a good actress? Probably not. But she is totally a treat for the eyes.
7. Arjun Rampal – $15 million
Our first guy. He’s earned his millions playing mostly depressed characters with bad mental vibes. Think crazy and sad all at the same time. Another model, he was discovered at a posh party and went on to have a totally successful career as a male model. He’s tall (6 feet 1), he’s handsome and what’s even better? He’s a very good actor. He’s pretty squeaky clean, save for the time when his luxury New Delhi night club Lap, ran into trouble with the police when things like cocaine, meth and marijuana turned up there. All he said is that he (personally) had done nothing wrong. Which probably meant the guy was in search of a new club manager. Did you know that Bollywood stars do world tour stage shows? He participated with other hunks and bombshells in one called “Heart Throbs”. You won’t be surprised to hear that stage shows involve a lot of singing and dancing Bollywood style.
6. Vidya Balan – $15 million
She’s great at getting into her characters. When non-smoker Vidya, did the wildly successful The Dirty Picture, her character Silk Smitha was a smoker. Silk was a real Indian erotic actress. Vidya decided to see what it was like and smoked up to a pack a day, chain-smoking up to ten cigarettes in a row just before filming. It literally made her sick and she stopped as soon as filming ended. She’s like the Kelly Clarkson of India and got flack in the press for her weight going up and up, and then down. Indeed, in the pictures and clips from The Dirty Picture, she appears in “daring” midriff-baring costumes packing a few extra pounds. And flaunting it. The press also said she had lousy dress sense, if any at all. Who cares? Not Vidya. The press has eased up, now praising her for going her own way.
5. Shahid Kapoor – $20 million
You know you are in Bollywood when pictures of a guy and a girl kissing in public causes a scandal. That’s what happened to Shahid and former girlfriend, actress Kareena Kapoor. The paper that published the pictures swore that they were real, while Shahid and Kareena cried “fabrication”. Only in Bollywood. Described by GQ as a “friendly, chirpy, affable frat-boy type”, Shahid began his Bollywood career in romantic comedies, before later moving on to action and thriller films. After the kissing pics, he has been totally dedicated to keeping the press out of his private life. They still try, though (obviously). He’s got a kind of slightly dangerous boy next door vibe going on, we think.
4. Ranbir Kapoor – $30 million
What can we say about a man who appeared in a film called Bharfi!? Despite where Western minds might go on this one, Bharfi is an Indian dessert. He has no relation (as far as we can tell) to any of the other Kapoors on this list (“Kapoor” is a little bit like “Smith” in the U.S.). 30-something Ranpir is one of the breed of fresh, new Bollywood actors and one of the most popular young actors in B-Town. Which translates into big bucks and his $30 million fortune. Like others on this list, he comes from a long line of Bollywood personalities. After appearing in a film with her, he began dating Deepika Padukone. When they broke up, the media was full of talk of Kapoor’s alleged cheating ways. He, of course, denied it.
3. Preity Zinta – $30 million
She splashed, sloshed, and soaped her way to fame in a 1997 commercial for Indian soap manufacturer Liril. Since then, she has gone on to great success as an actress, as well as turning her hand to producing and writing. Her trademark clearly is a fresh girl next door appeal with, we think, a touch of s*x appeal. She has said that she is proud to be a part of Bollywood and enjoys dancing and lip synching her songs. Lip synching? Well, you can’t jump around and dance and sing at the same time. IMDb reported that she nearly died in an explosion at a concert, only later to face danger in the Indian Ocean Tsunami. Her best feature? Got to be those dimples. Before Bollywood she was a model and TV anchor. Well, Preity is pretty, after all.
2. Aishwarya Rai – $35 million
Is she the most beautiful woman in the world? Read on. As a model (yes, another one) she did a Pepsi commercial that got her noticed. Prior to that? She was studying architecture. A former ‘Miss World’, “Ash” is married to actor Abhishek Bachchan, who is the son of veteran Amitabh Bachchan, the one with a net worth of $425 million that we mentioned earlier on. Like celebrity couples everywhere, the Bollywood Bachchans are plagued by press rumors of an imminent split. Not so, the couple says. She was the first Bollywood actress to appear in Rolling Stone magazine. The girl’s even been on Oprah, and the U.S. TV magazine 60 Minutes did a piece on her titled, “The Most Beautiful Woman in the World”. We can’t really disagree.
1. Saif Ali Khan – $140 million
It’s not hard to see why this guy is the richest actor on our list. He and actress, wife Kareena Kapoor (the selfish hell raiser), are expecting their first child. Reports are that they are moving into a bigger place, a 3,000 square foot apartment in a high rise that they reportedly paid millions for. The nursery will be something else. They are kind of the Indian version of Brad and Angelina, the Bollywood “It” couple. His Bollywood thing has been in romantic comedies and, earlier on, coming of age films. IMDb has said he has a great smile and “choclatey good looks”. He and Kareena Kapoor lived together secretly before going public in 2007. He’s on the short side at 5 feet 7 inches, but is totally muscled up, chocolatey good looks and all.