They all did reach the Numero Uno position in Bollywood. Except that some made it real fast while others had to slog for years to get their crown. What’s more, while some remained enconsed in their thrones for years, other had to vacate it soon. And many staged a comeback.
Presenting the fastest and slowest journeys, longest and shortest reigns and repeated coups of Bollywood heroes – all for that one crown.
Aamir Khan – His must be the most arduous journey ever of a Bollywood star reaching the top. Though he made his debut in 1988, he could only enter at no 2 in 1996 with Raja Hindustani, making a hasty exit the very next year with Shah Rukh and Sunny’s huge gains. After that he could not enter the countdown again till 2006 as Salman, Shah Rukh, Govinda, Sunny and Hrithik one after another kept pipping him to the post while Aamir lingered on with just 5 hits (Qayamat se qayamat tak, Dil, Rangeela, Raja Hinduatani, Lagaan) and a few successes in 18 years. His fortunes changed from 2006 onward as he had 4 hits (Rang De Basanti, Fanaa, Taare Zameen Par, Ghajini) in 3 years for the first time. Next year he was at the no 1 spot with 3 Idiots.
And even before he could feel the crown on his head, in 2010 came Dabangg and that along with Aamir’s long gaps in releases ensured he never got the throne back. This must be the longest journey and the shortest reign at the top – ever in Bollywood history – of any star. Or may be we can say – Aamir is not really interested in the rat-race.
Shah Rukh Khan – He kept entering, exiting and hovering around in the countdown for years. Making his mark at no 3 in 1993 with Baazigar and Darr, exiting in 1994 with no hits, zooming to no 2 in 1995 with Dilwale Dulhaniya le Jaayenge and Karan Arjun going out again with no hits in 1996 and Aamir and Govinda taking huge leaps, re entering at no 2 again in 1997 and sticking to it till 2003 as Salman reigned supreme till 2000 while Shah Rukh himself slowed after 2000 just as he had an opportunity to topple Salman, maintaining status quo for the next 2 years with both having no big solo hits. Finally after a 10 year long struggle he managed to attain the crown in 2003 with Kal Ho Na Ho and Chalte Chalte, which he retained till 2008, stepping down only for a year in 2006 as Hrithik Roshan enjoyed his brief (briefest in Bollywood history) spell at no 1.
Amitabh Bachchan – He entered the top stars’ countdown with his superhit Zanjeer in 1973 at the no 3 spot as the fresher Rishi Kapoor beat him and claimed no 2 spot with his blockbuster rage debut Bobby. Bachchan also had the disadvantage of having 13 failed films to his name while Rishi was a clean slate. Again Bachchan was an unconventional (unlikley?) hero at that time while Kapoor was the romantic hero. So with Dharmendra claiming no 1 spot after many years at 2 and 3, and Rishi occupying no 2, Bachchan had to settle for no 3. Next year he had a blockbuster Roti Kapda aur Makaan but only an extended special appearance and hence was out of the countdown along with Rishi as Rajesh Khanna had a resurgence and Manoj Kumar made gains.
1975 saw Bachchan back in the countdown at no 2 with Sholay and Deewar as Dharmendra towered over everyone else and it was the same story in 1976. It was finally in 1977 that Bachchan managed to claim the throne with Amar Akbar Anthony and Parvarish. But once there, he reigned supreme for the next 12 years – The second longest unbroken reign in Bollywood history.
Dharmendra – Though he did enter at no 2 with his blockbuster Phool Aur Patthar in 1966 and managed to reach No 1 in 1968, the very next year Rajesh Khanna threw a spanner in his works and he had to struggle for another 4 years to regain his no 1 position in 1973. What’s worse, he managed to retain it only for 4 years till 1977 when Amitabh Bachchan took over from him.
Rajesh Khanna – This man after two flops in two years jumped straight to No 1 position in 1969 with 3 hits(Araadhana, Do Raaste, Bandhan) and 2 successes (Ittefaq, Doli). However he could only retain it for 4 years with 18 hits raining upon him in this period, and then, had to hand over the baton to Dharmendra in 1973.
K L Sehgal – Most probably you may not have heard his name but this singing superstar sensation made his debut at no 2 in 1933, climbed up straight to the top in 1934 and remained in that position till his death in 1947, stepping down to no 2 for just one year as Ashok Kumar had his All Time Blockbuster Kismet in 1943. If not for this technicality, he would be at the top of this list for longest unbroken reign at the top.
Salman Khan – After the brief role in his failed debut Biwi Ho To Aisi, he shot up in a flash – straight to the no 1 position in 1989 with All Time Blockbuster Maine Pyar Kiya, something no other star has ever experienced, before and since. What’s More, he has the longest unbroken reign at the top of 14 years (1989-2002) and his total reign has been an incredible 23 years at the top, of the 29 years he has been in the industry. Apart from his first term of 14 years, he ruled in the year 2005 and 8 years from 2010-2017. And there seems to be no end to his reign in sight with his contemporaries being either slow and infrequent, (Aamir) or losing steam (Shah Rukh, Akshay, Ajay) while the generation next being unable to have huge openings and collections as yet, despite many of them having made their debut over a decade back.