As international travelers know, there's nothing unusual about airport security officers pulling passengers out of line for extra screening. But that generally doesn't happen to Shah Rukh Khan, one of India's biggest film stars and a global entertainment icon. Khan, 43, was passing through Newark Liberty International Airport Aug. 15 when immigration officials removed him from line and questioned him for more than an hour. Khan (along with much of India) reacted angrily to the perceived slight, which he called "absolutely uncalled for." Many are accusing U.S. officials of profiling the South Asian heartthrob because of his race and his name, but authorities insist his examination was a routine security measure (they also say the questioning would have happened faster if his luggage hadn't gotten lost).
Khan, whose worldwide fan base has been estimated at 3.5 billion people, later suggested the U.S. acts as if it existed in a "parallel universe" with the misconception that only foreigners are responsible for terrorism. But he toned down his comments afterward, calling the exam "an unfortunate procedure." America's ambassador to India, Timothy Roemer, has also sought to smooth feathers over the incident, calling Khan "a very welcome guest in the United States" and even added some flattery: "Many Americans love his films." Khan, ironically, had been traveling to promote his next project, My Name is Khan a movie about racial profiling.
Born Nov. 2, 1965, in New Delhi. Earned an economics degree from Hansraj College in 1988.
Made his television debut in 1988 and his first film appearance four years later. Also a popular singer and dancer, he hosted India's version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire for one season.
Has appeared in more than 70 films, including the 1995 juggernaut Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, which remained in some theaters for more than 10 years.
Born with the name Shahrukh (meaning "Face of the King"), but prefers his name written as Shah Rukh Khan and is widely known as S.R.K.
Reportedly first went to Mumbai, home to Bollywood, not to be an actor but to reconnect with an ex-girlfriend. They later married; Shah Rukh and Gauri Khan have two children. He is Muslim, she is Hindu.
According to fan sites, his favorite book is The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and he has a dog named Chewbacca.
Says he has not been offered good roles in American films, but that fact doesn't bother him.
His likeness is featured in the Madame Tussauds wax museum in London. He also was awarded an honorary doctorate from Britain's Bedfordshire University in July.
Claims he will appear in movies for free if he likes the role.
A ubiquitous pitchman in India, he promotes products from Pepsi to Hyundai as well as his own perfume line, SK.
"I play to the gallery. More than an actor, I am a performer ... I'm a great believer honestly so, shamelessly so, vulgarly so that cinema is for entertainment. If you want to send messages, there's the postal service."
Business Times Singapore, Oct. 7, 2006
"I always believed I was short but my statue looks all right. But what I liked the most are my eyes."
At the unveiling of his wax likeness at Madame Tussauds in London. He is 5 ft. 8 in. tall (BBC, April 3, 2007)
"It's not an isolated, parallel universe existence for this country ... If we are scared of violence and terrorism, all of us are responsible for it. It's not that the world is and America is not."
Following his security examination at Newark Liberty International Airport (AFP, Aug. 17, 2009)
"Even though I am fantastic looking, I am still quite intelligent."
Business Times Singapore, Oct. 7, 2006
"It's absolutely disrespectful to him, and it's only based on his religion and last name he has a Muslim name and I don't think that's right."
Santripti Vellody, 30, a business development manager, on Khan's airport examination (New York Times, Aug. 16, 2009)
"Shah Rukh Khan is the pride of India. I am quite surprised that he was detained in the Newark airport."
Overseas Indian Affairs Minster Vayalar Ravi (Indo-Asian News Service, Aug. 15)
"I can't believe how crazy I was. I was hooked on him. I saw his movie Dil to Pagal Hai every week. I put up his posters on my ceiling, on the walls, in my cupboard."
Aida Wilson, a Singaporean woman who named her first child Shah Rukh in Khan's honor (The Straits Times, Oct. 12, 2008)