Who is going to be the biggest superstar of 2009? The same man who was the biggest superstar of 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004 and #8230; Shah Rukh Khan has held that position for over a decade and it's unlikely he's going to relinquish it anytime soon. And there are good reasons why.
Of his generation, Shah Rukh's ratio of hits and superhits over a sustained period of time - in the domestic as well as overseas market - is still the industry's best. (A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, that honour went to Amitabh Bachchan).
Shah Rukh is also India's most successful star internationally, with a passionate following in countries as surprising as Germany and Switzerland. His longevity seems assured since he has abandoned his yuppie Raj-Rahul persona in favour of off-beat characters with mass appeal, whether it's the tormented but resolute Kabir Khan of Chak De! India or ordinary man Surinder Sahney in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi.
The buzz has already begun around his next major release - Karan Johar's My Name Is Khan, a film about Muslim identity today, which promises to go where Shah Rukh and Karan have certainly never gone before. His closest competitors remain the same: Akshay Kumar, Aamir Khan, Hrithik Roshan and Salman Khan.
Akshay is the current comedy-action-masala hit machine, Aamir is in a class of his own, Hrithik Roshan manages to keep springing surprises, and Salman Khan and #8230; he may give flop after flop (Heroes, Yuvvraaj) but he also bounces back like an accomplished trampoline artiste. There are many promising younger stars around (Shahid Kapur, Ranbir Kapoor, Imran Khan), but the Indian audience's love affair with its exclusive club of forty-plus male superstars (except for Hrithik, who is in his thirties) is still going strong.
Unfortunately, as far as actresses are concerned, the affair goes into break-up mode once they cross 30.