to the Indian-owned drive-in theaters, which sat in the middle of the savannas ringing the capital.
But I had to admit that even after all those hours, I still wasn't totally clear on who the big stars of Bollywood really were. I think I once mixed up Khan, known as "SRK" and a young-looking 41, with Amitabh Bachchan, or "AB," who is equally handsome but way past 60. That was a really big mistake.
I knew I'd better learn as soon as I unpacked. Not knowing the difference between SRK and AB would be like landing in the United States and confusing Brad Pitt with Robert Redford. Clearly two different generations.
So the very weekend my husband and I arrived in New Delhi, I started paying attention, reading Page 3 -- the gossip and glitterati pages of the Indian newspapers -- and trying to get a glimpse of the VVIPs. It's not just VIP, which describes a fairly routine upper-class person; it's VVIP when it comes to Bollywood.
I asked some friends to draw me a chart of the heroes and heroines of Bollywood, the largest film industry in the world, producing hundreds of movies each year and selling 3.6 billion tickets, compared with Hollywood's 2.6 billion. But there are only a handful of Indian superstars, and day-to-day it was Shah Rukh Khan whose name and face kept appearing.
That's why I was intrigued and thankful when I heard King Khan now has his own unauthorized biography, "King of Bollywood: Shah Rukh Khan and the Seductive World of Indian Cinema," released by Warner Books earlier this month. It's a lyrical and fascinating portrait of Khan. But it's also a window on a changing and increasingly consumerist India that is leaving behind its socialist and isolationist leanings -- a shift Khan embodies.
I had noticed that Khan was not only in Bollywood films and the hundreds of spinoff song-and-dance videos. It seemed that the down-to-earth Khan was selling everything from banking to biscuits. His face beamed from rice ads, Tag Heuer watch billboards and Pepsi commercials.