Hindi Film 101: Shahrukh Khan, Is He Rich Or Poor?

This is a question that just came up, how much money does Shahrukh have? And the answer is “there is no simple answer”.

Usual Disclaimer: I don’t know these people, I have no special knowledge, this is just how it looks to me based on publicly available sources.

There is no point in Shahrukh’s life where you can easily say “he was rich” or “he was poor”, even now. It’s the strangest thing! Money should be money, it’s just a number, it’s a fact. And yet, at the same time, no it is not.

The starting point is the overall wealth of India the country over the course of Shahrukh’s life. When he was young, in the 70s and early 80s, India as a whole was not a wealthy place. There were little consumer goods available, little new building, and little new industries and jobs coming into the country. There just wasn’t that much for money to be spent upon. But now, there is so much to buy! So many things to spend money on! New jobs to compete for with high cash salaries, new products from overseas, new fancy houses, new fancy cars, and so on and so forth.

Instagram photo by Jawa Motorcycles • May 15, 2016 at 10:54am UTC | Shahrukh  khan, Shahrukh khan and kajol, Shah rukh khan movies
Look at the super cool and expensive stuff of the late 80s.

When Shahrukh was a child, he went to the best school in the city, his family owned a series of businesses, and they had apartments in good neighborhoods of the city. In present day, owning something like a gas station, having an apartment in a good neighborhood, and going to the best school would mean that you have A LOT of money. But in the 1970s in Delhi, I don’t think that was the case. There simply wasn’t that much money around, and there wasn’t that much demand. The population of Delhi, for instance, has quadrupled since Shahrukh was a child. And it’s not just that, it’s that the population has quadrupled specifically in the middle-class/upper middle-class population that was Shahrukh. The slot Shahrukh had in his very good school would now be in demand by, maybe, 8 more children than back then. Which means the cost of that slot goes that much higher. And the same for everything, his family’s small restaurant, apartment, car, all of that. Less demand, less cost, less wealth reflected by the same kind of possessions.

What I keep going back to is that Shahrukh has clear memories of going to bed hungry. He remembers his father telling them all how delicious watery daal is, and he believed it, until he grew up and left home and realized that their food was watered down because they could not afford enough food and his father tried to convince them it tasted better that way. Forget that he went to a good school, that his parents owned businesses off and on, if you are not feeding your children enough food on a routine basis, you are poor.

There’s also money versus family. On both sides, Shahrukh came from very stable family wealth. His father’s family were solid landowners/merchants of Lahore. His mother’s father was a government engineer who was highly respected and well-paid. But then Partition happened and his father was cut off from his entire larger family who remained in Pakistan while Shahrukh’s father was in college in Delhi. And his mother’s side lived down in Bangalore, and there was only so much support they could send up to Delhi for the family.

Shah Rukh Khan: Lesser known facts about the Baadshah's family | The Times  of India
I believe this is his grandfather, at the ceremonial opening of some government work he designed

So yes, Shahrukh came from very good, upper class, educated families on both sides. Thanks to that, his father had a law degree, thanks to his law school he had connections with movers and shakers in Delhi. And his mother fit in nicely with that society, made friends and connections along with her husband. But that still doesn’t necessarily mean “money”.

We can see it in his young childhood. It is mentioned occasionally that Shahrukh was sent to live with his grandparents in Bangalore until he was 5. It wasn’t abandonment by his parents, obviously he traveled back and forth to Delhi and so did they, but the majority of the responsibility/expense of him for the first few years was on his maternal grandparents. They weren’t rich enough to subsidize the whole household, but they could take on the charge of one child at least for a little while. His grandfather was working and on salary and life was good. But then his grandfather stopped working, and eventually his grandparents died, and that cut out the only family support for Shahrukh and his parents.

Shahrukh’s family was one of those who always had the connections and the sort of attitude that would help them raise the money for any business they wanted to launch. So they would borrow and buy a gas station, or a restaurant, and then it would fail, and Shahrukh’s father would scrounge and save to pay back his debts, and then move on to a new plan. This is very different from a lower class person with no family backing, no education, no connections. But it doesn’t mean they were any less hungry when they went to bed at night, or that Shahrukh was any less scared by a childhood filled with economic uncertainty.

Shahrukh Khan Childhood Pictures | Bollywood celebrities, Shahrukh khan,  Bollywood pictures

I think it is that “uncertainty” which really defines him as different when he was young from a lot of the people he deals with on a daily basis. When you are a child raised in a household with no economic safety, it forever affects how you think of money. How you think of food, how you think of possessions, how you think of family, all of that. In those ways, the mental mindset of Shahrukh Khan TO THIS DAY has more in common with the child of a starving farmer than it does to other movie stars.

So Shahrukh grew up in a household where they were never quite sure if they could pay the rent, where his mother had to go and beg at school for them to delay tuition a little longer, where sometimes there wasn’t even money for food, where his father would be up and then lose his company again and enter a deep depression. And then when he was 14, his father died, suddenly, with barely a few months notice. His mother went right to work and kept the household going while he was in school and so on, until she worked herself to death before he was 25. At which point, with nothing but a few TV contracts to fall back on, he got married.

Let’s pause here and think about what Shahrukh had at this point. No family money, at all. No family at all either, his maternal grandparents were dead and his father’s whole side of the family was still in Pakistan. But he had an excellent education including a college degree, and years of training in acting. And he had charge of his own life.

Shahrukh loves his father and respects him and he does sound like he was a kind gentle man. But he was a terrible businessman. He just was. And at a certain point you have to start thinking “maybe it isn’t so scary to start my own life as it is to be dragged behind as my father keeps ruining all our lives”. So here is Shahrukh, very young with no one behind him. But also feeling free because now if there is a failure, it is his failure, no one else’s.

Here's how Shah Rukh Khan's Punctuality Issues were Fixed During Fauji |  Filmfare.com

Shahrukh made a leap and took a chance, he was offered a TV series deal in Bombay and moved down there to pursue his dream, leaving his mother and girlfriend behind. He had a contract, and he insisted on money for a plane ticket not just a train ticket. But he didn’t actually have anything else. He arrived in Bombay to have no one even meet him at the airport. He spent his first year living over a garage of the producer’s house because they didn’t pay him enough for rent, but they could give him a room to sleep in. When he got married, they had their own apartment. Two rooms with a mattress and a hot plate. He was working 20 hour days trying to get his career going, and still had no security, except for his confidence in himself.

Shahrukh didn’t make mistakes with money, not even from the start. Insisting on a plane ticket instead of a train ticket was a smart test, gave him confirmation that they were serious about bringing him there. Living over a garage may have been humiliating, but it meant he saved money and was able to keep building his career. There’s a blessing in growing up poor, it makes you really really understand the value of money. Shahrukh made calculated decisions right from the start about how he could build up money and security for his family. No putting all his eggs in one basket, no going into debt, none of that. Nothing his father had done.

So Shahrukh is recently married, living in a tiny apartment, and taking every film he is offered and every ad campaign he is offered. And eventually every wedding and personal appearance he is offered. It’s all a balance though, right from the start of his career. He will quote very very high prices for an ad campaign, and almost nothing for a film he is interested in doing. The point is, while another actor would have just done the film he wanted, Shahrukh balances that as a luxury, he has to “earn” the right to do work he enjoys by making the money on work he doesn’t enjoy.

SRK in trouble for endorsing a fairness cream; 'Dark is Beautiful'

Bombay is a city of apartments, no one buys, real estate is ruinously expensive. But Shahrukh, who grew up worrying about making rent, wanted to buy. So he found his dream house and bought it and then worked flat out for 5 years to pay it off. No long term mortgage, no borrowing against the income, nothing. And only once they had the house, did he think about starting a family. His children would never have to move, never feel insecure.

After Shahrukh had two children and started to come close to paying off the house, he started his own film production studio, Dreamz Unlimited. When it started to lose money, he made a movie (coincidentally about someone refusing to file for bankruptcy) to end in a solid position, close it down, and start fresh with Red Chillies. Shahrukh over the past decades has had plenty of failures but, in the big picture, he doesn’t actually lose money. Ra.One, for instance, made back it’s costs before release through McDonald’s tie ins and all the other promotional materials. Shahrukh paid back the distributors who took a loss on his films, but even so he didn’t take a loss, because he was protected by the streaming and satellite sales.

Get Ready for the Ra.One Happy Meal at McDonalds | BollySpice.com – The  latest movies, interviews in Bollywood

When I look at Shahrukh, I see a rich man who is still a poor man on the inside. He doesn’t like debts, of any kind. He doesn’t like to not be working. He doesn’t under quote himself. He doesn’t say “oh forget it, it’s just money”. And he is shockingly generous. Poor people are more generous than rich people, that’s just the truth. Shahrukh wants security, wants a house, wants a company that can support his children, but he doesn’t horde wealth.

That’s the rich/poor question of Shahrukh in modern times. He isn’t a wealth hoarder, he wants his money to be doing things. So when he was young, they had businesses off and on that failed but no real money. And now he has business that succeed, but no real money. The money he is paid goes back into the business, into his house, into his charities. He has little money, but a lot of stuff.

Which is also a “raised in poverty” thing! You don’t hoard money, you spend it as soon as you get it before it is taken away. And then you hoard stuff. I look at Shahrukh’s ridiculous house extensions, his enormous closet of clothes, all the little tech toys he buys, the motorcycles, the cars, and I think “poor kid, getting the money out the door while you have it”.

Shah Rukh Khan's Cars Collection » StarsUnfolded

If you look at Shahrukh and try to understand him as a very rich and successful and powerful man from an old powerful successful family, it just doesn’t work. But if you look at him as a little boy raised without certainty, who is carrying that sense of “this could all go away tomorrow” with him, then it makes sense. Everything from trying to buy an enormous house for his family to working through massive crippling injuries, it’s what a poor boy grown up does.

22 thoughts on “Hindi Film 101: Shahrukh Khan, Is He Rich Or Poor?

    • I think his sister might have been partially self-supporting at that point. Because she is never mentioned in the early years of his marriage, by him or anyone else. Although, now that I think about it, she could have been self-supporting or she could have been institutionalized. Anyway, seems like she started living with the family sometime in the late 90s. Before that, it’s unclear.

      On Thu, Nov 5, 2020 at 11:11 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I have seen a very old interview where he mentioned that initially right after his wedding, they had no place to live and no room so his sister was sent to live with an aunt. Not sure what aunt this would be because he rarely mentions any extended family. She was living with him at least by 1994 because when he was filming DDLJ, his sister was very ill and admitted to the hospital in Switzerland while he was shooting there.

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  1. Oh I’m so glad you wrote this, and it also answers some of my confusion about his life where it relates to money. Another angle to the ‘poor boy grown up into a man’ is that he is used to living without having money — nothing on your debit card, kind of without money. So while he can always be on the lookout for working, for money to buy things or to reinvest, it doesn’t confuse him to not have money.

    Where it would bother a ‘rich boy grown up into a man,’ that there’s not an equally impressive Swiss bank account next to the lambo and the house and the American college tuition bills, all SRK probably sees are the payments going out and a satisfied feeling leaning towards “it’s nice to drive a nice, brand new car, it’s nice to decide to remodel a room in the house Just Because, it’s nice to know that the kids are getting that fancy foreign degree.” As you said, getting the money out before it goes away. Spending it on these things means he controls it from start to finish, he doesn’t owe — he pays.

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    • Yes! Yes, that completely makes sense. There’s no need for the security of a large savings account because he never had it. And he also had his father struggling to pay back debts his entire life, Shahrukh never wants to be in debt, he wants to just get the money out the door and pay right away for everything.

      On Thu, Nov 5, 2020 at 11:19 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. This really helps me better understand some of the things about Shah Ruth’s life I haven’t always been able to put together. Like the watery daal story going hand in hand with St. Columbas. I’ve always guessed that he was a scholarship student there, or at least had a partial scholarship. I remember an interview where he talked about his shoes—they were falling apart but he didn’t ask for a new pair because he knew they couldn’t afford it.

    Also, the story of his five years with his grandparents is never told as one due to his family’s poverty. Even in the Letterman interview he describes the arrangement as a request by his grandmother to have a boy in the house. And he says it isn’t a common practice. All I could think of was Dear Zindagi, where Kaira’s trauma is that she’s sent to live with her grandparents because her parents couldn’t keep her!

    Do you know if his mother became a magistrate only after his father died, or did that happen earlier?

    On the topic of not holding onto your money, have you read the recent Filmfare article about Shah Ruth’s plan to build a state of the art studio? He’s talked about wanting to do that for years. Maybe he is actually close to making it happen. It sure fits with the notion that you should put the money you have to good use rather than hoard it.

    On the other hand I have to assume there’s a substantial amount of money put aside for his family that came off the top of his earnings. As someone who grew up with financial insecurity, Shah Rukh never wants to see that happen to anyone he holds dear.

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    • His mother became a magistrate after his father died. It was kind of a favor to help her out, bring in a little extra money for the household now that her husband was dead.

      I hadn’t heard that he was moving towards making a studio! It fits very well, get the money out the door and working for you, build something with it.

      I actually wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t think about storing up money for his kids. He is storing up things for them. They will always have a house, that’s set. They will have a company, that’s set too. And a good education and support in starting any career they want. But I’m not sure if he is thinking about trust funds versus stuff.

      On Thu, Nov 5, 2020 at 11:45 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Rajeev Masand asked him this question in an interview. It’s on youtube somewhere. SRK said that he doesn’t intend on leaving any money for his kids but he doesn’t want to leave them bereft either so he will give them all a house. He talked about how difficult it was for him not to have a place to live – sometimes there wouldn’t even be a place for him to sit down. He doesn’t want his kids to go through this so he will give them a world-class education and a house. The rest they can do for themselves.
        I don’t believe him though. He’s way too indulgent as a father to not leave money for them.

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        • I’m gonna guess he is leaving them Red Chillies shares. It’s one thing to just hand your kids massive amounts of money, it’s another thing to say “okay, so long as you take care of the family company, it will take care of you”

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  3. The way you describe his youth, it sounds like it would have been terrifying to learn that his biggest talent lay in acting. That is really not what you would immediately consider a solid career with a stable income. SRK is a brave man.

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    • I hadn’t thought about that before, but yes! Although he was also very cautious, he was part of the local acting group for years while also going to college and getting his practical degree. And then he got his paying job on a TV show right as he was finishing college, which turned into an offer for two more series in Bombay. He wasn’t some dreamer who sat around waiting for an audition to take off, he kept up school while doing his unpaying theater stuff, and then got a job which turned into another and another and so on.

      On Fri, Nov 6, 2020 at 1:16 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. Very interesting analysis that certainly puts the pieces together in a meaningful way. It sounds like his parents tried to shield him from some of their reality, but not in a western parent kind of way where the family is struggling but you actually can’t see it. He knew hunger pains and worn out shoes and didn’t ask for more because he understood what wasn’t possible for him. I just posted on social media today about the plan to build a physical studio which is totally on brand for him as innovator but also fits this narrative do well. Make your money work because that’s what it’s for, not for making a big pile to jump in. My kid wishes for a Lamborghini too, and Shahrukh does have a very strong childlike quality. And no reason NOT to have one, or 5.

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    • There’s also the truth of everywhere that parents think they are protecting their kids, but kids see everything. His parents may have thought that so long as they made jokes about things, and he kept going to school, he had no idea there was a problem. But Shahrukh grew up with that uncertainty inside and sure knowledge that there just wasn’t any money. I also suspect, tied in with that, his father had serious mental health issues. Which you don’t talk about or anything, you just know that sometimes you come home and Dad is really really sad.

      On Fri, Nov 6, 2020 at 2:44 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  5. This is a great write up of how poverty affects attitudes towards money. But I just want to add how LOGICAL it is, when faced with uncertainty to spend rather than save. SRK can sell the cars, he can sell the house, but if major political unrest hits the world he might not be able to get money out of a bank account. I was under the impression that wedding jewelry is often a sort of security blanket, something to sell in case things go bad, or in DDD to start a business.

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    • Yes! I hadn’t thought about it before in this way, but we just emptied out the safe deposit bank of my spinster aunt and she had so much STUFF. Like, 3 full sets of silver (not plate, solid silver). And also, her grandfather had been the head of a bank that crashed during the depression and they lost everything. So no wonder their family acquired and held on to STUFF instead of putting money in a bank.

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  6. Btw, those cars are not his. The Indian media just spreads fake gossip. SRK has clarified this a few times that he doesn’t own any fancy cars because he has no interest in them. Even that car that he’s standing with in that photograph is not his. He specifically mentioned this car once – he said his friend wanted him to buy it (I’m guessing a dealership owner) and brought it to his house and left it there telling him to try it out. He said he kept telling him to take it back because he doesn’t want it. He said he only took it out for a test drive once because he was too afraid to crash it. His own cars have the 555 number plate and they are are boring BMW/Merc sedans. I think he has a Range Rover too. But again, nothing too fancy like a Rolls Royce or Bentley or anything like that.

    SRK likes toys but truly in the little kid way – hoverboards, Segways, video games and stuff like that. Nothing really that expensive.

    He’s one of the few celebs I’ve seen that wears the same clothes over and over too. So do his wife and kids. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Suhana and Aryan in brand new clothes. They just wear their parents old clothes which is surprisingly humble.

    The only thing he spends a lot of money on is real estate but that can’t really be considered an expense since it’s an investment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep. Real estate and business expansion, that’s where all the money goes. Remember the story of Gauri expanding her business thanks to Shahrukh finding and renting out a new storefront for her? He is very “go go go” about getting the money out of the house and invested in businesses, not so interested in spending it on “luxuries”.

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  7. I think he has been the sole support and care taker of his sister since his mother died. He says she was never the same after their father died. I’m sure he has a trust for her, or provisions should h3 die first. She has lived with them ever since he bought Mannat. I agree about his attitude about money. I think though his sense of his own worth gave him the confidence to be an actor. When asked what else he might have done he says: I might have gone into business or a teacher. I think he would have taken his father in laws business which was fabric manufacturing and become a rival to Ambani!

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    • I was thinking he had a trust too, but then i thought maybe not, because he has left his family behind as a living trust for her. Other people in his situation might have kept her distant from his family, put her in a home and visited regularly but that’s it. But in his case, clearly Aryan and Suhana have been raised to love her, and Gauri is close with her as well. I think Shahrukh can rest easy knowing that he is not the only person in the world for his sister any more.

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  8. I agree about the “living trust” and his kids adore her. But he is too smart and too practical not to have specific provisions for her. mpollak711

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    • yeah, you are probably right. Maybe some kind of back up trust for long term care? Although I am sure his primary plan is for her to stay living with family and cared for by family her whole life.

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