There are numerous Khans in the Indian film industry today, but none are as adored or as abused as Shahrukh, Aamir and Salman. All three of them are rich, famous and enjoy a crazy fan following.

Often, it is difficult to say which one of them is most popular. Each one of them is a living example of all that is the best about a secular way of life. Shahrukh married Gauri, a Hindu before he came to Mumbai in search of work in the film industry. Shahrukh does not play only Muslim characters on screen. In 2010 he dealt with the theme of Islamophobia in a film called ‘My Name is Khan: And I am Not a Terrorist’.

The three are also very different from each other in many ways. Unlike Shahrukh, Aamir married twice, and his now ex-wives are Hindu. Salman is not married. His mother Sushila Charak was a Hindu and is now known as Salma. Along with two brothers and sisters, he grew up following both faiths. Many members of his family are non-Muslim.

Shahrukh seems to lead the pack in popularity, and is perhaps the wealthiest of the three. ‘Newsweek’ once listed him as one of the top 50 most powerful people in the world along with Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Osama bin Laden. The ‘Los Angeles Times’ called him the world’s biggest movie star, period.

France has honoured him with the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur and the Officier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. At the Morocco Film Festival he was the guest of honour of King Mohammed VI and was the first Indian to receive the L’Etoile d’Or title. Countless fans in China call him Sha Sha! His statue is installed at Madame Tussaud’s wax museum in Paris and at museums in London, Los Angeles, Hongkong, New York and Washington.

Shahrukh’s fan following is said to be 3.5 billion across the globe, and he is particularly popular in Germany. In countries like Russia and the Middle East more people have heard of Shahrukh than Tom Cruise. According to reports Shahrukh has 30 million fans on Facebook, almost 40 million on Twitter and 21 million on Instagram.

Thousands of fans travel every day to his residence in Mumbai to get a glimpse and wave, blow kisses to him. Both Aamir and Salman are adored in a similar way, except the magnitude of the Shahrukh marvel is far more mesmerising.

That the three of them enjoy an enviable fan following around the globe is surely not because they are Muslim or because their name is Khan. It is because they do their job well. They are master entertainers and audiences love them for what they watch them do on the silver screen.

In a country that overflows with high emotions and the desire to constantly adore and to love someone considered better than the self, celebrities queue up second only after gods and goddesses.

For the same reason temples are built in the name of Shahrukh, Aamir and Salman. However their critics accuse them of not being patriotic and of not being Indian enough! Uttar Pradesh (UP) Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath once compared Shahrukh to Pakistani militant Hafiz Muhammad Saeed whose organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba is designated as a terrorist group by the United Nations Security Council.For nearly a decade, the Khans have been targeted and trolled on social media by radical right wingers.

Even more cruel than calls to boycott films made by the Khans was the arrest of Aryan, Shahrukh’s son who spent nearly a month in jail although he was acquitted of all charges.

Despite the troubles faced by him, Shahrukh maintained a dignified silence and continued to reiterate his faith in secularism and the seamless capacity of human beings to love each other.

Shahrukh is one Khan who is least intimidated by political bullies, allowing not just words but his work to speak for itself. Shahrukh’s latest film ‘Pathaan’ is a phenomenal success. Pathaan made history when it became the first Hindi film to collect Rs 100 crore on opening day. Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap said that the past few years have been painful for the superstar.

After watching ‘Pathaan’, Kashyap said, “there is euphoria. This euphoria is beautiful. This euphoria was missing. This is also a socio-political euphoria. It is like making a statement… The man with the strongest spine with the most resilience and integrity, who’s kept quiet through everything. He’s spoken. He’s spoken on screen, with his work. And you know what. It is beautiful”.

Aamir has been similarly harassed. There was a call to boycott his last film Laal Singh Chaddha that cost over rupees two billion to make. The hashtag #BoycottLaalSinghChaddha had been trending on Twitter for weeks. Aamir was called anti-Hindu. On the eve of the release of the film last August, Aamir chose to publicly declare his love for India to combat the vicious campaign launched against him and ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’, a film inspired by Hollywood’s ‘Forrest Gump’.

A heartbroken Aamir said, “I feel sad that some people believe that I am someone who doesn’t like India. But it is untrue. It is rather unfortunate that some people feel that way. That’s not the case. Please don’t boycott my film. Please watch my film”. But ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’ failed to impress audiences and is Aamir’s biggest flop in recent times.

Aamir’s critics did not approve of his 2014 film ‘PK’ either but it is listed as the seventh highest grossing Indian film about the devout being conned in the name of religion. Aamir’s 2016 film ‘Dangal’ was the highest grossing Indian film at home and abroad.

Aamir has been in trouble with Hindu radicals since he spoke out against the Gujarat riots in 2002 when countless innocent lives were lost of both Hindu and Muslim citizens. In 2006, his film ‘Fanaa’ was banned in Gujarat.

In the same year he had opposed the Gujarat government's decision to increase the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam. In 2015 he had talked of a rising sense of ‘insecurity, fear and despondency’ because of the lynching of Muslims and the lack of response from the government and the police to increasing violence in the country.

Today Aamir tries to befriend members of the ruling party and refrains from saying what is on his mind.

Salman stars in two films this year, ‘Kisi ka Bhai Kisi ki Jaan’ is scheduled for an April release to coincide with Eid, and ‘Tiger 3’. Due to his hunting and driving he has been dealing with legal problems and has also been jailed. He is the most carefree out of the three Khans and perhaps enjoys the best relationship with members of the ruling party, having spent time in the past flying a kite with the prime minister of the country.