MUMBAI •Three Indian actors sharing the surname Khan have ruled Bollywood for 30 years.
But with Aamir's wrestling movie Dangal (2016) smashing records, Salman suffering a rare flop and Shah Rukh without a major hit in four years, the crown is now firmly on Aamir's head.
"The Khans used to be on a par, but Aamir has moved ahead and Shah Rukh is kind of lagging behind recently," film trade analyst Ramesh Bala said of the trio, who all turn 52 this year and who are not related.
Dangal has made close to US$310 million (S$428 million) worldwide.
"Aamir is one person who really puts a lot of thought and effort into selecting films that are relevant to an Indian audience," film distributor Akshaye Rathi said.
Dangal, for example, probes the role of women in Indian society.
Audiences also lapped up 2014 science-fiction comedy PK for its questioning of religious superstitions. His 2009 hit 3 Idiots appealed because of its coming- of-age tale about students struggling to deal with the pressure of becoming engineers.
Mr Rathi also points to the fact that Aamir shoots one film every two years on average, while Salman and Shah Rukh regularly release two a year.
Salman's annual Eid holiday release is usually a blockbuster, but the latest, Tubelight, bombed. Critics panned the script and said his portrayal of a "village idiot" failed to resonate with his largely young Indian male fan base.
Mr Bala blames Shah Rukh's failure to register a hit since Chennai Express in 2013 on "experimenting with different genres", including romance, action and drama.
Aamir is lauded for taking on challenging roles. For Dangal, he gained and then lost 25kg.
"As a star, he doesn't enjoy so much of a fan following as the trust of the audience for his craft. People believe that if Aamir appears in a film, there will be something different, something novel," said Mr Rathi.