Why Bollywood Loved — and Lost — Fawad Khan

This year marks almost five years since fans have seen the iconic Pakistani actor in Hindi cinema.

Snigdha Sur

March 24, 2021

Why Bollywood Loved — and Lost — Fawad Khan
Illustration: Radio Rani

Before he became the jacked prince in Khoobsurat (2014), the beloved son and brother in Kapoor & Sons (2016), the punk DJ in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016), or the devoted husband in Humsafar (2011) or Zindagi Gulzar Hai (2012), Fawad Khan was a computer programmer, singer, rock band member, and painfully shy. He was born the middle child to a Pathan, Punjabi family in Lahore; his mother’s family was from Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, and his father’s family had moved from India after partition. Growing up, Khan would live in Greece, the U.A.E., and the U.K. because of his father’s job in pharmaceutical sales. But he probably wouldn’t have predicted he would have become such a sensation across the border, in Bollywood — an industry that celebrated dance, which Khan notoriously didn’t pick up and would dread until his second Bollywood film, and one that would grace him with a Filmfare award for Best Male Debut. 

The thing is, Khan was nothing like the other new actors of the Hindi silver screen. He is married to his childhood sweetheart Sadaf, whom he started dating when he was 16 and with whom he started a fashion line. He has two kids: a daughter and a son. He refuses to kiss his co-stars. He has nothing bad to say about his fellow actors. Oh, and he was a frequent collaborator of Bollywood director and producer Karan Johar. In sum, Khan was reminiscent of another Bollywood king, Shah Rukh Khan. In another world, maybe Fawad would have become the fourth Khan after Shah Rukh, Aamir, and Salman. Instead, the politics of an increasingly sectarian country stole away the best shot at an emerging superstar most had seen in decades. This is the story of Fawad Khan’s inevitable rise in India and his untimely disappearance.