Its language barrier, distance from the Hindi-speaking heartland and the presence of a flourishing regional film industry would lead many to believe that Chennai perhaps has very little to do with Bollywood – India’s largest and most-popular cultural export. However, it is a testament to the city’s historically enterprising culture that it has been home to some of the biggest stars in the Mumbai-based industry. We’ve put together a list of all the Bollywood stars who were born in Chennai, and you may be surprised by some of the names…
This trailblazing star started his career as a true-blue Tamil actor, then he shot to the top of Bollywood stardom in 2013 with his blockbuster release Raanjhanaa, where he played the lead alongside superstar Sonam Kapoor. The actor has since capitalized on his big Bollywood break and has gone on to act alongside Indian acting legend Amitabh Bachchan in 2015’s Shamitabh.
Very few have captured the imagination of an entire country like Rekha had in her prime years, the peak of which came in 1981 in the form of the classic musical hit Umrao Jaan. From romancing Amitabh Bachchan early on to playing a charismatic villainess opposite Akshay Kumar in later years, Rekha remains active in Bollywood and is a household name across the country. However, very few actually know that she was born as Bhanurekha Ganesan in Chennai to one of Tamil cinema’s biggest stars, Gemini Ganesan.
One of Bollywood’s most bankable stars historically, Sridevi continues to have a flourishing solo career even today. However, what many fail to recognise is that even before starting her career in Bollywood, Sridevi was already a huge star in the south. While she was born in the Sivakasi district of Tamil Nadu, Sridevi moved to Chennai very early in life to pursue a career as a child actor. She started her career at the age of just four and has spent nearly 50 years of her life acting!
Born and raised in Chennai as the daughter of one of India’s most popular actors, Kamal Haasan, Shruti Haasan decided to follow in her dad’s footsteps and pursue acting. However, unlike most others, Shruti skipped the usual growth curve and directly got her big Bollywood break in 2009 opposite Imran Khan in Luck. Since then, the actress has gone on to act in several high-profile Bollywood and regional films.
Most people might find this surprising, but supermodel and Bollywood actress Lisa Haydon was actually born in Chennai to a Tamil (Sri Lankan) father and an Australian-Sri Lankan mother. The actress moved to Australia and the US before moving back to India to pursue her modelling career. Some of her most popular films include Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Housefull 3, and the critically acclaimed Queen.
This hunk from Chennai has made his mark in several film industries in the country, including Bollywood. While Vikram started his career as a predominantly Tamil actor, he shot to fame after his tri-lingual superhit, Aparichit, made waves all across the country. Vikram has since starred in multiple Bollywood releases, mostly bilingual or trilingual productions, such as David and Raavan.
One of the few actors who doesn’t need an introduction anywhere in India, Kamal Haasan’s acting career started in the 1960s as a child artist. However, after a successful career in the south, Hassan spread his wings and has since been prolific in his work across the country’s several major film industries, including Bollywood. While some of his biggest Bollywood hits came in the 1980s, Haasan has continued to release films in Bollywood through several multilingual projects.
Commonly known as The Superstar, Rajinikanth is Tamil cinema’s biggest commercial actor. However, while Rajinikanth’s major works in Hindi have been dubbed versions of his southern hits, what many do not know is that Rajini also acted in a string of commercial Bollywood films during the late 1980s and early ’90s.
Famous for her role opposite Akshay Kumar in the 2010 Bollywood comedy-caper Khatta Meetha, Trisha has since become a household name in Bollywood thanks to multiple dubbed hits in Hindi. Born in Chennai to Tamil-speaking parents, Trisha has also acted in several Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada movies.
While he has remained a predominantly South actor in recent years, actor Siddharth is just as well-known in Bollywood thanks to his early career hit Rang De Basanti, in which he starred alongside Bollywood legend Aamir Khan. Several of Siddharth’s dubbed regional films have also been big hits among Hindi-speaking audiences.
While he isn’t an actor, AR Rahman is a massive star and perhaps the biggest name in the entertainment industry to have come out of Chennai. With two Academy Awards and several projects in Bollywood, Hollywood and almost every major entertainment industry in India, even calling him a household name across the country would be a massive understatement.