The 10 Most Controversial Bollywood Actors

Despite being adored by die-hard fans all over the world, controversial Bollywood actors do exist, with some causing outrageous controversy.

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"If rules are violated, action will be taken."

Controversial Bollywood actors often go unnoticed amongst all the glitz and the glamour.

Their fictional characters can sometimes mislead our perception of actors in real life. It is also easy to overlook their mistakes.

These controversies, too, are not your average mistakes. Several of them go above and beyond the typical, everyday blunders.

From domestic abuse to drug use and love scandals, it’s clear that these controversial Bollywood actors have not always been on their best behaviour.

Some of the controversies also surround real-life romances and love triangles.

DESIblitz reveals the 10 most controversial Bollywood actors, which includes many A-list stars.

Salman Khan

10 Most Controversial Bollywood Actors - Salman Khan

Salman Khan, who is one of Bollywood’s biggest names starts our list. His celebrity status has meant that all of his relationships have been in the public eye.

One relationship, in particular, that took a nasty turn was with actress Aishwarya Rai. The couple began dating in 1999 when they co-starred in the film Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999).

The relationship, however, turned sour back in March 2002 and the two split up on a bitter note.

Following the breakup, Aishwarya accused Salman of domestic abuse and infidelity in an interview with The Times of India:

“There were times when Salman got physical with me, luckily without leaving any marks…

“Salman hounded me and caused physical injuries to himself when I refused to take his calls.”

Aishwarya’s parents, who never gave the couple their full blessings, eventually went on to file a police report after finding Salman banging on Aishwarya’s room until 3 am.

The actor was allegedly trying to receive a promise of marriage from the actress, to which she refused.

Salman has since admitted to his actions and the two have never reconnected.

Additionally, only a few months after his breakup with her, Salman’s Land Cruiser crashed into an American Express bakery in Mumbai.

In the collision, his car ran over five people, killing a homeless man and injuring four others. Consequently, Salman had to face a charge for culpable homicide in October 2002.

Although the judge had suggested the actor was driving under influence, Salman claimed that it was not him behind the wheel.

Salman got away scot-free, with the High Court suggesting there was not enough reliable evidence after the death of a key witness.

The case stirred up a lot of public outrage, with many claiming there is no justice for the poor in India.

Earlier, Salman made the headlines in another case. The controversial Bollywood actor had to face a 5-year prison sentence after poaching an antelope in 1998.

As per the court ruling, Salman’s involvement included the killing of two blackbucks, which are species under protection, while filming for Hum Saath-Saath Hain (1999).

However, he had a dramatic release after only spending a week in prison. Despite his numerous scandals, the Indian actor’s career has always been progressing.

Aishwarya Rai

10 Most Controversial Bollywood Actors - Aishwarya Rai

Aishwarya Rai has been a victim, but she too was not always in her best form.

Back in 2015, the Miss World winner was receiving backlash for her participation in a jewellery ad.

Aishwarya was a long time brand ambassador of Kalyan Jewellers and had posed for many of their ads in the past. 

However, this specific ad was particularly offensive because it was depicting images of child labour and slavery.

Publicly, the biggest accusation on her was of glamorising child labour. Beyond this, many also had issues with the inspiration of the image.

Scroll highlighted the resemblance between her ad and 17th and 18th-century paintings of white aristocrats beside their child slaves.

In the open letter, activists criticise the actress for racism:

“The extremely fair colour of your skin… contrasted with the black skin of the slave-boy is obviously a deliberate “creative” juxtaposition by the advertising agency, and insidiously racist.”

The activists also believe that it might not have been the actresses intention to hurt anyone. However, in this case, she did.

For many fans, it was disappointing, particularly, with Aishwarya’s participation in such an ad that clearly had shown her ignorance towards important social issues.

The incident branded her amongst controversial Bollywood actors. All the criticism pushed both Kalyan Jewellers and her to apologise for their insensitivity.

After reading the open letter by Scroll, Aishwarya’s publicist addressed the activists on behalf of her:

“The final layout of the ad is entirely the prerogative of the creative team for a brand.”

“However, shall forward your article as a viewpoint that can be taken into consideration by the creative team of professionals working on the brand visual communication.”

Following this, in a Facebook post, Kalyan Jewellers stated:

“The creative was intended to present the royalty, timeless beauty and elegance.

“However, if we have inadvertently hurt the sentiments of any individual or organisation, we deeply regret the same.

“We have started the process of withdrawing this creative from our campaign.”

Sometimes actors can unwillingly land themselves in controversy, highlighting the importance of being ultra-careful.

Vivek Oberoi

10 Most Controversial Bollywood Actors - Vivek Oberoi

Vivek Oberoi is one of the controversial Bollywood actors who has been in hot waters.

Vivek’s controversy closely relates to the two actors already under discussion, Salman Khan and Aishwarya Rai.

Taking place in 2003, after Salman and Aishwarya had broken up, Vivek found himself in a complicated love story.

Vivek was visibly attending different events with Aishwarya, stirring up many rumours about the relationship of the two.

Due to his close relationship with Aishwarya, Vivek accused Salman of abuse and harassment at a press conference.

Vivek claimed a drunken Salman had called him fourty-one times, threatening him and accusing him of having relationships with multiple actresses.

However, his brave act failed as Aishwarya began to avoid him, calling his actions “immature.”

Later, in an interview with filmmaker-choreographer Farah Khan, Vivek apologised. He also visited Salman’s mother in the hospital, apologising to her.

Vivek explains in the interview that he called the press conference to “please” Aishwarya. He felt that he was doing something wrong, but did it under the influence of others.

Nonetheless, happening at a time when Salman and Aishwarya’s relationship was in turmoil, many called Vivek the “third wheel.”

The events meant that Vivek’s career in Bollywood took a gradual decline, with many calling it a “self-sabotage.”

Despite all the negativity, it seems Vivek had not learnt his lesson, asking for forgiveness soon later.

In 2019, Oberoi tweeted an insensitive meme about Salman and Aishwarya’s relationship.

He claimed that their relationship was an “opinion poll'” and his alleged relationship with Aishwarya was the “exit poll.”

The incident came into the limelight, with other celebrities commenting on Vivek’s actions. Slamming him, actor Anupam Kher said:

“It’s very shameful. It’s as simple as that. He shouldn’t have done that. It’s absolutely not cool.”

It seems Vivek’s handling of the whole issue was not as professional.

Sanjay Dutt

10 Most Controversial Bollywood Actors - Sanjay Dutt

The first signs of controversy in Sanjay Dutt’s life appeared early in his career. The discovery of the aspiring actor struggling with drug abuse issues came to the forefront.

Nevertheless, Sanjay’s drug use was easily forgotten by the public, with many believing it was provoked by his mother’s death in 1981.

Receiving sympathy from the public, Sanjay was able to quickly bounce back in the late 80s after a  rehabilitation process.

However, despite many forgiving him, it was not long before the actor was under arrest for far more serious offences.

Sanjay had to serve time in prison for violating the Arms Act and his involvement in the 1993 Bombay blasts. The latter left 257 people losing their lives, with 713 people suffering from various injuries.

He was apparently able to get his hands on a 9mm pistol and AK-56 rifle through relations with the criminal underworld.

In defence, Sanjay explained that he needed the weapons to protect his family during the riots between Hindus and Muslims.

Allegedly, he and his family were receiving threats after the demolition of the Babri Mosque in 1992.

Regardless, the incident meant Sanjay would spend his next twenty-three years in and out of prison, damaging his faultless reputation.

Coming out, he told IANS that jail “broke his ego” and ultimately made him a “better” person:

“My confinement days have been nothing less than a roller coaster ride.”

“To look at the positive side, it has taught me a lot and made me a better individual.”

Upon his release, the controversial Bollywood actor received a polarising reaction from the public.

Many thought that in his case let the bygones be bygones. Whereas others concluded that his fame gave him an unfair advantage.

The movie, Sanju (2018), dives deeper into these events and his life course.

Kangana Ranaut

Kangana Ranaut

While social media can at times be a safe platform, many celebrities use it questionably.

Indian actress Kangana Ranaut learnt the consequences of pushing controversial political agendas on Twitter.

Earlier in 2021, Twitter suspended her account over a tweet that supposedly encouraged violence.

In it, Kangana suggests that Indin Prime Minister Narendra Modi “tame” an opposition leader by employing his “early 2000s” leadership style.

Many believe that the “early 2000s” is referring to the riots, which left more than 1000 people dead, many of whom were Muslim.

The comment went on to spark public outrage, with Kangana’s account facing closure until further notice.

Only a year earlier, in 2020, her sister’s Twitter account was also suspended after a tweet, which “incited violence against a particular religious group.”

Also, her words of respect for Prime Minister Modi has left many fans disappointed. When addressing this issue, Kangana accused Twitter of racism:

“Twitter has only proved my point they’re Americans and by birth, a white person feels entitled to enslave a brown person, they want to tell you what to think, speak or do.

“I have many platforms I can use to raise my voice…”

In response, Twitter’s spokesperson was quick to defend their actions:

“We’ve been clear that we will take strong enforcement action on behaviour that has the potential to lead to offline harm.

“The referenced account has been permanently suspended for repeated violations of Twitter Rules, specifically our Hateful Conduct policy and Abusive Behaviour policy.”

Kangana is famous for being vocal, but this certain incident tainted her reputation. She has had a long history of violating social media rules and using hateful speech.

The actress has also gone on social media to produce controversies with Hollywood singers like Rihanna, who she called a “fool” and the Indian farmers “terrorists.”

Ever since her suspension from Twitter, Kangana continues to use other platforms such as Instagram to address similar events.

Amitabh Bachchan

10 Most Controversial Bollywood Actors - Silsila

As already established, love stories can sometimes end in hatred.

A complicated love triangle is exactly how Amitabh Bachchan became one of the most controversial Bollywood actors.

It all began, with Big B tying the knot with Jaya Bachchan in 1973 and the pair having two children, Abhishek Bachchan and Shweta Bachchan.

The couple had a love marriage, with everything going smooth until Bachchan went on to bag the role for Do Anjaane (1976).

Here, he co-starred with Bollywood actress Rekha and rumours began to ignite that they were having an affair.

However, suspicion only came to light during the shooting of Ganga Ki Saugandh (1978), starring Amitabh and Rekha

On the set of the film, the legendary actor reportedly lost his composure to a colleague who was misbehaving with Rekha.

Although the two denied their relationship at the time, director Yash Chopra confirmed they were indeed dating.

Multiple outlets suggest that the two were together in marriage. This is because Rekha was visibly wearing a sindoor and mangalsutra (symbols of marriage).

During this time a source reveals that Jaya, who is wife to Bachchan, was feeling hopeless at the time:

“Jaya tried to keep a stoic front for a long time, but eventually she had to bend her head and let the tears roll down.”

Though, the two women eventually met up over dinner where Jaya expressed she would never leave her husband, no matter the circumstances.

Ever since the news broke about the affair, Amitabh has denied all claims but Rekha confirmed the relationship.

Ultimately, the affair came to an end and Rekha married a businessman Mukesh Agarwal. Despite her wedding, Rekha’s husband soon committed suicide seven months into the marriage.

Rekha was branded the ‘National Vamp’ and was blamed for the suicide. Speculations are rife over Rekha’s feelings for Amitabh even after all these years.

Above all, the most strange aspect is that the three actors (Amitabh, Rekha, Jaya) starred in a film called Silsila (1981). This movie ironically took inspiration from their real-life love triangle.

Akshay Kumar

Akshay Kumar

Bollywood represents popular Indian cinema and so when the public found out that top actor Akshay Kumar held Canadian citizenship, many had an issue with it.

The Indian-Canadian actor spurred up controversy, especially after people came to know that he did not vote in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

When a reporter asked his reason for not voting, Kumar revealed he is a Canadian citizen. Subsequently, many fans began to doubt the actor’s commitment to India, questioning his patriotism.

The information made numerous headlines, with the topic becoming a major debate for quite a while. In a Twitter statement, Kumar went on to defend himself against all the criticism:

“I really don’t understand the unwarranted interest and negativity about my citizenship. I have never hidden or denied that I hold a Canadian passport.

“It is also equally true that I have not visited Canada in the last seven years.

“I work in India, and pay all my taxes in India.”

“While all these years, I have never needed to prove my love for India to anyone, I find it disappointing that my citizenship issue is constantly dragged into needless controversy, a matter that is personal, legal, non-political, and of no consequence to others.

“Lastly, I would like to continue contributing in my small way to the causes that I believe in and make India stronger and stronger.”

His supporters may argue that there is no reason for the public to be so cynical of Kumar.

According to them, Akshay’s love and devotion to India and Bollywood are quite apparent through his actions, and not through the citizenship he possesses.

Of all the controversial Bollywood actors mentioned on this list, Akshay’s controversy perhaps ranks the lowest.

Shiney Ahuja

Shiney Ahuja

Shiney Ahuja is arguably one of the least popular controversial Bollywood actors on this list, and rightfully so.

Ahuja’s controversy made his claim to fame fairly short. The actor had to face charges relating to raping his housemaid, who was 19 at the time, in 2009.

Following the accusations, he was sentenced to seven years in prison. Having said that, before the verdict was announced, the victim withdrew her evidence.

However, the court already had substantial evidence to jail the actor. The medical reports, bloodstains and traces of semen on furniture were enough for Ahuja’s conviction.

Meanwhile, Ahuja and his wife were claiming that someone was framing him.

Also, the victim’s withdrawal raised suspicion that Ahuja had threatened the victim. Still, the actor was found not guilty of criminal intimidation.

The news surprisingly took over the headlines, especially considering maids are unlikely to receive social and legal protection and because rape itself is rarely prosecuted.

Mahesh Bhatt, who produced Gangster (2006) featuring Ahuja, said the conviction would ruin his career in the industry:

“It is a dark dead-end for him.”

Arshad Warsi criticised the judgement stating the hypocrisy of the system:

“Murderers, terrorists, corrupt politicians, walking free (and) Shiney Ahuja gets seven years…

“Judiciary should stop targeting actors so blatantly.”

Many fans suggested that the decision to imprison Ahuja came as an attempt to make him a public example of a convicted rapist. Others say that Ahuja got what he deserved.

Shah Rukh Khan

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Despite his time spent in the Bollywood industry, it is no surprise that Shah Rukh Khan has had his fair share of questionable moments.

The Bollywood actor’s most controversial moment was possibly his alleged misbehaviour at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium.

The incident took place on May 16, 2012, when the Bollywood star fought with staff after an IPL cricket match, featuring Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians.

Shah Rukh said that the reason for the row was because security had “manhandled” his kids:

“I came down and I saw that the kids were being aggressively pushed around.

“I said don’t touch them, but they kept on pushing them, I think it is extremely unpardonable that under the garb of some self-imposed security rules.

“You don’t manhandle children even if they misbehave and they weren’t even on the playing pitch they were just on the side.”

Shah Rukh also stated the only reason he became physical with the MCA officials was that they attacked him first. Additionally, Shah Rukh expressed that he knew how to act in public:

“I do admit that I abused, but this gentleman (Ravi Sawant) was the one who first abused me in Marathi, after which in the heat of the moment I abused him back.

“He said certain words which I cannot repeat here.”

As a result, Shah Rukh was banned from entering Wankhede stadium for five years. However, the actor emphasises that he did not want to be in such a place anyway.

An apology to the staff never came from Shah Rukh. Though, he had apologised to the children that witnessed his behaviour:

“I want to apologise to the kids for my misbehaviour at Mumbai Cricket Association (stadium]. I apologise to all who saw me differently.

Furthermore, he also acknowledged that this should not have happened.

“I shouldn’t have behaved in that manner.”

On the contrary, he was expecting to receive an apology from the MCA officials for starting an unnecessary argument.

He suggested the events would not have taken place if the staff did not want “cheap thrill by behaving obnoxiously with celebrities.”

Similarly, the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) President Vilasrao Deshmukh was satisfied with the unanimous decision:

“If rules are violated, action will be taken. It does not depend on who the individual is.

“It’s a message to everyone whosoever he or she may be that stern action will be taken if there is any misbehaviour.”

The actor’s unprofessional conduct was a very rare incident.

Kareena Kapoor

Kareena Kapoor

Kareena Kapoor is another Bollywood actress who came under fire for her controversial decisions.

She had demanded a higher fee to play Sita in the reimagining of Ramayana. She allegedly hiked her fee of Rs 12 crores more than what was offered to her.

After making the demand, Kareena became the subject of online hate, with fans calling her greedy and entitled.

Fans were arguing that Kapoor was being stingy with her money, despite already being quite wealthy. When confronted about her request, Kapoor dodged questions by replying half-heartedly.

In her place, other Bollywood actresses come out to defend her. Taapsee Pannu supported her, saying:

“If it would have been a man in that position, who would have asked for a particular amount, it would have been looked upon like… Like that guy has really achieved big success in life.

“But because a woman is asking for it, she’s called ‘difficult’, ‘too demanding’.”

While Kareena had not directly commented, she took this moment to speak about equal pay in the industry. In an interview with the Guardian, Kapoor stressed:

“Just a few years ago, no one would talk about a man or woman actually getting equal pay in a movie. Now there are a lot of us being very vocal about it…

“I make it quite clear what I want and I think that respect should be given.”

“It’s not about being demanding, it’s about being respectful towards women. And I think things are kind of changing.”

Whether her explanation was valid is being hotly debated, with some still calling Kareena selfish for her request.

There are several other controversial Bollywood actors including actress Parveen Babi who had a rocky life.

At the end of the day, with Bollywood stars in the public spotlight, they are more prone to controversy.

Some have handled their respective situations better than others. It’s all a learning curve, and moments to reflect and ponder over.

Anna is a full-time university student pursuing a degree in Journalism. She enjoys martial arts and painting, but above all, creating content that serves a purpose. Her life motto is: “All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.”

Images courtesy of Buzzfeed, Wallpaperflare, Times of India, Outlook India and Shirish Sheet/PTI.