Apart from acting in films, Khan is a social activist, and has written columns for the Hindustan Times. He is a supporter of PETA, having appeared in events organised for the group. He married Avantika Malik in January 2011, after a ten-year relationship.
Imran Khan was born as Imran Pal on 13 January 1983 in Madison, Wisconsin, United States to Anil Pal, a software engineer, and Nuzhat Khan, a psychologist. Imran's father is a Hindu of mixed Bengali and English descent; he works as a senior manager at Yahoo in Silicon Valley, USA. Imran's mother is a Muslim from a film family, daughter of the director-producer Nasir Hussain, sister of director-producer Mansoor Khan and cousin of actor Aamir Khan.
Khan's parents divorced when he was still a toddler, after which his mother moved to Mumbai. In an interview, Khan called his step-father, Raj Zutshi, as the father figure during his growing years. He was enrolled at Bombay Scottish School, where he developed a stammer due to corporal punishments such as caning. According to Khan, his grades fell and his academic career went into a "strong decline" due to his inability to cope with his new environment and radically changed family situation; he became nervous and developed facial tics. Meanwhile, his mother married again and found it convenient to send him to a boarding school, choosing Blue Mountain School in distant Coonoor, Tamil Nadu. After a period of depression in Coonoor, Khan adjusted and grew into the environment; he later described his experience there as "phenomenal," although his grades remained poor. When the principal of that school left to start his own school, Khan and several other students followed him to a Gurukul in the jungles of Ooty. The new school had no electricity, the students were required to wash their clothes in a creek and they even grew some of the food they ate. Khan later admitted that frequently changing schools made him independent but also a loner.
Khan then moved to Sunnyvale, California, where he lived with his father and attended Fremont High School. Upon graduation, he aspired to become a film director, and went to Los Angeles to pursue a degree in filmmaking at the Los Angeles branch of the New York Film Academy. Studying direction, writing and cinematography, Khan was inspired by writer Roald Dahl. After receiving his degree, he ventured into market research and advertising. He eventually returned to Mumbai and trained at the Kishore Namit Kapoor Acting Institute.
Khan appeared in the films Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988) and Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander (1992) as a child artist, both times playing the role of a young Aamir Khan.
While training at the acting institute, Khan began networking and met writer-director Abbas Tyrewala, who offered him the lead role in Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na (2008). After producer Jhamu Sugandh experienced financial difficulties they offered the script to Aamir Khan, who agreed to finance the film. The romantic comedy received positive reviews and was a commercial success, earning ₹830 million (US$13 million) worldwide. Khan's portrayal of Jai Singh Rathore (Rats)—a boy who does not believe in violence—was praised by critics. Khalid Mohammed mentioned that "the enterprise belongs to debutant Imran Khan who comes up with an intelligent and restrained performance." Rajeev Masand of CNN-IBN called him "the best young actor" of the time, describing his performance as "unconventional and vulnerable" and stating that it created "a lasting impression." Khan won the Best Male Debut at the 54th Filmfare Awards, sharing the award with Farhan Akhtar.
Following Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na, Khan starred in Sanjay Gadhvi's thriller Kidnap. He was cast as Kabir Sharma, a kidnapper who abducts a girl to settle an old score with her father, portrayed by Minissha Lamba and Sanjay Dutt, respectively. The actor was initially hesitant to play the part (calling it "tricky and tough") because he couldn't relate to the character; according to him, he would not have been able to do it without Gadhvi's support and backing. In preparation for his role, Khan listened to metal and rock music for a year to become aggressive. While the film was a critical failure, his performance was generally well received by critics. Gaurav Malani, in a review for The Economic Times, wrote: "Imran Khan is effective as the intelligent abductor who's always two steps ahead of his opponent. However, the natural actor could go easy on his lip movements that appear synthetic at times." Kidnap was also a commercial failure.
In 2009, Khan featured alongside an ensemble cast including Dutt, Shruti Hassan, Mithun Chakraborty and Danny Denzongpa in Soham Shah's action thriller Luck, playing Ram Mehra—an average middle-class man in dire need of money and ready to do anything for it. In an interview he said that the stunts (and the "unusual" concept of human betting) inspired him to sign the film. He burnt his eyelashes while shooting the climax scene. It was a commercial failure and generated negative reviews from critics, as did Khan's performance. Rediff.com's Raja Sen stated that the performance lacked the charm of his earlier ones.
After the failure of Kidnap and Luck, Khan received fewer film offers, until Karan Johar approached him for the lead role in I Hate Luv Storys (2010). Directed by Punit Malhotra, the romantic comedy saw him portray Jai Dhingra, a young Casanova who does not believe in the concept of love and romance. The film garnered mixed reviews from critics; Khan's performance was generally well received. Komal Nahta wrote, "Imran Khan is endearing and does well for a good part of the film. But he does need to improve in emotional scenes. [He] is free and lovable in the light scenes. I Hate Luv Storys was a domestic and international box-office success, earning ₹725.2 million (US$11 million). Khan expressed his gratitude that Johar gave him the opportunity. His next appearance was in Danish Aslam's coming-of-age romantic comedy Break Ke Baad. A commercial failure, the film (and his performance) received mixed reviews; while Namrata Joshi of Outlook labelled his performance "earnest", Anupama Chopra said that "Imran is saddled with a bland, supporting role".
In 2011, Khan earned positive reviews for his role in Abhinay Deo's English language black comedy Delhi Belly. He was cast as Tashi, a journalist caught up in a hunt for diamonds—smuggled for a crime boss in Delhi—he and his roommates (Kunaal Roy Kapur and Vir Das) have mistakenly taken. The film opened to critical acclaim and was a commercial success, with a domestic revenue of over ₹550 million (US$8.6 million). A review in Mid Day described his performance as "refreshingly good" and Nikhat Kazmi of The Times of India called it his best work to date. Khan said "It is the kind of film that I have always wanted to do, and it is very different to what has been done before in Hindi cinema." Later that year, Khan acted in Ali Abbas Zafar's romantic comedy Mere Brother Ki Dulhan. It received mixed reviews, but was a box-office success, with domestic earnings of over ₹578 million (US$9.0 million). Khan played Kush Agnihotri, a man who falls in love with his brother's bride, played by Ali Zafar and Katrina Kaif, respectively. His performance was praised by critics; Sify's Sonia Chopra referred to him as "instantly likeable".
For his next feature film, Khan starred as Rahul Kapoor, an uptight architect, in Shakun Batra's directorial debut Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu (2012) with Kareena Kapoor. The romantic comedy, set in Las Vegas, is the story of two strangers who get married one night after they get drunk. Khan described his character as "a guy who lives his life according to his parents' wishes." Critical reaction to the film and his performance was positive, with Rajeev Masand writing that "Imran Khan slips comfortably into his role". Karan Anshuman of Mumbai Mirror opined, "Imran Khan is superbly cast and he doesn't let down. His body language slackens in progression as the script demands and he is absolutely spot on with his comic timing." Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu was a modest commercial success, earning a total of ₹530 million (US$8.3 million) in India and abroad.
In 2013, Khan appeared in three films, the first being Vishal Bhardwaj's Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola, a political satire set in the rustic surroundings of a village in Haryana. Co-starring with Pankaj Kapur, Anushka Sharma and Shabana Azmi, Khan played Hukum Singh Matru, an educated community activist and Kapur's right-hand man. To prepare for the role, he lived in Delhi for three months and learned to speak Haryanvi from theatre group Act One. The film (and his performance) generated mixed reviews from critics, and its eventual box-office profit was poor. Reuters' Shilpa Jamkhandikar wrote, "Imran Khan goes red in the face trying to muster up a Haryanvi accent and act tough. You can actually see the effort in his acting and that's why it jars all the more." Subhash K Jha described it as a good effort, at best. Khan also sang for the film's soundtrack in "Chaar Dina Ki".
Khan's next film role was alongside Akshay Kumar and Sonakshi Sinha in Milan Luthria's period romantic-drama Once Upon Ay Time In Mumbai Dobaara! (a sequel to 2010's Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai). Critical reaction to the film and Khan's portrayal of a gangster was mixed. While Shubhra Gupta of The Indian Express found him unconvincing, NDTV's Saibal Chatterjee wrote, "He provides evidence that he can handle a wider range of roles than he is usually allowed to play." Also that year, he starred opposite Kareena Kapoor in Punit Malhotra's romantic comedy Gori Tere Pyaar Mein, a critical and commercial failure.
In 2015, Khan acted in Nikhil Advani's romantic comedy Katti Batti, opposite Kangana Ranaut. The film opened to mixed reviews and was another box-office failure for him. In May 2017, A source close to the development reveals, “Imran has already selected the subject he wants to direct. He will direct his own script. His uncle Aamir Khan will produce Imran’s film.”
Besides acting in films, Khan is a social activist. He often speaks about issues related to Indian society and young people (including the elimination of violence against women, political awareness and sex education). In 2009, he participated in Eve Ensler's play The Vagina Monologues in celebration of completing 200 shows in India and V-Day. The event was a fundraiser whose beneficiaries included Haseena Hussein (a girl who was blinded and disfigured in an acid attack in Bangalore in 1999), and several other NGOs. Khan endorses People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and has appeared in a number of advertisements in support of the organisation. In 2010 he appeared with his dog, Tony, urging viewers to adopt stray dogs instead of buying purebred animals. Khan filmed a second advertisement in 2011, titled "Tony Changed My Life. You Can Change a Homeless Dog's Life. Please Adopt", after Tony's death in which he continued to advocate for the adoption of animals and not treating them as fashion statements.
In 2011, Khan and his brother-in-law, Vedant Malik, opposed the Maharashtra state government's new law raising the drinking age to 25 by filing a public-interest litigation (PIL) against it. In an interview given to The Times of India he said; "It's completely unfair to expect that one has to wait till 25 years to exercise his freedom of choice regarding one's lifestyle. Young India is not as irresponsible as the older establishment assumes it to be." He walked the ramp to support Shabana Azmi's charitable initiative, Mijwan Welfare Society, an NGO dedicated to empowering girls. He said that he feels privileged to have been brought up in a family surrounded by strong women. In 2013, Khan along with his wife Avantika Malik and mother Nuzhat Khan, purchased a four-acre land which will be converted into an animal shelter with veterinary doctors and staff who will attend to the rescued animals until they are adopted.
In December 2013, it was announced that Khan, along with famed comedy group All India Bakchod, will be heading up a campaign against the recently reinstated ban on gay sex in India through a satirical video highlighting ignorance around gay issues. Speaking to Hindustan Times, Khan said: “I’ve always been involved with gay rights. The scenario in this country is disheartening and depressing. These are basic human rights that people are being denied of; they’re no minority. The idea of this initiative is to show those who do not support homosexuality, how ridiculous their thinking is.” Other Bollywood stars have spoken out to condemn the reintroduction of the law.
In 2014, it was announced that he had joined other Bollywood and international celebrities in the TeachAIDS initiative, a state-of-the-art approach to worldwide HIV prevention, developed at Stanford University.
Khan became a columnist for the Hindustan Times in March 2009, and continues contributing occasionally to the paper. Khan has condemned to promoted alcohol and tobacco products, saying that he only represents brands he can relate to. He has endorsed several products (including Coca-Cola, Levis, MTS India, Maaza, Bru and Lux, having appeared in television and print advertisements.
Khan's parents divorced when he was a year and a half old. His mother then married actor Raj Zutshi; they divorced in 2006. Khan says that they remained cordial and that he felt supported by all three of his parents. He retained his mother's second name as a tribute to her because she raised him on her own. The actor lives with his family in Pali Hill, a suburban neighbourhood in Mumbai.
Khan began dating Avantika Malik (daughter of Vandana Malik, CEO of the CNBC-TV18 business news channel), at age 19 – according to him, when he could not express his thoughts and feelings. He later attributed his personal growth to his relationship with Malik: "I have learned a lot about myself and become a more balanced person." His openness about their relationship at an early stage of his career received much press coverage; Sitanshi Talati-Parikh of Verve commented, "he does not see any danger in tagging himself as 'unavailable'". Khan later explained that he did not believe in hiding their relationship; he cited Shahrukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Hrithik Roshan, all of whom married early in their careers and remained popular. The couple were engaged on 16 January 2010, in a farmhouse owned by Avantika's family in Karjat (near Navi Mumbai). They married a year later (on 10 January 2011) in a private civil ceremony at Aamir Khan's home in Pali Hill. On December 6, 2013, it was announced that the couple were expecting their first child and on June 9, 2014, Malik gave birth to a baby girl, Imara Malik Khan.
Khan's non-controversial lifestyle has generated speculation in the mass media. During an interview, he said he does not rely on controversy and rumours to stay in the news. The actor also asserted that he prefers to stay away from the limelight when not promoting his films.
Khan has been described as one of the most popular celebrities in India, in the past. His eyes and lips have been mentioned as his most distinctive physical features. In 2011, Bombay Dost, India's first legal gay magazine, labelled him a "gay icon". The following year he was featured on GQ India's list of "Bollywood's 11 Best-Dressed Actors", which described his style sense: "grown and matured into an irresistible combination of goody-two-shoesness and an urbane sophistication." In 2013, he ranked fortieth on Forbes' "Celebrity 100", a list based on the income and popularity of India's biggest entertainers.
Following his successful adult acting debut in Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na, Khan starred in Kidnap and Luck; both were critical and commercial failures, leading to his being written off by the media as a "one-film wonder". He later starred in a series of romantic comedies, most of which were commercially successful, but received mixed response from critics. Writing for CNN-IBN, Rituparna Chatterjee criticized his unwillingness to "get out of his comfort zone"; she explained, "Imran's unassuming charm, while it works in films that also have strong women leads, fails to really create an emotional connect with audiences who go away thinking 'what a nice boy!'"
After moving from his "lover boy" image in Delhi Belly and Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola, Khan was noted for experimenting with different genres and character types. According to Daily Mail's Priyanka Srivastava, "Imran's image as a simple boy has charmed the audience [...] and helped him make a place in Bollywood. He has the ability to underplay characters with confidence and has proved his versatility." The Hindu's Vijay Nair, however, labelled him as "unconvincing" and said that he "[delivers] performances that suffer in comparison to what his co stars bring to the film." Khan has been compared to his uncle Aamir Khan, whom he describes as a major influence on his life.