Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan visited the University of Edinburgh on 16 October to receive an honorary degree of Doctor Honoris Causa. The award was presented in recognition of his extraordinary philanthropic works.
Khan’s charitable actions have been focused in India, endorsing a wide range of causes from cancer research, to building inner-city hospitals, to providing solar panels in over a dozen adopted villages.
The movie star is also well-known among fans for his humility in regards to his altruism, rarely publicising his donations.
His visit coincided with Princess Anne’s opening of the new Languages, Literatures, and Cultures building at 50 George Square.
Second year Arabic and French student, Felicity Roach, was at their meeting as a representative of her school. She told The Student that one representative from Singapore “absolutely loved him […] she just had a massive smile on her face.”
After being presented his degree, Khan delivered a public lecture entitled ‘Life Lessons’ before performing his famous lungi dance.
Despite the fact that he was introduced as “possibly one of the biggest movie stars in the world”, audience members called his talk relatable and level-headed.
Khan began his lecture with a strong statement; “humbled is a word often used by people in my profession […] I dislike the hypocritical, obsequious connotation of it within this context so I’m not going to use it, but I will say that such occasions have a way of putting me in my place.”
Lots of students from the University’s Desi community attended the event because “in that region he is the […] equivalent of Brad Pitt”, Zuhad Zubir, second year International Relations student and member of the South Asian community, told The Student.
“Just one visit from him can really make an impact”, she said. “Hopefully, it will get people to notice the [Bollywood] film industry and the culture in general.”
Zubir added that a visit from any other Desi public figure may not have had such an effect on the students from that community, but “having Shah Rukh Khan is just a really big thing. He was really engaging with everyone.”
Khan’s visit is part of the University of Edinburgh’s ongoing partnership with India. According to the University’s website, joint institutions in Edinburgh and India “seek to extend the University’s relationship with India by encouraging research collaborations and academic exchanges.”
University of Edinburgh Vice Principal International, James Smith, who introduced Khan’s lecture, said that “the University has a very long and deep connection with India […] our centre of South Asian studies [is] now one of the leading UK centres dedicated to the study of the subcontinent. […] India is, and has long been, one of our most important partner countries.”
Image: Laura Lee