London, Oct. 26: Fresh from organising the Saif-Kareena wedding in Mumbai and Delhi, Sharmila Tagore has air dashed to Scotland where she was given an honorary degree yesterday by Edinburgh Napier University for her “outstanding contribution to Indian cinema”.
The Scots showed they have a sense of humour by photographing the “renowned actress” holding a clapperboard bearing the legend, “Director S Tagore.”
Putting on her most winning smile, Sharmila acknowledged that “it is indeed a privilege to be conferred an honorary degree by Edinburgh Napier University”.
“It recognises the significant influence of Indian cinema on the global cultural arena and the small role that I have played in its history,” she said.
The grand ceremony in Edinburgh’s Usher Hall took place five months after the university’s Institute for Creative Industries set up ScoTs, “the Scottish Centre of Tagore Studies”.
This will promote “Indian culture, education, philosophy, art and literature by highlighting Tagore’s legacy”.
The Begum of Pataudi from last week reverted to actress Sharmila Tagore as she joined “leading figures from the worlds of foreign affairs, business and education as well as almost 1,000 students” at the degree ceremony.
Sharmila was last in the UK this summer. Accompanied by her children, she attended a number of functions recalling the life and times of her late husband, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi.
Paying tribute to Sharmila, Professor Dame Joan Stringer, principal and vice-chancellor of Edinburgh Napier University, said: “Sharmila has had an astonishing career and her films are enjoyed all over the world. She is an excellent ambassador for Indian culture and at the same time, through her various charity endeavours, is a strong advocate for the educational rights of children in India.”
The citation for Sharmila was delivered by fellow Bengali, Dr Bashabi Fraser, joint director of the Scottish Centre of Tagore Studies.
“Sharmila Tagore is a legendary actress from India who is recognised as the glamour queen of the 1960s and ’70s and a cultural ambassador today,” she said.
“Sharmila, who was born in 1944 in Kanpur, before India became independent, belongs to the illustrious Tagore family who played a key role in the Bengal Renaissance,” she said. “Sharmila is the great granddaughter of the famous Bengali painter, Gaganendranath Tagore of the Bengal School of Art. She is the great-grand niece of the Indian national poet and Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore,” Bashabi went on.
“She has represented secular values in her life and work and is a strong and influential spokesperson for liberal thinking and debate on television and in media.”
There was the link with Scotland: “Edinburgh Napier has established the Scottish Centre of Tagore Studies (ScoTs) which has Memoranda of Understanding with Visva-Bharati, Tagore’s international university and the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR). Sharmila Tagore has acted in many films based on the work of Rabindranath Tagore and directed by Satyajit Ray, who studied at Tagore’s university.”