| Amitabh Bachchan all ears to Lata Mangeshkar at a programme in Mumbai on Sunday. (PTI)
London, July 9: Amitabh Bachchan is to receive an honorary degree on July 19 for his services to the film industry from De Montfort University, of Leicester and Bedford, which is not to be confused with Leicester University.
David Alder, spokesman for De Montfort, told The Telegraph today: “He will be made an honorary Doctor of Arts for his distinguished service to the creative industries.”
It will be a dignified ceremony as these occasions invariably are, with the 63-year-old star wearing a colourful red gown and doffing his mortarboard at the appropriate moment.
So long as the dons (not to be confused with the ones in Mumbai) gathered for the function remember not to claim that Bachchan is being recognised for his services to “Bollywood” ' a word he hates ' all will remain sweetness and light.
“De Montfort is especially strong in the creative side,” explained Alder, who added that in a week when 2,700 of the university’s pupils would receive their graduation degrees, the actor would be among six other equally distinguished personalities to receive honorary degrees.
“They include George Davies (a fashion guru who is famous in the retail industry for setting up a clothing chain called Next) and Shami Chakravarti (the director of the human rights organisation, Liberty),” Alder said.
The spokesman went on: “Our graduation ceremonies are the highlight of the academic year, when we celebrate the success of our graduates. Amitabh Bachchan is a well-known figure in the creative industries and his energy and professionalism will be an inspiration to our graduates and students across the board, and especially to those wishing to pursue careers in this sector.”
Alder revealed that before Bachchan’s name was announced, the university checked with him to see if he would accept the honour.
The honorary degree will be conferred on Bachchan either by the university’s chancellor, Baroness Usha Prashar, who came to Britain from Kenya, or the vice-chancellor, Professor Phillip Tasker, or one of the pro-vice chancellors, “depending on who is available”.
A third of Leicester’s 280,000 population is from the ethnic minorities, mostly East African Asians. Many have made their home in Leicester after being expelled from Uganda in 1972 by President Idi Amin. About 40 per cent of the pupils at De Montfort are from the ethnic minorities.
The MP for Leicester East, Keith Vaz, who is not from East Africa ' he is a Catholic, born in Aden of Goan origin ' welcomed the choice of Bachchan: “I am delighted that De Montfort University will be the first in the UK to award an honorary degree to Amitabh Bachchan.”
Bachchan fans will be charged '10 a ticket to attend a rally after the graduation ceremony at Walkers’ Stadium, the home of Leicester City Football Club where the actor will blow the whistle to start a U-14 match.
Vaz commented: “I’m also thrilled that Mr Bachchan will be coming to meet the community at this very special event. I hope people will respond positively.”
Chief executive of the football club Tim Davies said: “Leicester City Football Club is proud of its role within the local community. We have a great many fans of South Asian descent and the club is proud to have them as supporters. Amitabh Bachchan had the courage to break into a massively competitive career and make himself a huge star. I hope that through hard work and dedication to the beautiful game, some of our young fans can do the same.”
Prior to 1992, De Montfort University was known as Leicester Polytechnic, which was created in 1969 through the amalgamation of Leicester College of Technology and Leicester College of Art.
While De Montfort bestows an honorary degree on Bachchan, Leicester University will award an honorary fellowship, an even rarer honour, on July 14 on Lord Richard Attenborough, the director of Gandhi.
In May in Cannes, the British culture secretary, Tessa Jowell, told The Telegraph in an interview that Leicester was adopting the nickname, “Filmpur”, in an effort to attract Indian producers and directors to make use of film facilities in the city.