Amit gets doctorate& Amar preens

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By AMIT ROY in Leicester
  • Published 19.07.06

Leicester, July 19: It was suitably dramatic but even after 37 years of acting and 160 films, this was not a role that Amitabh Bachchan had played before.

Wearing an orange gown with a pink lapel, the Big B touched his bonnet, his academic hat, and gratefully accepted an honorary Doctor of Arts today from De Montfort University in Leicester.

“This is a very humbling experience,” he told The Telegraph later. “This is not a personal honour for me but for the Indian film industry.”

Today was certainly a big day for Leicester and for De Montfort which probably didn’t realise what it was letting itself in for when it decided to honour the 64-year-old actor.

The local MP, Keith Vaz, Labour member for Leicester East, looked triumphant as he murmured: “Let’s say I suggested his name.”

It was something of a surprise to see Bachchan’s close friend, Amar Singh, turn up in the actor’s party and stay with him as the superstar went on stage as though to the manner born, nodded at the Chancellor, Baroness Usha Prashar, and clapped as hundreds of students, at least half of them of Asian origin, received their degrees.

Giving Bachchan the honorary degree ? this does not qualify him to call himself Dr Bachchan by the way ? was the main thing on the menu. And the first.

After he had been photographed in his academic robes, he came in a procession into the hall with the other dons. Asian parents and their children craned their necks and got their camcorders rolling.

The citation for the conferment of the honorary degree was read by the university’s narrator, Dr Paul Pleasance, who had done his research well and who went through Bachchan’s career with an impressive command of his subject.

“This honour is conferred upon persons of intellectual, cultural and professional distinction, and for whom the award would be a proper form of recognition by the university,” he said.

“Amitabh Bachchan is quite simply India’s greatest film actor,” he added.

Bachchan’s response was a long and intense speech in which he encouraged the young men and women in the hall to dream the impossible but not forget to recognise the sacrifice made by their parents and grandparents.