Dr Amitabh Bachchan takes Leicester by storm
By Prasun Sonwalkar, IANS
Combining the famous baritone with characteristic modesty and courtesy, Indian legend Amitabh Bachchan swept across this British town with a large minority of Indian origin residents, picking up a honorary doctorate and charming one and all.
Leicester was observing the countdown to Bachchan's visit for some weeks, and literally turned out in thousands to welcome him on an unusually warm day. His packed schedule on Wednesday included as many as 19 events, mainly in Asian dominated areas such as Belgrave Road and Melton Road.
After receiving the honorary doctorate of arts from the De Montfort University, Bachchan went across to the nearby famous Walkers Stadium - home of the Leicester City Football Club.
Here, he responded to questions from 10 of his fans who had been selected through a contest by Leicester Mercury, a local daily, and Sabras Radio, a leading station devoted to Asian music.
Accompanied by Leicester East MP Keith Vaz and Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh, Bachchan told the gathering at the stadium: "I am totally humbled by this and accepted the honour with a great amount of humility. I feel this is recognition of the Indian film industry as well and so accepted it on its behalf.
He added: "The love and affection of the people has not changed from when I was in this city 10 years ago and a lot of other communities could learn a lot from the one here in Leicester".
Bachchan was presented a Leicester City Football Club's blue shirt with his name and number 9 printed on the back. The event was compered by Nina Wadia, noted British Asian actress best known for her roles in the comedy 'Goodness Gracious Me'.
"Indian Idol 2" Sandeep Acharya sang popular numbers to the delight of the largely Asian audience.
Vaz, whose roots lie in Goa and is known to be a fan of Indian films, particularly of actress Rekha, said: "For Leicester to welcome a star of the calibre of Amitabh Bachchan is a great honour and one that I know will have delighted our British Asian communities.
"I would like to extend my congratulations to him and I hope his visits to Britain and to Leicester will become more frequent."
Leicester City Football Club chief executive Tim Davies said: "Our guest tonight 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".
In the House of Commons, Vaz and 38 other MPs moved an early day motion, which said: "That this House congratulates Amitabh Bachchan on being awarded an honorary degree from De Montfort University, Leicester; notes his towering contribution to Indian cinema having received 10 Filmfare awards and being named BBC Star of the Millennium; recognises his work as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF and as former member of the Lok Sabha, lower house of the Indian Parliament; and hopes that the award will continue to strengthen ties between the UK and India".
According to popular Sabras Radio presenter Vinod Suri, a large crowd had gathered outside the radio station, hoping to catch a glimpse of the star.
However, Bachchan's car could not stop due the 'hungama' and he simply waved to his fans and sped off.
In all, Bachchan attended 19 events in the city, including one at the local Asian television station, MATV. Suri, who has interviewed several Indian film stars on the radio station, said: "It is a big thing for such a big star to give so much time."
Before leaving for London on late Wednesday evening, Bachchan said: "It has proved to be a memorable day. The people came out in their thousands to show their appreciation and love and I will always remember that".
On Thursday, Bachchan and Amar Singh are expected to call on leading members of the Tony Blair government, including Geoff Hoon and Jack Straw.