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All in genes | Big B speaks on Bachchans

The superstar says none of his academic honours will ever match up to his illustrious father's achievements.

india Updated: Jul 17, 2006 21:18 IST

Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan, who is to receive a doctorate from a university in Leicester in Britain, says none of his academic honours will ever match up to his illustrious father's achievements.

"I am deeply humbled by this recognition...but truly feel unworthy of them. My contribution, if at all there is any, shall always be pale in front of my father's," Amitabh said.

The Indian superstar will be in Leicester - a town in the east Midlands with a significant population of Indian origin - to receive an honorary doctor of arts degree from the local De Montfort University during its graduation ceremony on July 19.

After his father - the late poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan - he rates his niece Nilima as a true academic achiever in the family.

"My niece, Nilima Bachchan, Ajitabh's eldest daughter, has just done a PhD in aeronautical engineering from Britain. If there is a genuine Dr Bachchan after my father, it is her," he insists.

Excerpts from an interview:

The De Montfort University in Leicester is conferring a doctorate on you. How does Dr Bachchan sound to you?

Dr Bachchan was my father! With a PhD in English literature from Cambridge on WB Yeats and occultism in 1954, he was perhaps the first Indian to get this distinction from that university. None of my achievements, honours and degrees can and will ever match that.

Jhansi University conferred a doctorate on me the year before last, De Montfort does it this month and, the Delhi University wishes an honorary doctorate for me at the end of the year.

I am, of course, overwhelmed and deeply humbled by this recognition and I express my extreme gratitude to each of these prestigious institutions but truly feel unworthy of them. My contribution, if at all there is any, shall always pale in front of my father's.

You come from a family with an acute literary and scholarly bent of mind. How much of an academic are you at heart? Do you get time to read a lot? Who are your favourite authors?

I am an acute failure in this department as I am in various others. I am a graduate in science and have lived and been brought up in an atmosphere of poetry and literature and academics due to my father.

Whatever I have, which isn't much really, is all that I have imbibed or accumulated because of my proximity to my parents. There has not been any concerted effort to follow or pursue academics. There is a deep desire to do so. But how and when I just do not know.

You are just being your over-modest self.

I am serious. The genes reflect in the progeny. My niece, Nilima Bachchan, (brother) Ajitabh's eldest daughter, has just done a PhD in aeronautical engineering from Britain. If there is a genuine Dr Bachchan after my father, it is she.

My other niece, Namrata, is a painter and writer. My daughter Shweta is a voracious reader and a great mind. From our side of the family, she is perhaps the only informal academic.

But I get no time to read. I collect the latest books and browse through them and store them for a rainy day, hoping that they shall give me company when I am confined to a chair or bed. But I am a bad reader. I am presently content with my father's books and his wisdom.

Do you think formal education is a necessary qualification for an actor? You have been to college. Dilip Kumar hasn't.

I think formal education is necessary for an individual pursuing any vocation. Formal education just does not bring in academic knowledge. It brings with it curriculum, discipline, forbearance, competitiveness, understanding, vision and so many other qualities that are essential for everyday existence in a normal society.

My days in college may not have a direct reflection on my present profession. But I cannot wish away the other aspects of its benefits to me as an individual.

An actor's performance will always betray his inner build-up as a human. Dilip saab may not have gone to college. But can you really doubt the reflection of the quality of his inner self in his performances? That he developed these qualities independently and not through an educational institution gives so much more credence to his unassailable genius.

How much did you stress on children Abhishek and Shweta's education?

We stressed a lot. But in the end our bottom line was - educate yourself, yes, but educate yourself to be a good human first.