We are told that a lookout notice is doing the rounds in Bollywood for a certain Ms Shilpa Shetty. For months now she hasn’t been seen prancing around the lush environs of Khandala. Now we know why: the 32-year-old star is away from the heat and dust of India, enjoying the salubrious weather in London and celebrating her entry to a super-achievers list. The Leeds Metropolitan University has conferred a doctorate on the four-time Filmfare Award-nominated actor. By doing so, the University says it has “fulfilled its wish to honour prominent Indian personalities who contributed to India’s emergence as a fast developing cinema-proud nation during its 60th year of freedom struggle”. Shetty is the youngest of the four who have been chosen for the honour, the earlier ones being Amitabh Bachchan, Shabana Azmi and Yash Chopra.
Cinema-proud nation? Yes, we are enormously proud of our capability to produce cinema for the masses and Bollywood’s growing soft power, but even then this coveted academic honour has left us a little bemused. If winning a TV show that was marred by some racial controversy is seen as someone’s “contribution to cultural diversity”, then Britain seems to be barking up the wrong tree. Or is it just another add-on to the ‘India Now’ spectacle that London Mayor Ken Livingstone has launched with so much fanfare?
However, in true Hindi-film style, it is the heroine of the plot, Ms Shetty, who has tied up the loose ends for us. Asked how she plans to take the relationship with the University forward, she candidly said: “It’s going to be a life-long relationship. I have tried my best to do my best. At the moment I am basking in the glory”. Now, what has been her “best to do my best” is a little unclear to us. It can’t be films surely. Let’s wait and see, maybe the best is yet to come.