SHAH Rukh Khan of India has been invited to give a public lecture at the University of Edinburgh on October 15.

He is not a household name in much of Scotland, but he is very well known to the nation’s Asian community as he is one of the most popular film stars in Bollywood.

His legions of fans adore the charming and urbane film actor, television personality and movie producer, and his Twitter following of 15 million testifies to that. Just a pity if you wanted to go along to hear his wit and wisdom in person, as tickets for the lecture sold out very shortly after going on sale yesterday morning.


The star of nearly 90 films, SRK, as he is popularly known, is probably the biggest film star in the world, at least if you judge by his fan base or his wealth – he is said to be worth $500 million.

Born in New Delhi 50 years ago next month, SRK was the son of comfortably-off Muslim parents. He attended the famous St Columba’s School in Delhi which followed the GCSE syllabus and whose alumni include members of the Gandhi family. He excelled at sports and acting, developing his love for the stage at the Theatre Action Group in Delhi while studying for a degree in economics at Hansraj College.

Picked up by India’s growing television studios in the late 1980s, SRK switched to films in 1991, partly because he threw himself into his work in grief at the death of his mother.

He moved to Mumbai, production centre of Bollywood, at the same time as marrying his long-time love Gauri Chibber, a Hindu with whom he has three children. She is a successful film producer in her own right, as well as an interior designer and a model for Indian Vogue. The couple are recognised as beacons for religious tolerance as well as having a strong marriage.

SRK made his starring debut in Deewana, a comedy hit that led to his first appearance as a male lead in Chamatkar. The decisive step in his career came in 1993 when he played the role of an antihero who murders his secret lover, played by Silpa Shetty of Celebrity Big Brother fame, in revenge for the death of his father and sister.

His performance, in a film which shocked normally conservative Bollywood fans, won SRK his first Filmfare Award for Best Actor – the Indian equivalent of an Oscar. He has now amassed eight Filmfare Best Actor awards and 14 overall, a record for an actor.

In the mid 1990s, SRK became Bollywood’s “go to” actor to play romantic heroes. But it was not all plain sailing for SRK. He badly damaged his spine in a film-set accident, and was in pain for years before a successful operation in London. He suffered critical and financial failures, but as he grew older, SRK branched out into serious roles that displayed the breadth of his talent, and his fans flocked to him again. In 2004, he set up his own film company, Red Chillies Entertainment, along with his wife.

He did make one big mistake, however, turning down the role of the question master in Slumdog Millionaire that went to Anil Kapoor.

He is still acting and producing busily as he approaches his 50th birthday, but has also become known as a mentor to many in the Bollywood industry where he is known as “King Khan.”

He is an active philanthropist and instead of just campaigning for women’s rights, he took an active stance in favour of them that made India sit up and take notice – he insisted that his female co-stars should receive equal billing on film credits.


The university has a long history of links with India.

Professor William Robertson, Edinburgh’s Principal from 1762 to 1793 and a noted Enlightenment thinker, wrote one of the earliest European texts on India – An Historical Disquisition Concerning The Knowledge Which The Ancients Had Of India.

Edinburgh’s first Indian student graduated in 1876 and by the 1920s its Indian student population was greater than that of any other UK University.

The University of Edinburgh’s India Institute and its India Liaison Office in Mumbai seek to extend the institution’s relationship with India by encouraging research collaborations and academic exchanges.

Senior Vice-Principal Professor Charlie Jeffery said: “The University of Edinburgh has very strong ties with India and I am delighted that we are able to welcome one of the most outstanding stars of world cinema.”

A P J Abdul Kalam, the late former president of India, was awarded an honorary doctor of science degree from the same university. There is some talk that SRK might gain a similar honorary award.


Expect him to be suave, knowledgeable and witty, as he was in giving a similar lecture at Yale in the US. He will tell plenty stories of film-making and talk up Bollywood and its place in world cinema – he always does. We know the actor is not fully sure exactly what he is going to say because last night he Tweeted that he was “writing speech for Edinburgh. Life lessons/Success or on Education?” We will find out on October 15.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have tickets, as the university has announced that “in response to demand, we will live stream the public lecture by Shah Rukh Khan. The broadcast will commence shortly before the lecture begins. A video will be made available on our YouTube channel soon after the event.”

Expect YouTube to be in meltdown that night.


Why not? The University itself has featured in cinema on several occasions in the past, such as the original version of Journey to the Centre of the Earth starring James Mason, and the John Landis’ version of Burke and Hare. The recent hit One Day also featured the Old Quadrangle as did Starting Over in 2009.

Ian Charleson of Chariots of Fire was an alumnus of the university, as was Robbie Coltrane and Angus Macfadyen, while Alastair Sim was admitted to the university but left shortly afterwards for military service and then did not return, deciding to tread the boards on the road to becoming one of Britain’s greatest comic actors.

Suffice to say that with respect to all of these fine actors, none has ever enjoyed the extraordinary fame of Shah Rukh Khan. Expect Edinburgh to be abuzz when SRK arrives to give his lecture.