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Amitabh Bachchan, academia meets actor in Oxford

Legendary Indian film actor and producer Amitabh Bachchan visited Oxford University on Tuesday 17 May 2011, for a lecture and dinner hosted by the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies (OCHS).

'I was very surprised that we have a centre like this in Oxford that goes into the study of Hindu philosophy. I am overwhelmed that there are people here in England that have taken it upon themselves academically to go into the subject and prepare students that will go back to their own countries and be able to educate others in the deeper meanings of this philosophy. To have such an institute in England is absolutely fantastic.'
Mr Bachchan was received by Oxford’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton. In their meeting Mr Bachchan, the Vice Chancellor, and the Director of the OCHS, Mr Shaunaka Rishi Das, discussed the historic links between India and Oxford, dating back to the sixteenth century and continuing to this day with initiatives in the sciences, development studies, medical research, and the emerging field of Hindu Studies.
He also visited Oxford's Bodleian Library where he viewed Shakespeare's First Folio. 'A great actor is touching the work of the great playwright,' remarked Richard Ovenden, Keeper of Special Collections of the Library, as Bachchan turned the pages of the priceless Shakespearean document.
Mr Bachchan responded to the OCHS Distinguished Ford Lecture at the Examination Schools, given this year by Rachel Dwyer, Professor of Indian Cultures and Cinema at SOAS, University of London. Prof. Dwyer expanded upon Mr Bachchan's career focussing on the use of emotion, particularly anger, and how that may be changing in modern Indian cinema. It was the first time in Oxford that an academic discussion of Hindi cinema was met with a response by one of its most successful actors.
Mr Bachchan also took a number of questions from the audience in a warm and humorous exchange.
After the lecture Mr Bachchan was the guest of honour at a formal dinner at Trinity College, following which Mr Bachchan said: 'I have spent the most enjoyable hours in this historic institution. It has been a treat that will long remain in my memory.'
‘It was delight to meet Mr Bachchan and to find in him such a humble and dignified gentleman,’ said Shaunaka Rishi Das, Director of the OCHS. ‘His spontaneous response to Prof. Dwyer's lecture was a pleasure to see. He held his audience and received great applause at the end.’
Amitabh Bachchan said of his first official visit to Oxford: ‘It is a great honour to be received so warmly by this ancient and renowned University. I am particularly struck by the long-standing and profound links between India and Oxford, and how, through the OCHS, the field of Hindu Studies is flourishing here. I hope that my visit may serve to nurture this important relationship.’