Sharmila Tagore has been honoured with a Doctorate of Arts from Edinburgh Napier University, UK for her contributions towards Indian cinema. The 67 year old veteran actress has the distinction of being a household name both in Hindi and Bengali cinema, a rare achievement which not many have managed to secure. Ms Tagore was awarded with her doctorate on 25 October 2012 in the presence of around 1000 students during the university’s autumn graduation ceremonies. She expressed her gratitude to the university for being presented with this prestigious award in a public statement. “It is indeed a privilege to be conferred an Honorary Degree by Edinburgh Napier University. It recognizes the significant influence of Indian Cinema on the global cultural arena and the small role that I have played in its history. As we celebrate a hundred years of Indian Cinema, this is both a happy and humbling moment.”
Edinburgh Napier University has only recently opened the Scottish Centre of Tagore Studies, which will aim to promote the work and legacy of Rabindranath Tagore. Ms Tagore is herself the great grand-niece of this eminent Bengali poet and writer, who was the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. In a statement, the principal and vice-chancellor of the university Dame Joan Stringer praised the work that Ms Tagore has done over the last few decades and why she has been selected for this award. “Sharmila has had an astonishing career and her films are enjoyed all over the world. She is an excellent ambassador of Indian culture and at the same time, through her various charity endeavours, is a strong advocate for the educational rights of children in India.”
Sharmila Tagore made her film debut in Bengali director Satyajit Ray’s Apur Sansar (The World of Apu, 1959) at the age of just 14. She established a long-term working relationship with Ray and created additional Bengali classics that include Devi (The Goddess, 1960), Nayak (The Hero, 1966) and Aranyer Din Ratri (Days and Nights in the Forest, 1969). She made her Hindi debut in Shakti Samanta’s Kashmir Ki Kali (1964) and would go onto dish out hits like Waqt (1965), Aradhana (1969), Daag (1973) and Mausam (1976). These are just some of the films which helped to consolidate her position within the Indian film industry and transformed her into a major star of the 1960s and 70s. In recent years, she has actively participated in various humanitarian works as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. This includes promoting issues related to AIDs, maternal health and literacy in and around India.
Undoubtedly, this is an honour that is long overdue for someone who has had a phenomenal impact both in India and around the world. Congratulations Ms Tagore!