Amitabh Bachchan felicitated by Egyptian Academy of Arts

NEW DELHI: Megastar Amitabh Bachchan, who has been named for the Padma Vibhushan this year, will receive an honorary doctorate from the Academy of Arts, Egypt during a visit to as chief guest of the mega festival ‘India by the Nile’.

Organized by the Indian Embassy in collaboration with the Indian Culture and Tourism Ministries and the Cairo Opera House, this is considered the biggest foreign fair in Egypt amidst a political unrest and violent extremist attacks, and is aimed at sending a message that the country is safe for tourists, according to Indian Ambassador to Egypt Navdeep Suri.

The Indian ambassador said the focus was to get in more tourists in Egypt from India and the idea to rope in Bachchan as the chief guest for the festival this year stemmed from that.

The third edition of the festival formally commences tomorrow and will continue till 17 April. achchan, 72, will speak about his films, particularly Amar Akbar Anthony at the Opera House tomorrow and will also be present at a gala event at the Pyramids the same day.

In the run up to the festival, artistes from India and Egypt presented a Bollywood performance at the airport. Delhi-based dance group kick started the performance with Bachchan's hit song Ye Dosti from the movie Sholay and went on to perform on the hit Dil Chahta Hai track Koi Kahe.

Young college girls chanted "Indiawale" as the performers danced to the beats of the dhol. Their act was followed by a dance number by Cairo-based dance group comprising five young girls, who are all self-confessed Bollywood fans.

The gala inauguration will be followed by a new musical 'Bollywood extravaganza: A Tale of Passion, Love and Revenge', which will run at the Opera House from 1 to 3 April and will see more than 35 Indian dancers performing to the much-loved music of Indian cinema.

The musical will also travel to Egypt's second largest city Alexandria, in north central part of the country. As part of the festival, a Bollywood dance workshop was also organised today at Medan Theatre in the Cairo Opera House complex.

“The proposition we gave last year was Egypt is going through a rough patch (and) tourism is badly hurt. Many countries have issued advisories against visiting the country. We said we are committed to do the festival and we will not go back even if you have the occasional bomb blasts or elections,” Suri said at the Indian Embassy in Cairo.

“This year the approach to tourism was that they wanted to get more visitors from India. In 2010 the number was 114000. The idea was to grow that number and that's why we decided how about getting an iconic figure like Bachchan, at the iconic place such as the pyramids.

“The idea worked... he has been phenomenally gracious. It is generous of him to make time for the festival,” Suri added. The festival will also feature performances by a Manipuri dance group, yoga sessions and an Indian street food festival.

“Three years ago we wanted to do an Indian cultural programme partly to get away from the notion that India is all about Bollywood,” Suri said. 

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