Bollywood superstar receives major university honour

Professor Philip Plowden, Shankar Mahadevan and Anita Bhalla.

Globally acclaimed singer, composer and actor Shankar Mahadevan has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate in recognition of his outstanding services to music and the arts.

Shankar, who has been described as one of the greatest-ever Bollywood vocalists, was honoured with the award at a special ceremony at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (RBC) on Saturday 24 June.

A member of the internationally-renowned Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy song writing trio, Shankar has composed music for scores of Bollywood films, and established the Shankar Mahadevan Academy, which provides educational opportunities for aspiring musicians. His most popular album, Breathless, released in 1998, topped the charts in India for over 10 weeks, and he has 18 million monthly listeners on Spotify.

Shankar was welcomed to the ceremony with performances from Dhol drummers and a student ensemble led by BCU’s first-ever Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) Chair in Indian Studies Dr Radhika Balakrishnan.

He was then presented with a bespoke medal made by students at the School of Jewellery.

Shankar said: “This is a moment I will cherish – and I want to thank Birmingham City University for making this happen.

“It’s like a dream for me. Having my family in the audience, this is really special. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those gurus from whom I’ve learned so much.”

Shankar was joined on stage by Indian tabla player, composer and percussionist Ustad Zakir Hussain, and guitarist and pioneer of jazz fusion John McLaughlin.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Philip Plowden said: “Shankar is not only an exceptional artist across many genres, a Bollywood legend and a beloved TV star, he’s also an educational innovator who believes in making the best tuition available to talented aspiring musicians. It was fantastic to be joined at the event by Shankar’s family and his brother musicians Maestro Zakir and Maestro John.

“We are honoured to have the opportunity to formally bring Shankar into our university community.”

Chair of the Board of Governors at BCU Anita Bhalla OBE said: “We are delighted to recognise Shankar’s distinguished musical career and his outstanding contribution to the development of up-and-coming talent.

“This event symbolises so many themes that are important to our University: Creativity, collaboration, partnerships and being future facing, welcoming people from the region, the wider UK and also from across the world.”

After the formal ceremony, Shankar took part in a Q&A session with Director for the West Midlands India Partnership Shyam Nabar, where he spoke about his early life, musical influences and Bollywood career.

Over the next few years, Shankar will lead several collaborative projects at RBC and STEAMhouse.

Pictured (left to right): Professor Philip Plowden, Shankar Mahadevan and Anita Bhalla. 

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