KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — A Malaysian state has defended its decision to give an honorary title to an Indian movie star, news reports said Oct. 12.
Shah Rukh Khan was awarded the title of “Datuk” — the equivalent of a knighthood in Britain — by Malacca in recognition of his promotion of the southern state through his films.
Malacca Chief Minister Mohamad Ali Rustam said Khan had helped the state’s tourism because six of his movies involved locations in Malacca, the New Sunday Times quoted him as saying. This included the hit “One 2 Ka 4,” which was shot at a resort in Malacca in 2001.
But the move has stirred controversy. The Sunday Star newspaper said many Malaysians were astounded by the award.
Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang, in a statement, said priority should be given to local artists.
If Shah Rukh Khan deserves the award, then other foreign stars including Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones who shot the Hollywood movie “Entrapment” in Kuala Lumpur in 1999 should also be given similar recognition, he said.
“I thought the award is given to those who have contributed toward Malacca’s development. I wonder whether Shah Rukh Khan even knows where Malacca is,” businesswoman Fatimah Tahir told the newspaper.
But Ali said, “It would have cost millions to promote Malacca through advertisements, but instead Shah Rukh has brought Malacca to the attention of the world through his movies,” the Star reported.
Ali and other Malacca officials could not be reached Oct. 12 for further comment.
The 42-year-old Bollywood star was among more than 750 people given awards to mark the 70th birthday of Malacca’s nominal head of state, Mohamad Khalil Yaakob. ♦