Filmmaker Zoya Akhtar, British Indian chef Asma Khan win India-UK Achievers Honours

PTI, Mar 3, 2024, 6:10 PM IST

Filmmaker Zoya Akhtar speaks after collecting her Living Legend 2024 award at the India-UK Achievers Honours celebration, in London. (Credit: PTI Photo)

London: Filmmaker Zoya Akhtar and British Indian chef Asma Khan were among the winners of the annual India-UK Achievers Honours in London, which recognises the achievements of Indian students and alumni who have pursued an international programme of study.

The initiative, by the National Indian Students and Alumni Union (NISAU) UK in partnership with the British Council in India and the UK government’s Department for Business and Trade, was launched last year with the aim of celebrating bilateral educational ties.

At a ceremony earlier this week, the “Class of 2024” made up of high achievers across the arts, sports, entrepreneurship and medicine were honoured following a day-long conference entitled “The Future of Education”.

“I am pleased to see that for the second year, you are showcasing exceptional Indian talent that has been developed in the UK,” said British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in a message for the event on Wednesday.

“I am extremely proud of the UK-India partnership and the Achievers Honours highlights the strong outcomes that can arise through partnership,” he said.

Akhtar, the acclaimed writer-filmmaker behind box-office hits such as Luck By Chance and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and most recently The Archies, was conferred the Living Legend Award in recognition of her work in furthering an understanding of India on the global stage. She spoke of her degree in literature and sociology giving her a strong footing for her filmmaking career.

“I genuinely believe that literature and sociology have helped me immensely in making movies, and writing and telling stories,” Akhtar said.

“However, I don’t believe one size fits all when it comes to your career path in the film industry… today films can even be made on a phone. I do feel it’s a lot easier these days. There is access to a lot more filmmaking tools today,” she said.

The 51-year-old daughter of writers Javed Akhtar and Honey Irani addressed a session on Creative Economies at the conference, during which she reflected on her love of writing.

“I started writing at a very young age because I grew up in a home of writers, so it’s just something that you imitate in a very organic way. You are surrounded by those kinds of discussions and narrations,” she said.

Also recognised in the field of Arts, Culture and Entertainment this year was UK-based chef Asma Khan, behind the women-led Darjeeling Express restaurant in London. The King’s College London alumnus started out in the field of law but has since made a mark for herself in the culinary space, including as a cookery writer behind bestselling recipe books on Indian cuisine.

“I never call myself a chef, I am a cook; and most of my cooking I learnt by watching,” said Khan, who was recently also awarded an honorary Doctor of Science (Social Sciences) degree by the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London.

The India-UK Achievers were also celebrated at the UK Parliament complex, where the finalists had an opportunity to interact with British members of Parliament, policymakers, and stakeholders in the education sector.

“These achievers are not just recipients of a prestigious honour, they are the embodiment of the profound transformation that education and cross-cultural experiences can engender in our societies,” said NISAU UK Chair Sanam Arora, who is also a commissioner of the UK International Higher Education Commission.

“The progress and achievements of Indian students in the UK over the past year have been nothing short of remarkable. Their growing presence in the UK’s universities is a testament to the enduring appeal of British education and the opportunities it offers,” added Lord Karan Bilimoria, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for International Students and President of the UK Council of International Student Affairs.

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