KUALA LUMPUR — The “knighting” of India’s top Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan will help boost tourism in Malaysia, an official from the western Malacca state government said Monday.
Khan is to be given the Governor of Malacca’s award, which carries the title “Datuk,” after his 2001 film boosted the profile of the state as a destination for tourists.
The 42-year old heart-throb will receive his award on November 29, in a ceremony that will be aired live on India’s top entertainment channel, Zee TV.
“It is a boost for tourism in Malaysia. His movies are seen by people all over the world and this is cost-free advertisement for us,” local parliamentarian Mohammad Sirat Abu told AFP.
Malacca, a historic port town and a relic of Malaysia’s colonial past, relies hevily on tourism for income.
Mohammad said since the filming of Khan’s 2001 movie, “One 2 Ka 4” at a popular resort in Malacca, the number of tourists coming from India has increased markedly.
“He is a worldwide icon and having him here will boost our country’s tourism industry,” he said.
However, the granting of the award has been controversial, with some questioning what Khan had done to merit the honour.
Opposition politician Lim Kit Siang said local artists and celebrities should have been recognised ahead of Khan.
“I don’t think the reason that has been given for making Shah Rukh Khan a Malacca Datuk would impress or convince many,” he said earlier this month.
However, former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad supported the move.
“I feel embarrassed when the award… to Shah Rukh Khan is being questioned. We confer such titles quite often on foreigners to appreciate their contribution to the country,” he wrote on his blog chedet.com.
“Some of these people have contributed even less than what Shah Rukh Khan has.”
Malaysia has become a popular location for Indian films, which have a huge following among ethnic Indians and the majority Muslim-Malays.
Women of all ages — including the wife of deputy prime minister Najib Razak, Rosmah Mansor — are huge fans of the charismatic Khan, dubbed the “King of Bollywood” here.
Malaysian tourism chiefs are aiming to attract 22.5 million visitors this year, who they hope will spend 50.5 billion ringgit (14.1 billion dollars).
From January to September 2008, tourist arrivals increased 4.4 percent on the year to 16.3 million, mainly from neighbouring Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand.