Bollywood hero Shah Rukh Khan was among the 15 international actors who received a Joy Excellence Award at an event recently in Riyadh, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for their contributions to the world’s film industry.
The actor began his acceptance speech with an Islamic prayer: ‘bismillah al-rahman al-rahim,’ meaning ‘in the name of God, the most merciful, the most compassionate’.
He then greeted the crowd with “salam alaikum”. Khan is a promoter of religious tolerance in his home country of India; he is a Muslim, and has been married to Gauri Khan, a Hindu, for 28 years.
The 53-year-old star went on to talk about the future for Saudi Arabia now that cinemas have opened there (after a ban was lifted last year as part of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ‘modernisation’ efforts).
“We have been talking about the hospitality, the warmth, the goodness and the love that has been showered upon us … and for most of us, it’s our first trip to the Kingdom of Saudi,” Khan said.
American Game of Thrones and Aquaman star Jason Momoa also received an award, telling the Saudi crowd that he “fell in love with the country” when he was in the kingdom in 2017.
He went on to talk about how he anticipates change in Saudi Arabia: “It’s beautiful to see in the next generation, the change that’s going to come. Because I fell in love with telling stories, and we all have a story, and I look forward to hearing yours. It’s exciting times”.
Belgian movie star Jean-Claude Van Damme began his acceptance speech, holding the award in the shape of a gold falcon, saying “the falcon is one of my favourite animals, it’s noble and strong, like your country.”
He went on to say that he’s not just an action hero: “deep inside, I’m not such a tough guy. I love people, I love animals, and I love emotion, so I love you very much, thank you so much for your invitation.”
Hong Kong hero Jackie Chan said “salam alaikum” as soon as he got on stage, and then said he’d like to film in the kingdom soon.
“I know most of you watched my movies growing up. I’ve been making films for 59 years. It’s my first time in Saudi, and I know it’s a big country. After only a few hours here and looking at locations I know it’s a good place for car chasing, explosions, action; so, next time, I hope to come back with my crew.”
Famous Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa, who has a restaurant in Dubai, and has hosted a pop-up restaurant in Riyadh, was also given an award. A Nobu hotel is slated to open in Riyadh soon.
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