Top Ten: World celebrities born in India

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Some of the most renowned global literary, musical and dramatic talent have Indian links

George Orwell


‘Made in India’ is a label that makes all Indians swell up with pride. Whether it is Tata, Mahindra, Godrej, Bajaj, Vivien Leigh, Rudyard Kipling… whoa! Have we lost it? Well, no. It is a fact that some of the world’s greatest celebrities really are Indian-born. If you don’t believe it, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to meet these people.


10. Milton Reid

Perhaps best known for playing the bad guy in James Bond movies Dr No and The Spy Who Loved Me, Milton Rutherford Reid was also an accomplished wrestler who went by the name of ‘The Mighty Chang’. Milton was born in Mumbai on April 29, 1917. His Scottish father Edgar William Reid worked as a customs and excise inspector at the time, and his mother was of Indian origin. He starred in 53 movies and television shows. Milton returned to India to be with his mother and sister, where he passed away in 1987.


9. Vivien Leigh

She stamped her place in history with Oscar winning performances as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind and as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar named Desire. Vivien Leigh, the actress who went on to become the darling of tinsel town, was born in Darjeeling in West Bengal on November 5, 1913 at the campus of St. Paul’s School. Vivian Mary Hartley was the only child of Ernest Hartley, an English officer in the Indian Cavalry, and Gertrude Mary Frances who was probably of Irish and Parsi Indian ancestry.


8. Julie Christie

Staying Far From the Madding Crowd these days, Julie Christie has enjoyed decades in the limelight as a movie legend from the 60s, with the Academy, Golden Globe, BAFTA and Screen Guild Awards under her belt. Born in Chabua, Assam on April 14, 1941, she is the daughter of Rosemary and Francis St. John Christie. Her father managed the Singlijan Tea Estate where Julie was raised along with her brother and an older half-sister.


7. Engelbert Humperdinck

To sum up Engelbert Humperdinck’s artistic achievements, it is suffice to say that he boasts a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and received a Golden Globe Award as ‘Entertainer of the Year’ in 1989. The highlights of his career have been his number one hits ‘Release Me’ and ‘The Last Waltz’. He was born Arnold George Dorsey in Madras, India on May 2, 1936, one of ten children to British Army NCO Mervyn Dorsey and Olive Dorsey.


6. William Makepeace Thackeray

William Makepeace Thackeray was a noted novelist of the 19th century, famous for satirical works like Vanity Fair and Pendennis. During the Victorian era he was ranked second only to Charles Dickens. Thackeray was born on July 18, 1811 in Calcutta, which was the capital of British India at that time. The old Freeschool Street where he was born is now called Mirza Ghalib Street. He was the only child of Richmond Thackeray, secretary to the board of revenue in the British East India Company, and Anne Becher.


5. Erick Avari

A well-known face on the silver screen with performances in hit movies like Home Alone 4, Mr Deeds and Planet of the Apes,Erick Avari’s love for cinema is inherited. His father ran two movie theatres and his grandfather was one of the pioneers of Indian cinema. He was born Nariman Eruch Avari in a Parsi household on April 13, 1952 in Darjeeling, West Bengal, and hails from the Avari-Madan family.


4. Rudyard Kipling

Almost eighty years after his death, children are still growing up reading his novels Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, The Jungle Book and Just So Stories. Rudyard Kipling was a short-story writer, poet and novelist remembered for his writings about British soldiers in India. He was born in Mumbai (then Bombay) on December 30, 1865. His father, John Lockwood Kipling was the Principal and Professor of Architectural Sculpture at Sir Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy School of Art in Bombay. The house where Kipling was born still exists in the school’s campus.


3. Joanna Lumley

Remember Sapphire of the late 70’s hit Sapphire and Steel, that’s our girl Joanna Lumley. Actress, model, author and human rights activist are some of the hats worn by this 70s pin up girl who recently appeared in The Wolf of Wall Street with Leonardo DiCaprio. Joanna Lamond Lumley was born in India on May 1, 1946 in Srinagar, Kashmir. Her father James Rutherford-Lumley served as a Major in the 6th Gurkha Rifles. Because of her support for the Gurkha Justice Campaign, Joanna is now considered a ‘national treasure’ of Nepal. The family moved to England in 1947.


2. Cliff Richard

One of the greatest musicians of our times, Cliff Richard is Britain’s Elvis Presley, the Peter Pan of Pop, an OBE (Officer of the British Empire), knighted for his charity work and holder of numerous titles and records. He was born Harry Rodger Webb in India on October 14, 1940 at King George’s Hospital on Victoria Street in Lucknow. His father Rodger Oscar Webb was a manager for a catering contractor for the Indian Railways. The Webb family lived in Maqbara, near the main shopping centre of Hazratganj.


1. George Orwell

We owe the terms ‘cold war’, ‘Big Brother’, ‘thought police’ and others to this literary genius. George Orwell was one of the most influential English writers of the 20th century and best known for his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. Born Eric Arthur Blair on June 25, 1903 in Mothihari, Bihar in British India, he adopted the pen-name George Orwell in 1935. His father Richard Walmesley Blair was an Opium Agent for the Indian Civil Service in Bengal, while his mother Ida Mabel Blair was raised in Burma.

Farzana Ahmad
Farzana Ahmad
Farzana is a freelance writer, artist and children's author

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