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King's in the Family: Keeping the Khan family legacy alive at King's

Ali Khan (History, 2022) is an actor and recent King’s graduate. Murder-mystery fans may recognise Ali from his role as Nicholas Holland in A Haunting in Venice (2023), where he stars alongside Kenneth Branagh, Michelle Yeoh, Jamie Dornan, and other famous faces.

A love of education runs in the Khan family, and Ali follows in the footsteps of his mother, Sadi Khan MBE (Microbiology, 1996), an award-winning entrepreneur and cultural awareness trainer.

Sadi’s grandparents were proud pioneers of education in their home region of Azad Kashmir (Pakistan). Her grandmother was the first female teacher in her village, while her grandfather gave away his land to the people of Poonch (his local district), so they could build a university.

Sadi and Ali share their thoughts on continuing this legacy, getting into acting, and the key part King’s has played in their lives.

Setting the scene

Ali discovered a love of acting through his local Blockbusters, where he went every day from the age of about three. He recalls calling the staff 'Aunty' and 'Uncle' and pestering them into renting him movies like Goodfellas, which he admits he was far too young to watch!

One staff member encouraged Sadi to let her son audition for the TV Workshop in Nottingham. Ali’s audition was successful, and the rest is history. He told us: ‘I would go there every week to do improv, script work and hang out with the other kids. It was such a lovely community.’

At the age of nine, Ali landed his first role in a short film called Arjun and Akash. He remembers being so excited to be in a 'movie' that he laughed his way through every scene.

Why King’s?

Sadi Khan’s King’s journey began in 1994. Married at the time, Sadi was experiencing difficulties at home, and King’s provided her with a safe space to study. She describes her project teacher, Professor Ann Wood, as a ‘lifesaver’, supporting her both mentally and academically.

In 2004, Sadi founded Noble Khan, the UK’s only licensed cultural awareness training centre – inspired by her then-husband's experience of racial discrimination at work. In 2018 she was awarded an MBE for services to cultural and religious training and voluntary service to vulnerable women.

Sadi credits her time at King’s for helping develop her internal confidence and make positive changes. ‘King's set the foundation for me, for my future’, she explained.

As soon as Ali was born, Sadi knew she wanted him to study at King’s, and be able to enjoy university life free from constant stress and worries – a chance she didn’t get.

Ali was also dead set on a London university, having visited the city for various auditions. London to him was ‘exciting, vibrant, diverse’ and a far cry from his hometown of Nottingham.

Originally set to study Politics and International Relations at King’s, Ali ended up doing History, which he feels he was much better suited to. In his third year, he took a South Asian International Relations module. Ali says the course shaped his outlook on life, in particular Dr Reza Zia-Ebrahimi's seminars on Race, Orientalism and Islamophobia.


Ali Khan pictured in front of Big Ben
Getting in character

Ali’s acting talents have landed him roles in several films and TV shows, including The School for Good and Evil and, most recently, A Haunting in Venice.

A Haunting in Venice takes place just after World War II and Ali’s character is Romani/Sinti. He states that having a history degree helped him get in character. To prepare for the role, he read a lot of JSTOR articles about the malignment of the Roma community and watched YouTube lectures and documentaries. During his research, Ali even discovered that Romani/Sinti people are believed to have originated from the Sindh Valley in Kashmir, where he is also from.

Ali described Kenneth Branagh as ‘a kind and open director’ and mentioned that he got on well with the whole cast. Between filming, he often would spend his time on set playing chess or shadowboxing with Kyle Allen (who plays Maxime Gerard).

Ali’s advice to aspiring actors:

  • Have faith and perseverance.
  • Surround yourself with a team that care about you and an agent you trust.
  • Do something else, aside from acting.
Continuing the family legacy at King’s

Of all her son’s achievements, what makes Sadi most proud of all is the fact that he graduated from King’s. She confessed: ‘I’m proud because his graduation picture is next to mine. King’s is now in our blood for generations to come, and my grandparents’ legacy of education lives on through my son.’

Sadi concluded: 'Kings was a fresh start for us both, a vibrant university at the heart of London, a rich diverse, and accepting community. King's allowed us to move forward from a difficult past and to thrive. It is a privilege to share our story and pass on these words of encouragement.'


Kings was a fresh start for us both, a vibrant university at the heart of London, a rich diverse, and accepting community.– Sadi Khan MBE
Read similar stories on the King's Alumni page