I have always been in doubt about my work, says veteran Bengali actor

Veteran actor of Bengali cinema Soumitra Chatterjee was honoured with the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award by Vice-President Hamid Ansari at the 59th National Awards for 2011 at Vigyan Bhawan here on Thursday for his outstanding contribution to the growth of Indian cinema.

Wearing an embroidered green kurta, Mr. Chatterjee, who debuted in legendary film-maker Satyajit Ray's much acclaimed ‘Apur Sansar' in 1959, received a standing ovation from the audience.

After receiving the Swarna Kamal (Golden Lotus) medal, a cash prize of Rs.10 lakh and a shawl, the 77-year-old actor, who has been compared with noted Bengali star, late Uttam Kumar, and worked with film-makers like Mrinal Sen and Tapan Sinha, said: “I have always been in doubt about my work. I always thought that entertainment business was not worthwhile but time and again for more than 50 years I have been accepted, loved and made to feel as one of my own by my countrymen. I love them [viewers] and that is the reason why I am doing cinema. I salute them as they have supplied me with energy and dedication of what I think is a good art.”

Later in his address, the Vice-President said Dadasaheb Phalke award winners constitute the legends of Indian cinema. “This prestigious award was today presented to renowned Bengali film and theatre actor Soumitra Chatterjee. Mr. Chatterjee's partnership with Satyajit Ray would be counted as a memorable director-actor combination in the history of cinema.”

The government has decided to host the award ceremony on May 3 every year. It will also be held next year on the same day to mark the centenary of Dadasaheb Phalke's first feature film ‘Raja Harishchandra,' which was premiered on the same day in then Bombay in 1913.

In the best feature film category, the award was shared by two regional films. Marathi film “Deool” won for its witty, satirical and penetrative account of the politics involved in the commercialisation of religion in India.

For the same film, Girish Kulkarni won the best actor award. For penning dialogues in the film, he won another award.

Reacting to the dual honour, he said, “With this national honour a dream of lot many people has been fulfilled.”

The other film “Byari” — in which the language was Byari spoken in Karnataka — was honoured with Swarna Kamal for handling with sensitivity and urgency a powerful engagement with religious personal law. It conveys the trauma of a woman who has to deal with unjust religious strictures.

Director Suveeran, who did a lot of research on the Byari community and its beliefs, accepted the award from Mr. Ansari. Producer T. H. Althaf bagged the second Swarna Kamal.

Tamil film ‘Aaranya Kandam,' a stylised and ironic reinvention of the gangster genre presenting a dazzling map of Chennai's subterranean world of drug lords and violence, bagged the Indira Gandhi Award for the best debut film of a director. Director Kumararaja Thiagarajan accepted the award. The movie received two Swarna Kamals and one Rajat Kamal for best editing.

Another Tamil movie ‘Azhagarsamiyin Kuthirai' bagged the Swarna Kamal for best popular film providing wholesome entertainment.

Salman Khan's co-produced film ‘Chillar Party' won the award for the best children's film for its skilful mediation on complex issues relating to political corruption, media, child labour and love for animals. All the 11 child actors beamed with pride as they went to the podium to collect the award from the Vice-President.

The loudest clapping was undoubtedly reserved for Bollywood actor Vidya Balan, who bagged the best actress award for powerfully and imaginatively using her acting skills to lend credibility, vulnerability and dignity to the character of Silk Smita in ‘The Dirty Picture.'

“It is such an honour, I am fumbling for words. I would dream that some day I would walk away with this trophy. It is wonderful to work in Hindi cinema as I am playing different shades of Indian women on screen,” said Ms. Balan, who had come to the venue with her parents.

The non-feature film “Inshallah, Football” won two Rajat Kamal. Director Ashvin Kumar and producer Jaaved Jaffrey, who shook hands with the Vice-President before posing for shutterbugs, collected the awards.

This year, 24 feature films bagged the coveted National Award, while in the non-feature films category 21 were honoured.