Kolkata: Iconic Bengali actor Soumitra Chatterjee said his being named for the Dada Saheb Phalke award – the highest honour in Indian cinema – is a recognition of his hard work in the last 53 years and expressed gratitude to directors like Satyajit Ray, Tapan Sinha and others for honing his acting skills.
Chatterjee, 77, said it was an "emotional moment" for him and he would receive the award on behalf of the doyens of the Bengali movie industry whose guidance helped him evolve as an actor. "I am very happy. It is an emotional moment for me. I thank everybody. It is a recognition of the hard work I have put in for the last 53 years. The people of my country have recognised my toil," said Chatterjee.
The Padma Bhushan awardee expressed his gratitude to directors like Satyajit Ray, Tapan Sinha and veteran actors like Chabi Biswas and Tulsi Chakraborty for honing his acting skills.
"I would like to thank many old people of this industry like (legendary movie directors) Satyajit Ray and Tapanda," he said. "Right now my mind is on a flashback mode. I would thank actors like Chabi Biswas and Tulsi Chakraborty. It would have been great if I could have handed the award to them. It is on their behalf that I will receive the honour," he said.
Chatterjee regretted that the sublime work of actors like Biswas and Chakraborty went unrewarded. One of India's most talented actors, Chatterjee made his debut in 1959 with Ray’s super-hit movie 'Apur Sansar'. The film gave him the much needed platform, and he never had to look back.
Chatterjee soon became Ray's favourite, and played the lead roles in most of the movie maker’s classics including 'Sonar Kella', 'Charulata', and 'Ghare Baire'. Chatterjee's association with Ray is often compared with the chemistry between famous actor-director duos of the world such as Akira Kurosowa-Toshiro Mifune and Marcello Mastroianni-Federico Fellini.
Apart from Ray, Chatterjee has worked with all internationally acclaimed directors of his time, including Mrinal Sen, Tapan Sinha and Tarun Majumdar.
Some of his notable movies are 'Jhinder Bandi', 'Koni', 'Kaapurush', 'Akash Kusum', 'Aranyer Din Ratri', 'Joy Baba Felunath', 'Teen Bhubaner Pare', 'Ganashatru' and 'Shakha Prashakha'.
The Padama Bhushan awardee has also worked with other famous directors such as Aparna Sen, Goutam Ghose and Rituparno Ghosh. Besides films, Chatterjee is also known for his passion for the stage where he has both acted and directed plays. He is also one of the all-time best elocutionists of Bengal. He has also received 'The Officier des Arts et Metiers', the highest award for arts from France and lifetime achievement award from Italy.