Veteran Bengali actor Soumitra Chatterjee has been chosen for France's highest civilian honour, Legion of Honour, (Ordre national de la Légiond'honneur) for his outstanding contributions to cinema and theatre, three decades after this recognition was conferred on master director Satyajit Ray.
Chatterjee, 82, is the first Bengali actor to have been selected for the Legion of Honour. Among early recipients of the honour are Satyajit Ray in 1987, sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar (2000), Bollywood veteran Amitabh Bachchan (2007), superstar Shahrukh Khan (2014) and actor Kamal Hassan (2016).
French government representatives will go to Kolkata later this year and confer the award on Chatterjee.
“I am greatly honoured by this award. It gives a different kind of satisfaction,” said the man who was considered Ray's favourite actor and appeared in a total of 15 films by the latter.
Ray was conferred the honour in 1987, at a function in the National Library premises in Kolkata.
Bangladeshi filmmaker Masud Karim has made a documentary on Soumitra Chatterjee who also lent his voice to a poem in Karim's other film “Baatighar” on Professor Emeritus Anisuzzaman.
Chatterjee made his debut in Ray's “Apur Sansar”, the final film of the famed Apu trilogy and went on to act in several other movies by Ray including “Debi”; “Aranyer Din Ratri”; “Ashani Sanket”; as detective Feluda in “Sonar Kella” and “Joi Baba Felunath”; “Hirok Rajar Deshey”; “Ghare Bairey”; and “Ganashatru.”
Chatterjee received Indian cinema's highest recognition Dadasaheb Phalke award in 2012 for his lifetime contribution.