Veteran Bengali actor Soumitra Chatterjee on Tuesday received the Legion of Honour, the highest French civilian award, 30 years after his mentor and renowned filmmaker Satyajit Ray was conferred with the same.
Ambassador of France to India Alexandre Ziegler conferred the insignia of Knight of the Legion of Honour (Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur), the highest French civilian distinction, on Soumitra Chatterjee for his contribution to cinema at a Kolkata hotel on Tuesday. It may be recalled that Satyajit Ray had received the same honour from then French President Francois Mitterrand in 1987. With French government recognising Chatterjee’s contribution to cinema with its highest civilian award, the actor and director duo now has the rare distinction of being awarded with the same honour from a foreign government.
“It is an honour and privilege to confer on you the highest French civilian award. You are the most famous and respected Bengali actor in the world. You along with Satyajit Ray are the greatest actor-director duo of the world. France loves you as much as you love France,” Alexandre Ziegler said before conferring Soumitra Chatterjee with Legion of Honour.
A host of Bengali film stars and French diplomats were present at the ceremony. The 83-year-old actor said that it was overwhelming for him to receive this honour. “I don’t know what to say. All I can say is that I am honoured and privileged and this particular evening is so overwhelming. As long as I live I will remember this evening and carry this honour in my heart. I don’t know what I have done to deserve this but I will honour it throughout my life and I pledge to do as much as I can to enhance it,” Soumitra Chatterjee said after receiving the honour.
A retrospective of his films were shown after the ceremony and the projector used to screen Chatterjee’s debut film Apur Sansar at Basusree Cinema Hall in Kolkata was put on display.
Soumitra Chatterjee has acted in more than 110 films cutting across various languages including 14 films directed by Satyajit Ray.
Present at the event, filmmaker and Satyajit Ray’s son Sandip Ray said it was a great moment for him to witness Soumitra Chatterjee receiving the same honour like his father. “It is a great privilege for me to witness this. It is a great feeling. Finally, a cycle has been completed after about 30 years,” Sandip Ray told The Indian Express.