On Tuesday, it was announced that superstar Amitabh Bachchan will be awarded the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award, Indian cinema’s highest honour. The announcement was made by the Union Minister of Information & Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar on Twitter.
The Dadasaheb Phalke Award is part of the National Film Awards, themselves a highly coveted collection of honours in the film industry. The Award is named after Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, the pioneering filmmaker who gave India its first film– ‘Raja Harishchandra’, in 1913.
The legend Amitabh Bachchan who entertained and inspired for 2 generations has been selected unanimously for #DadaSahabPhalke award. The entire country and international community is happy. My heartiest Congratulations to him.@narendramodi @SrBachchan pic.twitter.com/obzObHsbLk
— Prakash Javadekar (@PrakashJavdekar) September 24, 2019
What is the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, and who was Dadasaheb Phalke?
Presented annually by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the award is considered the highest honour in the Indian film fraternity. It is awarded for “outstanding contribution to the growth and development of Indian cinema”.
According to the website of the Directorate of Film Festivals, the award was instituted by the government in 1969, and consists of a ‘Swarna Kamal’, a cash prize of INR 10 lakh, a certificate, a silk roll, and a shawl. The award is presented by the President of India in the presence of the Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting, the Chairpersons of the juries, the representatives of the Film Federation of India, and the Confederation of All India Cine Employees amid senior officials, the website says.
Amitabh Bachchan is the 50th recipient of the award. Last year, it was given posthumously to the legendary late actor Vinod Khanna.
The first recipient of the award was Devika Rani Roerich in 1969. Subsequent awardees include music director Naushad, filmmaker Satyajit Ray, filmmaker Raj Kapoor, singer Lata Mangeshkar, actor Dilip Kumar, actor Dev Anand, filmmaker Yash Chopra, writer Gulzar, actor Shashi Kapoor, and actor Manoj Kumar among others.
Born in 1870 at Trimbak in Maharashtra, Phalke was drawn towards creative arts since childhood. He studied engineering and sculpture and developed an interest in motion pictures after watching the 1906 silent film The Life of Christ.
Before venturing into films, Phalke worked as a photographer, owned a printing press, and had even worked with the famed painter Raja Ravi Varma.
In 1913, Phalke wrote, produced, and directed India’s first feature film, the silent Raja Harishchandra. A commercial success, it propelled Phalke to make 95 more films and 26 short films in the next 19 years.
Phalke’s fortunes dwindled with the arrival of sound in cinema, and he died in 1944 at Nashik after retiring from films.