The Indian film fraternity is trying to seek 100,000 solidarity comments on a social networking website to urge the government to confer the prestigious Bharat Ratna upon Bollywood thespian Dilip Kumar.A community titled "Dilip Kumar for Bharat Ratna" on Facebook that now has over 850 members dedicated to the cause was started at the behest of filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt.
Bhatt said he was not the only one who wishes that the 86-year-old be awarded the country's highest civilian honour.
"It is the entire industry's effort. From every region, stalwarts have come out to appeal for him. I was just a foot soldier. It is the Indian film industry's effort, not an individual's effort," Bhatt told IANS via SMS.
The group has been primarily created to seek solidarity from people so that the administrators of the website can bind all the comments in a book and submit it to the president and the prime minister.
The members of the community have been asked to "leave a comment or endorse by replying a one liner - 'I endorse that Dilip Kumar is the most deserving person to be honoured with the Bharat Ratna'".
Dilip Kumar, who is married to actress Saira Bano, is known for his landmark performances in films like Devdas, Madhumati, Ganga Jamuna, Mughal-E-Azam, Shakti and Karma.
Many of his fans as well as members of the industry have put out individual comments.
Posts like "Honouring Dilip Kumar is honouring Bollywood", "He deserves Bharat Ratna. Period" and "Bharat Ratna....most certainly. He is an icon in the truest sense of the word!" are splashed on the online community's website.
Celebrities supporting the cause include actors like Rajeev Khandelwal, Mukul Dev, Shabbir Ahluwalia, Varun Badola, Randeep Hooda and Urvashi Dholakia. Film critic and filmmaker Khalid Mohammed, director Prabhakar Shukla and popular Bangladeshi singer Runa Laila have also joined the effort.
"Dilip Kumar is one of the finest actors in the Indian film industry. He did only 64 films in his career and is still regarded as the best. He is like Lata Mangeshkar, you won't get another Lata...Similarly, you won't get another Dilip Kumar. In the true sense, he is Bharat Ratna," said Shukla, known for his film Gudiyaa.
Till date no actor has received the Bharat Ratna award. In 1992, acclaimed filmmaker Satyajit Ray was the first person from the entertainment industry to have been conferred the honour.
Music greats like Carnatic music vocalist M.S. Subbulakshmi, sitar player Ravi Shankar, singer Lata Mangeshkar, shehnai maestro Bismillah Khan and classical singer Bhimsen Joshi became its proud recipients.