The pioneer of parallel cinema in India, Shyam Benegal, has been awarded the highest film honour of the country, the Dada Saheb Phalke award for lifetime achievement in cinema.
Benegal, who brought alive Jawaharlal Nehru’s Discovery of India to the masses on television, is the 37th recipient of the award. It was first given to Devika Rani in 1969. President Pratibha Patil will confer the prestigious prize, which carries Rs 2 lakh in cash, a golden lotus and a shawl, to Benegal later this year.
The Rajya Sabha member has already received the Padma Shri in 1976 and the Padma Bhushan in 1991. Benegal had to wait for almost a year for the award. He said it was unfortunate that the award was mired in controversy and a jury member moved court against the jury decision. “Majority wisdom should have prevailed and such a controversy should not have arisen,” he said.
But the award will not mean end of meaningful cinema from him, Benegal has promised. “Mostly this award is given to people at the fag end of their career. For me, the award will be an encouragement to come out with better cinema,” he promised.
Benegal, however, was not surprised with the award as he said he knew his name was being considered. A government statement said Benegal is considered a leading filmmaker with his first feature film Ankur breaking new grounds in cinematic trends of 1970s.
The core subjects of his films have been varied but mainly centred around contemporary Indian experience. Some of his well-known films are The Making of the Mahatma, Zubeida, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Mandi, Kalyug, Suraj Ka Satwan Ghoda, Manthan and Nishant.
Apart from fictional films, he made many documentaries on subjects ranging from anthropology and problems of industrialisation, the statement said. His television work consists of many popular series based on international best stories and short stories written by Indian writers.