Tamil film actor Rajinikanth and classical singer Girija Devi were on Monday selected for Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian award, while Anupam Kher, Udit Narayan, Priyanka Chopra and Ajay Devgn are among other Padma honourees from Bollywood.
Rajinikanth (65), one of the most celebrated actors of his generations with fans according him the status of a demi-god, is already a recipient of Padma Bhushan.
Responding to the announcement, his daughter Soundarya tweeted, “Proud daughter!!!!! Appa is now Padma vibhushan shri Rajinikanth.”
Since making his debut with K Balachander’s “Aboorva Ragangal” in 1975, the actor saw a steady rise to stardom, which continues even today. The Tamil superstar has also acted in Hindi, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Bengali films. His famous movies are “Thalapathi”, “Nallavanuku Nallavan”, “Sivaji” and “Enthiran” among many others.
Devi, 86, already a Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan recipient, is known as thumri queen for popularising the genre. She is also an exponent of khyal and tappa.
Kher, known for his outstanding character roles in a career spanning over three decades, will receive Padma Bhushan with Narayan, who ruled Bollywood playback singing in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
The “Saaransh” actor said he was “happy, humbled and honoured” to be recognised.
“Today the son of an exiled Kashmiri Pandit, who worked as a clerk in the forest department of a small town, has received the coveted Padma Bhushan in recognition of his hard work. Thank you my country,” Kher tweeted.
Both Kher and Narayan are already Padma Shri winners.
Actors Ajay Devgn and Priyanka Chopra, 33, have been named for Padma Shri awards, besides a posthumous Padma Shri for actor Saeed Jaffrey.
Devgn, a two-time National award winner, is known for his intense performances in films like “Zakhm”, “The Legend of Bhagat Singh”, “Omkara”, “Gangajal”, “Apaharan” and “Drishyam”.
“I feel deeply humbled yet elated to receive such honour from my own country. This announcement today makes it special for me when I’m filming abroad for my new film ‘Shivaay’. I’d like to acknowledge that Padma Samman puts an extra responsibility on me and I promise to serve my country for as long as I can,” Devgn, 46, said in a statement.
Priyanka, who won the National award for “Fashion”, has turned up critically acclaimed performances in movies like “Kaminey”, “Agneepath”, “Barfi!”, “Mary Kom” and “Bajirao Mastani”.
Jaffrey, who passed away last year, starred in as many as 100 Hindi films, including acclaimed projects like Satyajit Ray’s “Shatranj Ke Khiladi”, “Gandhi” and “My Beautiful Laundrette”.
The Padma awards, which are announced on the eve of the Republic Day, are conferred by the President at a function in Rashtrapati Bhawan in March-April every year.
Women dominated this year’s Padma awards for sports with tennis star Sania Mirza and ace shuttler Saina Nehwal getting the nod for the Padma Bhushan, while archer Deepika Kumari was chosen for the Padma Shri.
All three were in sublime touch last year and brought the country laurels in their respective sports.
Sania enjoyed the most sensational run, clinching nine titles -- including two Grand Slams last year with Swiss great Martina Hingis. The exceptional performance propelled her to the top of the WTA women’s doubles rankings.
The 29-year-old is currently competing in the Australian Open in Melbourne, where she has reached the women’s doubles quarterfinals with Hingis.
The Hyderabadi has previously won the Padma Shri, besides being a Khel Ratna and Arjuna awardee.
“It’s a truly humbling experience to be honoured with the Padma Bhushan award and will serve to inspire me to earn more laurels for my country,” Sania said from Melbourne.
Saina has also been in spectacular touch, winning silver medals at the All England and World Badminton Championship last year besides clinching the India Open Super Series and Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold.
Deepika, on the other hand, won a silver at the Archery World Cup Final besides bronze medals at the World Cup Stage II and the Asian Team Championships.
Saina, who is in the country to compete in this week’s Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold Tournament, said the honour has left her surprised. Interestingly, the 25-year-old had expressed her displeasure at being ignored for the award last year.
“It is a great honour and I want to thank the Ministry for giving me the award. I am very happy with the way the last year has gone, I have been performing well. I reached World No.1 last year and now I am World No.2. I am sure this award will give me more motivation to do well further this year,” said the shuttler.
“It came as a complete surprise to me. I had no clue. I did not expect at all. There was no news of it at all. When I think that I am just 25 and I have received this award, it makes me feel great. But it is still a long way to go.”
Saina was left disappointed after the sports ministry decided to reject her application for the award in January last year, citing norms.
The ministry had picked two-time Olympic-medallist wrestler Sushil Kumar for the honour last year.
Saina was bestowed the Khel Ratna and Padma Shri in 2010 and also received the Arjuna Award in 2009.