Kolkata: Veteran film actor Soumitra Chatterjee was conferred the Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur for his contribution to Indian cinema by the French ambassador to the country Alexandre Ziegler in the city today.
Ziegler said that he feels extremely privileged to confer the award on Soumitra.
Soumitra’s mentor, filmmaker Satyajit Ray, was the recipient of the Commandeur de la Légion d’honneur in 1989. Ray is widely considered a leading auteur of international cinema whose works have had a profound impact on many filmmakers across the world. The then French President Francois Mitterrand had flown down to Kolkata to confer him the award.
“Bengal is the cultural window of the entire world and Soumitra Chatterjee is the perfect heir of Ray,” Ziegler said, adding that a retrospective of the actor’s films was shown in France in 2016.
“He is the most valued actor in my country,” the French envoy said.
Soumitra, in response, said that he was exposed to French literature since his university days and was always attracted to it. French films had a great impact on him when he started acting, Soumitra said, recalling his deep and personal connection with France.
“I don’t know whether I am worthy of this award but will cherish and honour it as long as I live,” the thespian added.
Ray’s son Sandip said, “There is no more deserving person than Soumitra to receive this award. He is one of the most grounded persons I have ever met.”
The Légion d’honneur, more popularly known as the Legion of Honour, is the highest French military and civilian order of merit instituted in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte. It is divided into five degrees in the following order: chevalier (knight), officier (officer), commandeur (commander), grand officier (grand officer), and grand croix (grand cross).
Pic: Bulan Ghosh