Kolkata, Jan 30 Veteran actor Soumitra Chatterjee was tonight conferred the ‘Legion of Honour’, the highest civilian award of France.
About three decades after the then French President Francois Mitterrand awarded the Legion of Honor to film maestro Satyajit Ray in 1987, his favourite actor got the honour here.
“I wish he (Ray) could be present here to see you, Mr Soumitra Chatterjee, getting the highest French Civilian Honour,” French Ambassador to India Alexandre Ziegler said while conferring the honour on Chatterjee who had acted in 14 of Ray’s films.
Describing the Dadasaheb Phalke winner as “the very prototype of Bengali gentleman”, the envoy said though Chatterjee is 83 years old, he looked like just 50.
“France loves him as much as he loves France and there was a retrospective of his representative films in France in 2016,” he said.
After receiving the insignia of ‘Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur’ (Chevalier of the Legion of Honour), the actor said “I do not know what to say. All I can say is I am honoured and privileged and as long as I live, I will remember this evening.”
“The French cinema and also the great painters (of France) fascinated me all along. I don’t know if I deserve it but I will honour it throughout my life,” he said.
Ray’s director son Sandip said, “He deserved this award much before. We are all happy.”
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee expressed happiness on Chatterjee getting the award.
“We are proud for Soumitra da who will be getting the Legion of Honour after Satyajit Ray in 1987,” Banerjee said earlier in the day in presence of Chatterjee at the inaugural programme of the International Kolkata Book Fair.