Superstar Rajinikanth Wins India’s Highest Film Honor

Indian cinema superstar Rajinikanth, 70, will be the 2021 recipient of the Dadasaheb Phalke award, India’s highest film honor.

The award is given for lifetime contribution to Indian cinema and is named after Phalke, director of “Raja Harischandra” (1913), India’s first full-length feature, who is considered the father of Indian cinema. It carries a cash prize of INR 1 million ($13,600).

Announcing the award on Thursday, Prakash Javadekar, India’s information and broadcasting minister tweeted: “Happy to announce #Dadasaheb Phalke award for 2019 to one of the greatest actors in history of Indian cinema Rajnikant ji. His contribution as actor, producer and screenwriter has been iconic.”

The award jury consisted of filmmaker Subhash Ghai, musicians Asha Bhonsle and Shankar Mahadevan, and actors Mohanlal and Biswajit Chatterjee.

Born Shivaji Rao Gaekwad, Rajinikanth began his career in 1975 with the Tamil-language film “Apoorva Raagangal.” Since then he has starred in more than 160 films across Indian languages and attained cult status. Rajinikanth is a phenomenon among South Indian stars. His popularity includes fan bases in the U.S. and Japan. Every release of his is treated as a near-religious event by fans and causes such a frenzy that cinemas lay on back-to-back shows at dawn in the first week of release.

In 2017, he formally announced his decision to join politics, but since then decided not to for health reasons.

His new film “Annaatthe” is due later this year.

Past winners of the Dadasaheb Phalke award include filmmakers Satyajit Ray, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Mrinal Sen, Shyam Benegal and Tapan Sinha, actors Soumitra Chatterjee, Amitabh Bachchan, Dilip Kumar, Rajkumar, Sivaji Ganesan, Akkineni Nageswara Rao and Shashi Kapoor, and musicians Manna Dey, Bhupen Hazarika, Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle.

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