The award, which is given for outstanding contribution to the growth and development of Indian Cinema, was announced by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry based on the recommendation of a committee of eminent persons.
Balachander (81), who made an amazing transformation from a government servant in the Accountant General's office to a writer of amateur playright and then to a leading personality in films, introduced an easy style in script narration at a time when Tamil cinema was dominated by melodrama.
He started with dialogue writing for MGR's film Dheiva Thaai but never worked with the big stars of the industry then either MGR or Sivaji Ganesan, later. His 1975 film Apoorva Ragangal' (rare ragas) made in Telugu as Anthuleni Katha introduced superstar Rajnikanth to Tamil and Telegu cinema.
The film, which also saw Kamal Hasan and Rajnikanth act together early in their career, was a brilliant display of inter-personal relationships between father-son and inter-generational romance leading to a complex situation.
Apart from Rajnikanth and Kamal Hasan, actors Sujatha, Jaya Prada and Sarita were all his discoveries who later became big names in South Indian cinema.
Balanchander's bilingual Maro Charitra starring Hasan and Rati Agnihotri was a big hit of the times that was later made in Hindi as Ek Duje Ke Liye that
made waves in Bollywood.
His five films Iru Kodugal (two lines1969), Apoorva Ragangal (1975), Thaneer Thaneer (water-1981), Achamillai Achamillai (fearless-1984) won the National Awards for best feature films in Tamil. His Telegu film Rudraveena in 1988 won the Nargis Dutt award for best feature film on national integration and the 1991 Oru Veedu Iru Vaasal (one home two doors) won the National award for best film on other social issues.
Born in a brahmin family, his films, specially Arangetram (inaugural performance), were also a sort of insiders' revolt when he went against accepted norms to put across his views. He had also won the Padma Shri in 1987 and was honoured with the title Kalaimamani by the Tamil Nadu Government in 1973 and various awards from government of Andhra Pradesh as well as filmfare awards
Born in Thanjavur District of Tamil Nadu in July 1930, Balachander came into prominence as a playwright with his dynamic plays like Major Chandrakanth, Server Sundaram, Naanal and Neerkumizhi.
These plays enjoyed huge popular and critical acclaim. He entered the film industry in 1965 and shot into fame with his very first film Neerkumizhi starring Nagesh. For the last few years, Balachander has also turned his attention to the small screen. The Dadasaheb Phalke award consists of a 'Swarn Kamal', a cash prize of Rs 10 lakh and a shawl. The award is given on the recommendations of a committee of eminent persons.