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'Perhaps they thought I have come of age'

Shivaji Ganesan Poise and equanimity. And malice towards none.

That sums up current Dadasaheb Phalke award winner Sivaji Ganesan's mood.

Lounging in a cushioned chair in the living hall of his palatial home, Sivaji is a picture of simplicity in his khadi white shirt-dhoti ensemble. A steady stream of visitors have been calling on him to congratulate him. And congratulations take different forms -- offering shawls, shaking hands and even touching his feet in reverence.

All of which Sivaji enjoys, but is not really overwhelmed with. Decades in the film industry have taught him how to take adulation and congratulations in his stride. Which is why he did not "jump like a school boy" when he received the official intimation to receive the award from the Indian President on July 15.

Shivaji Ganesan "I said 'yes' because it is nice and okay," he says.

But everything is not nice and okay. Especially, the fact that the award was a bit belated in coming.

A bit too belated.

Ask him about it and the actor initially dismisses it with a "No." But the deep hurt is discernible beneath the grey-and-white bearded face. The eyes that spoke a million words and emotions, betrays wounded pride.

"Perhaps they thought I have come of age," he says a little later, running his hand through his beard, "It's all over."

This is not the biggest honour he has received -- not in his books, anyway. The French Chevalier, the Afro-Asian award for best actor, and the Indian Cultural Ambassadorship to the United States have all searched him out over the years.

Shivaji Ganesan After Once More (his new film) was he planning any other movies? "I am taking a break now. I will resume acting whenever I feel like it."

"I am the healthiest man in India," he continued, "I will be an actor till I die. And there will be more (like Once More.)"

For Sivaji fans all over, that's definitely good news.


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