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Highest French honour for Adoor
Shobha Warrier in Chennai | May 23, 2003 22:45 IST
France has conferred its highest honour on director Adoor Gopalakrishan.
He is the second Indian filmmaker after Satyajit Ray to win the French Commandeur of the Order of Arts and Letters Award. "It is a great honour because France is one country which treats cinema as high art," Gopalakrishnan told rediff.com
France has a long history of recognizing exceptional accomplishments in many domains. These décorations, as they are called, include such societies, or Orders, as the National Order of the Legion of Honor, the Order of Academic Palms, and the Order of Arts and Letters.
The Order of Arts and Letters was established in l957 to recognize eminent artists and writers who have contributed significantly to furthering the arts in France and throughout the world. Before the creation of this Order, artists and writers could be officially recognized only through the Legion of Honor, (and that in limited numbers), or the Order of Academic Palms, if they were connected with education. The only recipient of Legion of Honour from India was Satyajit Ray.
The Order of Arts and Letters consists of three ranks: Chevalier, Officier and Commandeur. Commandeur is the highest in the order. The Order of Arts and Letters is given out twice annually to a few hundred people worldwide.
Laureates who reside outside France are generally notified of their award by the French embassy located in their country of residence and usually receive their insignia in a medal ceremony held at the embassy, a French consulate, or the institution with which they have professional ties.
"Two months ago I had a communication from a French institution called the Centre for National Cinematography that my name had been considered for the award," the director said. "I forgot about it completely. Two days ago, I received an official letter from the French cultural minister and a forwarding letter from the French ambassador informing me about the award. The minister's letter was in French! I have working knowledge of French. So, I could understand what it was. It is a big honour."
He then contacted Malayalam novelist (Mayazhi) M Mukundan who works for the French embassy in Delhi, a recipient of the Chevalier award (other recipients of the Chevalier award include filmmaker Shaji N Karun and Tamil actor Sivaji Ganesan) and asked for details of the award. "Mukundan told me it is one of the highest awards."
Adoor remembers that from Swayamvaram to Nizhalkkuthu, all his films have been featured at one French festival or the other. "I have been to all the festivals in France with my films. So my connection with France started more than 30 years ago. Paris is one place where you can see important films from all countries. If you look at the entertainment guide, you will see (Akira) Kurosawa running in some theatre! Not only French films but films from all over the world are shown there. The first time I went to Paris was in 1969, and that was when I saw almost all the great films."
His latest film Nizhalkkuthu, an Indo-French co-production, will have a theatrical release in July in Paris, which will be followed by Mathilukal, one of his earlier films.