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October 21, 1999
B R Chopra chosen for Dadasaheb Phalke Award
B B Nagpal in New Delhi
Veteran filmmaker Baldev Raj Chopra, a journalist who took to wielding the megaphone, is to receive the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for 1998 for his lifelong contribution to Indian cinema.
The award, the country's highest honour for cinema, is presented every year to senior film personalities for their contribution to the development and growth of the art.
Unlike the national film awards, which are selected by juries set up by the Directorate of Film Festivals of the information and broadcasting ministry, this award is decided directly by the government.
While the cash component of the award has been doubled to Rs 200,000 from this year, Chopra will also receive a swarna kamal (golden lotus), a citation and a shawl from President K R Narayanan at the presentation of the 46th national film awards next month.
Born in 1914, Chopra came to Bombay after Partition from West Punjab, which is now in Pakistan. He began his career as a journalist, but soon took to producing thematically and socially relevant films.
Chopra expressed profound happiness when told of his selection for the coveted honour. Speaking to the United News of India in Bombay, he said the honour marked "the climax of my career. I feel happy that I have been honoured by the government".
Commencing his career in the black and white era, Chopra made films like Afsana, Ek Hi Raasta, Naya Daur and Kanoon, which to date remains one of the best courtroom dramas ever made in India. He gave his younger brother Yash a break as director with Dhool ka Phool.
With Humraaz, B R Chopra became the first to get the national award for best director. Later, he made films like Gumrah, Waqt, Ittefaq, Aadmi Aur Insaan, Pati Patni Aur Woh, Mazdoor, Daag, Karm and Awaam.
In addition, he made several films tackling social issues: the legal loopholes and difficulty in getting conviction in rape cases in Insaaf ka Tarazu, questioning the Shariat rule for re-marriage in Nikaah, and showing a rare control over trick photography and stunts in The Burning Train.
Chopra later went on to produce television serials, beginning with Bahadur Shah Zafar starring the ageing thespian 'Dadamoni' Ashok Kumar in the title role. Others included the mythological Mahabharat and Mahabharat Kathayen, Kanoon, Chunni, Aurat and Sauda. Of them, Mahabharat holds the world record for having secured 96 per cent viewership rating.
Chopra also produced four telefilms: Teri Meri Kahani, Dharti Aakash, Beta and Ghazal.
He received the Pearl Award at the first South Asian Film and Television Film Festival in Penang, Malaysia, in September 1997. His other awards include the 'Living Legend Award', 'Maharashtra Ratna Award 1998', and several lifetime achievement awards.
Apart from his brother Yash, his son Ravi and his brother's son Aditya are also filmmakers in their own right.
The Phalke Award, named after D G Phalke, who made India's first indigenous feature film Raja Harishchandra in 1913, was introduced in 1969 with actress Devika Rani getting the first award followed by thespian Prithviraj Kapoor, whose son Raj Kapoor also received the award in 1986.
The recipient of the Phalke Award for 1997 was the late Kavi Pradeep. Other awardees include Sivaji Ganesan, Dilip Kumar, Dr Raaj Kumar, lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri, Durga Khote, Bhupen Hazarika, and Lata Mangeshkar.
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