Kolkata: Legendary singer Manna Dey and writer Mahasweta Devi are among the nine luminaries from diverse fields felicitated with the inaugural `Banga-Vibhusan` award by the West Bengal government Monday. The award is in recognition of their contribution to arts, culture, music and sports.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who presided over the glittering ceremony, said: "We are so fortunate to have all these legends at the same platform. It is an absolute privilege to honour the `Navaratnas`."
Padma awardee manna Dey, who turned 93 in May, could not make it to the event owing to ill health. "Mannada is ill. He is not here because he didn`t want to come on wheel chair," said Banerjee.
Dey was handed over the award earlier at his Bangalore residence. A video clip of the occasion was screened, showing the maestro to be visibly emotional. "I am a son of Bengal; I have sung so many Bengali songs. I have worked with all the big music directors of my time. But I was never given any recognition. This is the best award that I have got," he said.
Like Dey, Mahasweta Devi too said she never got any recognition from the state government. "I have written mostly in Bengali. I have got the Jnanpith award, but the state government did not give me any recognition. Today I am overwhelmed to get this award."
The writer also suggested that the government should consider young writers for such awards. "Budding writers need encouragement. They need to be inspired. I think youngsters should be given such awards."
The other legends honoured on the occasion were renowned danseuse Amala Shankar, sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, leading lady of yesteryear`s Bengali cinema Supriya Devi, veteran actor Haradhan Bandopadhyay, iconic footballer and Asian Games gold medallist team captain Sailen Manna, famed singer Sandhya Mukhopadhyay, and celebrated Rabindra Sangeet exponent Dwijen Mukhopadhyay.
The recipients were moved by the gesture, and accepted their awards from Governor M.K. Narayanan, with tears rolling down their cheeks. Before the awards were given, visual clips of their contribution and achievements were shown.
Most of the legends thanked the government, especially Banerjee, for the initiative and in the same breath complained of not getting appreciation for their efforts earlier on ion their life.
The ceremony was attended by eminent personalities from various walks of life.