Veteran actor - director Manoj Kumar on Friday said the Indian government's decision to honour him with the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award, comes as a "pleasant surprise". He said it will take him some time to digest the news.
"It's a pleasant surprise. I was sleeping, and I started getting calls from my friends. I thought they were kidding, but when I read the news myself, I realised that it's for real, " Manoj Kumar, 78, told IANS over phone.
"Let me digest the fact that I am getting this award. It is certainly one of the most prestigious awards we have. I am extremely satisfied with whatever I have achieved in my life, and my family is extremely happy with this news, " added the actor, most of whose works have dwelt upon patriotic themes.
The Dadasaheb Phalke Award is conferred by the government of India for outstanding contribution to the growth and development of Indian cinema. The award consists of a Swarn Kamal (Golden Lotus), a cash prize of Rs. 10 lakh and a shawl.
The honour is given on the basis of recommendations of a committee of eminent personalities set up by the government for this purpose. This year, a five member jury - Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Salim Khan, Nitin Mukesh and Anup Jalota - unanimously recommended Manoj Kumar for the prestigious award.
Having starred in films like "Upkar", "Hariyali Aur Raasta", "Woh Kaun Thi", "Himalaya Ki God Mein", "Roti Kapda Aur Makaan" and "Kranti", the National Award winner and Padma Shri awardee has also directed over five films, including "Roti Kapda Aur Makaan".
Manoj Kumar's last big screen appearance was in the 1995 film "Maidan - E - Jung". He says he will try to be more active in the film industry now.
"I have been absent from the limelight, and that's my mistake. I have been wanting to make a movie and will soon make one as I want to be more active, " he said.
(Uma Ramasubramanian can be contacted at uma. sagit@gmail. com)