Fifty years after he wrote his first song Mora gora ang laile in Sachin Burman’s cult film Bandini, the powers that be have finally deemed 79-year-old Sampooran Singh Kalra a deserving candidate for the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award for Lifetime Achievement, which is conferred by the government. While the move is welcome, one wonders if this is another case of the bureaucracy taking too long to confer the distinction on a worthy talent in the industry. For five decades, not only has Gulzar consistently written soulful lyrics, but has also made some of the most sensitive films to emerge from the Hindi film industry.
Even the western world has recognised his talent, before his own country did. Six years ago, he received the prestigious Academy Award for Best Original Score for Jai Ho, his anthem from Slumdog Millionaire. The same track fetched him the prestigious Grammy Award in 2010.
Last year, the Phalke award went to 93-year-old Pran, who was ailing when the award was announced. It came as a surprise to many that his illustrious six-decade and 400-film long career, dotted with some glorious performances, was ignored for so long by the selection committee. When the original showman of the industry, Raj Kapoor, was finally conferred the Phalke award, he was so ill that the president of the country at that time, Venkataraman, had to descend from the stage to present it to him.
Speaking of delayed recognition, one must mention celebrated poet and patriot Kavi Pradeep. He wrote popular songs like Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon, which, when sung by Lata Mangeshkar, brought tears to the eyes of the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Kavi Pradeep was found deserving of the Phalke Award at the age of 81.
Dadasaheb Phalke award is the most revered award in the country, and the highest award in Indian cinema. We hope that the selection committee ditches its habit of waiting till the eleventh hour before conferring it upon deserving artistes.