Nandita Das Becomes French Knight

New Delhi: Actor-director Nandita Das was conferred the Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters, France`s highest cultural award for her contribution to the development of Indo-French cooperation in the field of cinema.

Critically acclaimed for performances in films like Fire and Earth and her debut directorial venture Firaaq, the 41-year-old actor was given the insignia of a knight by French Ambassador to India Jerome Bonnafont in a ceremony.

The award is given to writers, filmmakers, musicians and other artists and persons who have distinguished themselves in the field of art, culture and literature or for their contribution to the influence of arts in France and throughout the world.

"There is always an element of surprise when I receive any award. I felt surprised when I was chosen to be the jury member at Cannes…but the award goes to reaffirm my faith in cinema," said Das after receiving her green and gold medallion.

Das had in 2005 served as a jury member at the Cannes Film Festival.

The dusky beauty was accompanied by her parents noted painter- father Jatin Das and writer-mother Varsha, her husband as well as and an eight-month-old daughter whom the actor introduced to guests at the function, including photographer Raghu Rai who was also previously knighted.

Addressing Das as Mademoiselle "because in France all actresses are mademoiselles for ever," Ambasaddor Bonnafont said, "The films you have done both as an actor as well as a director reminds us of the leading ladies in French cinema and it is quite close to the French tradition of artistic activist cinema…which relate to deepest intimacy of personal tragedies or to bigger national issues."

The ambassador also dedicated to the actor the co-production deal signed between France and India in the field of cinema.

Fashion designer Ritu Beri, late theatre personality Habib Tanveer, musician Hari Prasad Chaurasia and author Upamanyu Chatterjee are among previous Indian recipients of the award instituted by France in May 1957.

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