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Veteran playback singer Sandhya Mukherjee turns down Padma Shri award

The 90-year-old singer felt insulted at being given an award more fitting for a younger artiste.

Photo: Courtesy of Sandhya Mukherjee on Facebook

Roushni Sarkar

Veteran singer Sandhya Mukherjee has refused to accept the Padma Shri, the country's fourth highest civilian award, announced on Tuesday by the government of India.

According to a report in the Bengali daily Anandabazar Patrika, Mukherjee, 90, who ruled the Bengali film industry from the late 1940s to the 1970 with her mellifluous voice, declined the Padma Shri as she felt insulted at being chosen for an award more fitting for younger artistes.

Revered as 'Gitasree' in Bengal, Mukherjee told the newspaper, “Is this the way to honour, with a Padma Shri? Don’t they know who I am? I will have to accept the Padma Shri at the age of 90? I cannot go and receive the award for a phone call. Artistes are not treated with respect any more.”

The singer, who received the National award for her songs in Nishipadma (1970) and Jay Jayanti (1971), said she doesn’t need the Padma Shri, the biggest award being the love conferred on her by audiences over the decades.

Known for her collaborations with music directors Hemanta Mukherjee, Robin Chattopadhyay and Nachiketa Ghosh, Sandhya Mukherjee began her career as a playback singer in Bombay with Hindi film songs in 1948. She lent her voice for 17 Hindi films before shifting to Calcutta in 1952.

In 2011, Mukherjee received the Banga Bibhushan award conferred by the government of West Bengal.

Mukherjee is not the only one from West Bengal to decline the Padma award this year. Former chief minister and former member of the politburo of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, too, refused to accept the Padma Bhushan while veteran tabla player Anindo Chatterjee, a winner of the Sangeet Natak Akademi award, declined the Padma Shri.