Kolkata: 90 year-old Sandhya Mukherjee who has a singing career spanning almost 8 decades has apparently turned down the offer of the country's highest civilian award, the Padma Shri, on account of it not being necessary for a singer of her status. The award was more fitting for a "junior artist", the Bengali singer, also known as Sandhya Mukhopadhyay, told the media.
Ms Mukherjee's daughter Soumi Sengupta said that her mother told the senior official who called from Delhi that she was not willing to be named as a Padma Shri recipient and felt "insulted" at her being offered the award at her age. She was contacted seeking her consent to be named a Padma Shri in the Republic Day awards list.
While Mukherjee is the second person from West Bengal to turn down the award, unlike Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee before her who is a staunch opponent of the BJP and had declined the Padma Shri this year for that reason, Mukherjee's decision is not political, Ms.Sengupta said.
"At the age of 90, with a singing career spanning over about eight decades, being chosen for Padma Shri is demeaning for a singer of her stature," Ms Sengupta was quoted as saying by NDTV. "Padma Shri is more deserving for a junior artiste, not 'Gitasree' Sandhya Mukhopadhyay. Her family and all the lovers of her songs feel,"
Former West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had said that if he had known he was going to be nominated he would have refused the nomination then itself. However the Central Ministry had issued a clarification stating that the government had contacted his wife who had accepted the award in his behalf.
Rejections of the Padma Shri are rare and nominees usually have to confirm their acceptance before the award is granted.
The singer considered for long a prima donna of music in Bengal has also sung for a number of Hindi movie music directors including S D Burman, Anil Biswas, Madan Mohan, Roshan and Salil Choudhary.
Ms Mukherjee received the "Banga Bibhushan", West Bengal's highest civilian award, in 2011 - the year it was instituted by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, and a National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer in 1970.