President Droupadi Murmu on Friday conferred cinema veteran Asha Parekh with the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award and honoured other winners of the 68th National Film Awards, including actors Ajay Devgn, Suriya and folk singer Nanchamma.
The National Film awards were announced in July honouring the best in cinema in 2020.
At the ceremony held at Vigyan Bhawan here, Murmu said, "Cinema is not only an industry, it is also a medium of artistic expression of our culture and values of life. It is also a medium for connecting our society and nation-building."
The event was attended by the winners including Parekh, Devgn, who along with Suriya, was given the best actor honour for "Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior. Suriya was awarded for his performance in "Soorarai Pottru", the biggest winner of the National Film Awards this year.
Parekh said she is grateful to receive the prestigious award a day before her 80th birthday.
"It is a huge honour to have received the Dada Saheb Phalke award. It makes me very grateful that the recognition comes to me just one day before my 80th birthday.
"This is the best honour I could get from the Government of India. I would like to thank the jury for the recognition that they have bestowed upon me, my long journey and fulfilling the journey in the film industry," said the cinema legend.
Parekh's stardom was on a par with her male contemporaries Rajesh Khanna, Rajendra Kumar, Dharmendra and Manoj Kumar in the 1960s-1970s. In a career spanning over five decades, she starred in over 95 films that include titles such as "Dil Deke Dekho", "Kati Patang", "Teesri Manzil", "Baharon Ke Sapne", "Pyar Ka Mausam", and "Caravan".
Devgn said he shared his win with all his fans.
"Not counting the wins or the blessings, just feeling grateful for all of it. Most importantly, your love. I share this win with all of you. Honoured to receive my awards from the President of India, Smt. Droupadi Murmu," the actor, who also won the award as producer of "Tanhaji...", he said in an Instagram post.
This was Devgn third best actor National Award after "Zakhm" (1998) and "The Legend of Bhagat Singh" (2002).
After receiving the award, Suriya called the win "special".
"This honour means a lot... It's a very special and I'm happy that I got it for "Soorarai Pottru"," the actor told PTI.
Suriya and his wife, actor Jyothika, have produced the Sudha Kongara-directed film.
"Soorarai Pottru" also won best feature, best actress for Aparna Balamurali, best screenplay for Shalini Usha Nair and Kongara as well as best music direction (background score) for GV Prakash Kumar. The film is inspired by the life of Air Deccan founder Capt G R Gopinath.
Aparna said she derives inspiration from her win.
"I feel great. Words won't be enough to express my feelings and what I'm going through today. Thanks to my director for having trust in me and she is the one who pushed me. I definitely want to take this forward in my career as an inspiration and encouragement. This really has given me a push to better my career and do better characters," the actor told PTI.
"Tanhaji..." bagged the two other awards-- best popular film providing wholesome entertainment and best costume design for Nachiket Barve and Mahesh Sherla.
"Winning a National Award is always an item to be ticked off from my wishlist. It's the most prestigious thing that an artist can ask for. I have got it for my first Hindi film which feels really great," director Om Raut told PTI.
Set in the 17th century, "Tanhaji..." is based on the life of Tanaji Malusare, the military leader of Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj's army.
"This is a moment of extreme pride for anyone who was born in Mumbai and I'm a Maharashtrian. We call the film 'Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior' but the kind of success we got, I can happily say Tanhaji is no longer unsung," he added.
The late Malayalam filmmaker Sachidanandan KR was posthumously awarded best director for "Ayyappanum Koshiyum". His wife received the award.
The film also took home best supporting actor for Biju Menon, best action direction (stunt choreography) and best playback female singer for Nanchamma, a tribal folk singer, who received a standing ovation as she came on the stage to receive her award from the president.
Union minister Anurag Thakur said cinema proved to be the universal language that unites the country.
"Amid the grim reality of COVID and fragile macro-economic conditions, the entertainment and messaging provided by the films was the only beacon of hope for all of us," he said.
The award for best playback singer male was given to Rahul Deshpande for Marathi film "Mi Vasantrao".
Tamil artiste Lakshmi Priya Chandramouli was named the best supporting actress for her performance in Tamil movie "Sivaranjaniyum Innum Sila Pengallum", which received the best editing award for Sreekar Prasad as well.
The best Hindi film prize went to "Toolsidas Junior", directed by Mridul Toolsidas. The Ashutosh Gowariker production, which was the last film appearance of late actor Rajiv Kapoor, also received a special jury mention for child actor Varun Buddhadev.
In the music category, Thaman S received the best music direction (songs) for Allu Arjun's Telugu hit "Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo", while Manoj Muntashir was awarded best lyrics for Hindi film "Saina".
Telugu movie "Natyam" won awards for best make-up artist (TV Rambabu) and best choreography (Sandhya Raju).
Filmmaker Madonne Ashwin won the Indira Gandhi award for best debut film of a director for his Tamil venture "Mandela". He won another award -- the Best Dialogue writer.
The best Telugu film award was bagged by "Colour Photo", while "Sivaranjaniyum Innum Sila Pengallum" won the best Tamil film. "Thinkalazcha Nishchayam" was declared the best Malayalam film and "Dollu" took home the best Kannada Film award.
Marathi movie "Sumi" won the best Children's film award and its actors Akanksha Pingle and Divyesh Indulkar shared the best child artist honour with Anish Mangesh Gosavi of "Tak-Tak".
Director-composer Vishal Bhardwaj won the best music direction award for the track "Marenge Toh Wahin Jaakar" from filmmaker Vinod Kapri's "1232 kms", a documentary about the migrant workers' exodus during the lockdown.
The prize for the most film-friendly state went to Madhya Pradesh, with special mention for Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.