Indian helmer gets delayed honor

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NEW DELHI -- After a year's delay, veteran film director Shyam Benegal has been accorded the Indian government's 2005 Dadasaheb Phalke Award for outstanding contribution to Indian cinema, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry said late Wednesday.

In his four-decade career, Benegal, 72, pioneered India's alternative film movement and is noted for his 1970s breakthrough films "Ankur" (The Seedling), "Manthan" (The Churning) and "Bhumika" (The Role), which introduced acclaimed actresses Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil and actor Naseeruddin Shah, among others.

The one-year delay to the announcement was caused by court cases that had alleged corruption against the National Film Awards, of which the Phalke Award is a part (HR 8/9).

The Phalke Award carries a cash prize of 200,000 rupees ($5,000) and will be presented to Benegal by Indian President Pratibha Patil at a National Film Awards ceremony later this year in New Delhi.

Benegal also has made acclaimed documentaries and television specials, including 1988's "Discovery of India." His latest feature was the 2005 biography "Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose: The Forgotten Hero."

Among his upcoming projects is a film on the Buddha to be funded by the Sri Lankan government.

Previously, the Indian government conferred Benegal with two state civilian honors -- the Padma Shri in 1976 and the Padma Bhushan in 1991. Benegal also is an honorary member of India's upper house of Parliament.
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