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Last Updated: Saturday, 27 January 2007, 19:55 GMT
French honour for Bollywood star
By Geeta Pandey
BBC News, Delhi

French Ambassador Dominique Gerard with Amitabh Bachchan
Bachchan called it an award for the entire Hindi film industry
Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan has been awarded France's highest civilian honour, the Legion d'Honneur.

The award was presented to the actor at a function at the French embassy in the Indian capital, Delhi.

Ambassador Dominique Girard said it was in recognition of the "quality and height of his achievement".

Bachchan topped a 1999 BBC News website poll to find the greatest star of the millennium, beating the likes of Marlon Brando and Charlie Chaplin.

The actor's career spans almost 40 years. He has acted in more than 140 movies.

'Towering personality'

"It fills me with great pride," Bachchan said accepting the award. "It's not just an award for me, it's the recognition of the achievement of the Indian cinema. It's an award for the entire film industry," he said.

Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai
Actress Aishwaray Rai is now engaged to Bachchan's son

"India has arrived on the global cinema stage, the carping critics have been silenced, and the cynicism about the Hindi film industry has given way to world-wide appreciation," Bachchan said.

Describing him as a "towering Indian personality" and the "number-one actor of Indian cinema", Ambassador Girard said the award "brings him [Bachchan] into the international legion of world's greatest artistes".

Bachchan arrived at the function in Delhi with his wife and children in tow.

The son of a famous Hindi poet, Bachchan moved to Mumbai (Bombay) to make a career in films after quitting his job as a freight broker in Calcutta.

The actor debuted in 1969 with Saat Hindustani [Seven Indians] - in which he played one of the seven leads.

He made his name in the 1970s and 1980s as a film action hero and gave several hits like Zanjeer [Shackles], Sholay [Burning Embers], Deewar [Wall] and Don.

Critically acclaimed

He also showed his talent for comedy in films like Chupke Chupke and Amar Akbar Anthony.

In recent years, he has done several critically-acclaimed films, including Black [in which he plays an old man stricken with Alzheimer's] and Sarkar [where he plays a role inspired by Marlon Brando's Godfather].

Bachchan also played the very popular host of Kaun Banega Carorepati - Indian version of the UK game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

He has also lent his voice to the Oscar winning French documentary, March of the Penguins, for the Indian market.

In 2000, Bachchan became the first Bollywood star to have a wax statue at Madame Tussaud's museum in London.

The Legion d'Honneur was instituted in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte.

Among those who have received the award in the past are Hollywood director Steven Spielberg and French actor, Gerard Depardieu.

Well-known Indian film director Satyajit Ray and sitar maestro Ravi Shankar are two Indians who have also been awarded the honour.

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