Published: 2017-06-10 15:54:04 BdST
"I believe I am probably the first Indian actor to be honoured with the award. To be honoured in the same league as my mentor (Ray) is unbelievable because one does not work keeping awards and prizes in mind. One works for the love of the job," Chatterjee told IANS.
Ray was awarded the Legion of Honour by then French President Francois Mitterrand in 1987.
The octogenarian, who worked with Ray in 14 of his films, says he is drawn to the "sensitive treatment of human characters" in cinema.
Chatterjee expressed gratitude to Indian cine-goers for their constant love and affection.
"There must be something in my work that won over hearts abroad. As a Bengali, I feel proud and as one who has been inspired by French art and cinema, I feel it's a special honour," he said.
He counted French novelists and playwrights Honore de Balzac and Emile Zola as his inspiration while he picked iconic French filmmaker Francois Roland Truffaut as a favourite.
He dedicated the award to his audiences and fans.
He said the Ambassador of France to India Alexandre Ziegler will be in the city to present the honour.
Congratulating the thespian, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee called him the "hallmark of Indian and Bengali cinema".
"From Apu Sansar to Legion d Honour. The legendary Shri Soumitra Chattopadhay, hallmark of Indian and Bengali cinema. A tribute and honour to the great actor of Bengali cinema by France. This makes us very proud. Congratulations," Banerjee tweeted.
"When we, in public life, speak about icons of our nation and the world, we must always show utmost respect and sensitivity with language," she added.