Indian government honours come in 4 main tiers, the Bharat Ratna (Jewel of India), Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri.
The coveted Bharat Ratna has been won by Tamils in the past, like former President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the late Tamil film actor MGR, and the late stalwart Carnatic classical singer, M. S. Subbulakshmi.
In 2010, the accolade for Padma Vibhushan went to the amazing Carnatic mridangist, Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman, a respected performer and teacher, who frequents London on lecturing assignments. Having learnt from gurus like Sri Palghat Mani Iyer, he was a child prodigy, who has accompanied the best, of South Indian musicians and worked alongside his North Indian peers, like Ustad Allah Rakha, the father of the famous Peter Pan of music, Zakir Hussain (and Hussain himself).
The Nobel laureate 2009, UK based, Dr. Venkatraman Ramakrishnan was another Tamilian to be awarded the Padma Vibhushan. His work has been in the fields of Biochemistry and Biophysics.
The next in line of awards, the Padma Bhushan went to two very deserving Tamils, Maestro Ilayaraja and Double Academy Award winner, AR Rahman. Ilayaraja, who has been decorated with many an award and was most recently praised by Bollywood for his music in Paa, said: “This is not recognition. It is an appreciation to encourage artistes to do more and more and give more to society.”
AR Rahman shared his thoughts humbly: “I’m overwhelmed that I have received the honour at the same time that Raja sir has got it. It is a great personal statement for me. He has played for my father Sekhar and I have played under Raja sir. It is a family thing for me.” Noted Bollywood actor, whose work in AR Murugadoss’s Ghajini and the recent box office record breaker, 3 Idiots, Aamir Khan also won this honour.
Padma Shri – an award that AR Rahman won back in 2000 was conferred to Academy award winner Resul Pookutty, the daughter of the “Kadhal Mannan” (king of love) of Tamil cinema, Rekha, who made waves in Bollywood in the 70s and 80s. Bollywood actor, Saif Ali Khan, who was most recently seen in the thriller, Kurbaan also won the Padma Shri – he has royal lineage and is heir to both the royal houses of Bhopal and Pataudi. His mother, Sharmila Tagore continues to act in Bollywood and his Father, Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi is a former captain of the Indian cricket team.
Young Kumar Ram Narain Karthikeyan (pictured above), the motor racing driver from India is another awardee of the Padma Shri title. Born in 1977 in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, he has taken part in Formula One and is now and A1GP and Le Mans Series driver.
The Thamarai team wish all those honoured much more success and look forward to more of their brilliant work.