Legends Who Died Without Holding the Dadasaheb Phalke Award

Remembering legends of cinema who passed away before they could be honoured with the Dadasaheb Phalke award.

4 min read
Hindi Female

India’s highest award in cinema, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award has honoured many pioneer and popular figures of Indian cinema since its inception. Sadly, it has missed out many luminaries of Hindi cinema over the years. Even if we take into account sudden demises and maestros (Bimal Roy, Guru Dutt) who died before the award was instituted, we are still left with many names worthy of the coveted award. Out of a long running list of the departed, here are a few contenders who made an outstanding contribution to the cinema of our country.


1. Sahir Ludhainvi

While his reputation as a poet always preceded his work as a lyricist, Sahir Ludhianvi is arguably one of the greatest lyricists Hindi cinema has ever known. Despite the fact that he had fertile associations with many music directors like Roshan, Madan Mohan, Khaiyyam, and Ravi, his most radiant work came to life with his collaboration with S. D. Burman. Some of his famous works include films like Pyaasa (1957), Hum Dono (1962), Kabhi Kabhie (1976) and Waqt (1965) among others.

2. Sachin Dev Burman

One of Hindi cinema’s most versatile composers, S. D. Burman made music accessible to the masses for its hummability, owing his influence of folk music. Apart from creating great melodies and launching newer voices over hundreds of films, senior Burman’s music is remembered for his extensive understanding of compositions as a narrative device.

3. Rahul Dev Burman

The worthy son of his maestro father, R. D. Burman introduced a fresh approach to music with new sounds and arrangements never been conceived before in Hindi cinema. Not only compositions, he gave equal importance to sound. With an illustrious career filled with hundreds of films, and association with stalwarts of his time, R. D. Burman continues to be the musician who has influenced the new generation most. Once considered counterculture, his music continues to boom through remixed or original versions.

4. Mohammad Rafi

Remembering legends of cinema who passed away before they could be honoured with the Dadasaheb Phalke award.
Boxing champ Muhammad Ali with singer Mohammed Rafi (Photo: Twitter/ ‏@doctor_mittal)

The numero uno of male playback singers in Hindi cinema, Mohammed Rafi was nothing short of an all-rounder. He could sing in any genre of music, be it classical, ghazal, bhajan, qawwali, dance number or romantic melody, you name it, he would deliver. Though his major work is in Hindi language, he also whipped up a great number of songs in various Indian and foreign languages amounting to thousands of songs that still play from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.

5. Kishore Kumar

The close competitor to Rafi for the crown of the most prolific male playback singer in the country, Kishore Kumar was a man of many hats. Apart from belting out thousands of hits, he was also a gifted actor, writer, and director, responsible for many popular films in Hindi and Bengali. But his popularity as a singer like his friend R. D. Burman continues to grow by leaps and bounds among new generations of fans.

6. Utpal Dutt

Remembering legends of cinema who passed away before they could be honoured with the Dadasaheb Phalke award.
Utpal Dutt in a scene from the classic comedy Golmaal (1979)

To consider Utpal Dutt as only a comic actor is to overlook the wide contribution of a radical man. Already a major figure in Bengali theatre and cinema, Utpal Dutt had to move to Hindi cinema due to financial strain which led to the celebrated family hits with Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee. Some of his terrific dramatic output showed up when he worked with internationally acclaimed filmmakers like Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Gautam Ghose and James Ivory. Also a proficient writer and director, his range was vast and intellectual.

7. Vijay Anand

Vijay Anand, popularly known as Goldie, scripted, edited and directed classics such as Guide (1965), Jewel Thief (1965) and Johnny Mera Naam (1970). He was also an accomplished actor. His adaptation of RK Narayan’s Guide remains a landmark in Hindi cinema and continues to stir filmmakers with its bold take on religion, feminism, and morals of Indian society. Truly an original voice, Anand knew how to dazzle the audience without making compromises.

8. Rajesh Khanna

Remembering legends of cinema who passed away before they could be honoured with the Dadasaheb Phalke award.
Rajesh Khanna in a scene from Anand (1971)

For a generation of Indians, Rajesh Khanna meant romance. Before the 100 Crore stars took over, he created mass hysteria with 15 consecutive hits, a record still unparalleled. Unanimously regarded as Hindi cinema’s first superstar, he gave us memorable films like Aradhana (1969), Anand (1971), Amar Prem (1972), Bawarchi (1972) and Namak Haraam (1973) among others.

(The writer is a journalist and screenwriter who believes in the insanity of words, in print or otherwise.)

(This story is from The Quint’s archives and was first published on 24 May 2015. It is being republished to mark Dadasaheb Phalke’s birth anniversary)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)


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Topics:  Bollywood   Films   Dadasaheb Phalke Award 

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