Chennai, April 1: Superstar Rajinikanth on Thursday dedicated the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke Award announced by the Centre to be conferred on him to those who made him what he is now, including a bus driver friend and his mentor who launched him in cinema, the late K Balachander.

Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar had announced on Thursday that Rajinikanth will be bestowed with the Dada Saheb Phalke award for the year 2019, making him the third from Tamil cinema after the late thespian Sivaji Ganesan and late director Balachander, his mentor, to
have been chosen for the award.

Congratulatory messages poured in from various quarters to the veteran.

Those who greeted him were his long time friend and contemporary Kamal Haasan, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami, his deputy O Panneerselvam, DMK President M K Stalin and various other political leaders.

The 70-year old actor thanked the Centre for conferring the prestigious award and said he dedicated it to his friend Raj Bahadur, elder brother Sathyanarayana Rao and all those who made him the Rajini that is now.

"I dedicate this award to my friend and bus driver Raj Bahadur, who discovered my acting talent and encouraged me, my elder brother Sathyanarayana Rao Gaekwad, who sacrificed a lot to make me an actor while struggling with poverty, my guru K Balachander, who created this Rajinikanth," he said.

In a statement he also dedicated the award to producers, directors, technicians, distributors, theatre owners, media, the Tamil people, "who have given me my life, and my fans across the world."

Rajinikanth said he thanked the Indian government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for conferring him the "Indian cinema's highest honour."

"My heartfelt thanks to the government of india, respected & dearest @narendramodi ji, @PrakashJavdekar ji and the jury for conferring upon me the prestigious #DadasahebPhalkeAward. I sincerely dedicate it to all those who have been a part of my journey. Thanks to the almighty," he tweeted.

The star thanked Palaniswamy, Panneerselvam, Leader of Opposition Stalin, "my friend Kamal Haasan," national and state politicians, his friends, his friends in the film industry and my well-wishers.

"Long live Tamil people! Long live Tamil Nadu! Jai Hind!!," he said.

Congratulating the actor over phone, Palaniswami said the Dada Saheb Phalke Award recognises his hard work in the film industry.

"I pray to God that you will receive many more awards and live long," the chief minister said.

His long-time friend and Makkal Needhi Maiam founder Kamal Haasan said the award, highest to be bestowed on a performing artiste, is 100 per cent appropriate for Rajinikanth while Stalin said that though 'delayed' the recognition was welcome.

"It is a great pleasure that the highest award, the Dada Saheb Phalke Award, has been announced to Rajinikanth, the supreme star and my dearest friend. The award is 100 per cent appropriate for Rajini, who has proven that he can win  over fans by appearing on screen," Haasan tweeted.

Stalin described Rajinikanth as a "dear friend" and an "unparalleled performer" and expressed joy over him being selected for the award.

"Delayed but welcome," he said in a tweet.

He wished that Rajinikanth, "a symbol of acting and friendship," continues with his journey in filmdom PMK leader and former union minister Dr Anbumani Ramadoss congratulated the superstar.

"Actor Rajinikanth has been honoured with the Dada Saheb Phalke Award, the highest award of the film industry in India. Award winning close friend @rajinikanth Congratulations," he tweeted.

AMMK leader TTV Dhinakaran, BJP state president L Murugan, national award winning lyricist Vairamuthu, popular comedian Vivekh and a number of film personalities greeted the actor on being selected for the award. - PTI