Home / Culture / The Telegraph She Awards 2020 saw women achievers being feted on stage

The Telegraph She Awards 2020 saw women achievers being feted on stage

The audience lapped up their inspiration during the event
Winners of The Telegraph She Awards 2020 — (l-r) Sohini Sengupta, Nandita Raja, Konkona Sensharma, Bani Basu, Madhusree Dasgupta, Thankamani Kutty, Aparna Sen, Alokananda Roy, and Bula Choudhury

The Telegraph   |     |   Published 22.02.20, 02:26 PM

WHAT: IIHM presents The Telegraph She Awards Leadership 2020 powered by JD Birla Institute in association with Senco Gold and Diamonds, David & Goliath and Kutchina. The celebration partner for the evening was Jacobs Creek while co-sponsors were Ganesh Grains, healthcare partner Eastern Diagnostics, Radio partner 91.9 Friends FM, TV partner ABP Ananda, partner StarOm Realty and event partner Cherry Tree.

When: February 19

Where: JW Marriott Kolkata

The Ceremony: The Telelgraph She Awards celebrated its fourth edition of honouring women achievers from different walks of life, with a Bengal connect. The illustrious list of awardees this year had 10 women whose journeys would be inspirations for generations to come.


The evening was hosted by Gitikka Ganju Dhar. It started with a power-packed performance by Aditi Ramesh accompanied by Sambit Chatterjee and Bijit Bhattacharya. This was followed by the music launch of the short film Every 68 Minutes, based on domestic violence, directed by Anindita Sarbadhicari and produced by Lal Bhatia, Imran Zaki and Adil Hussain. The soulful song has been sung by Ujjaini Mukherjee while the music is by Bickram Ghosh.

The winners took home a beautiful trophy designed by Narayan Sinha and gifts from gifting partner Mrignayani Sarees. The evening ended with a scrumptious dinner courtesy hospitality partner JW Marriott Kolkata. 


Extremely honoured and humbled to have received the She Award last year and this time again, I got the honour of being on the jury of She Awards. It is a fantastic experience like always. Encountering different personalities from different walks of life and all of the nominees is so extremely inspiring. Their body of work is so amazing, with them being extremely brilliant in their respective fields. So it was definitely a very difficult choice but it was a very exciting experience being a part of the jury
— Koel Mallick, actor and She Award 2019 awardee

It is such a pleasure to be part of the jury of The Telegraph She Awards. I have myself been an awardee and have always felt that all women are deserving of She Awards. It’s been a very difficult process for us to be choosing winners for each categories because we felt that everyone deserved it. I wish all the awardees all the best for their future
— Madhu Neotia, entrepreneur and She Awards 2018 awardee

I feel this is a great initiative by The Telegraph because it gives a platform to choose women who have done a lot in the society. And it also inspires other women from all walks of life to achieve something
Sanjukta Bose, director, IIHM

Participation in the selection process was an amazing and enriching experience. I felt honoured to have been chosen as the only male participant in an otherwise all-female panel. Though I was an outsider in a double sense, my co-jurors made my task very easy — thanks to them again! To move on from paper resumes of candidates to the film clips of the awardees at the ceremony till we finally got to meet them in person was very exciting. What I take home from the experience is that in future I will avoid as best as I can to participate in the still all-too-common all-male panels
— Michael Feiner, German consul general

Hall of Fame: Aparna Sen

Her story: A hugely successful actress in Bengali cinema for decades, a socially conscious filmmaker, making award-winning films such as 36 Chowringhee Lane, Paroma, Yuganta, Paromitar Ekdin, Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, The Japanese Wife and 15 Park Avenue, her films on women’s identity and environmental degradation look squarely at socio-political realities.

She said: First of all, I’d love to thank all of you and as my daughter (Konkana Sensharma) put it a little while ago, this evening has really and truly been inspiring because it has been such a privilege and such an honour to share this stage with people like Madhusree Dasgupta, Thankamani Kutty, Alokananda, Nandita Raja, Bula — all these people and everyone else and who acted in my films, like my daughter — if I have missed out anyone, it’s not intentional. The fact that you get an award for something that you have worked hard for is very empowering. Awards per se don’t mean very much but the fact that somebody has recognised your work, that somebody has given it worth, that I think is extremely important. I don’t have any message as such to give. All of my messages, if at all they are, are in my films. Actually, you know, I don’t have any message for anyone — I think the women of Shaheen Bagh, the women of Park Circus are giving messages! It’s so wonderful that women have come to their own and if there was any message that I had to give, which I don’t have any more, is don’t be afraid. Thank you The Telegraph, IIHM and the lovely audience here. 

Education: Madhusree Dasgupta 

Her story: Her journey started when she founded a creche named Dolna in 1972, which then went on to become an inclusive school with day boarding with ICSE and ISC examination facilities. Her extensive work with children, including children with special needs as well as with distressed women in Mother Teresa’s Home in Saidapet earned her a membership at the London Pre-School Playgroups Association.

She said: Thank you The Telegraph She Awards and the jury. It was a wonderful surprise and I don’t know how to thank everyone properly. What really is important is the work and that is what I believe in. Work more and talk less is what I am going to do!

Nobody knew the word ‘creche’ when we started some 50-odd years ago and it was and still is the only public creche which also happens to be the largest. The school, too, has grown and it has immense influence of Tagore in whatever we do. We have worked with a lot of women of different kinds who have all stood to gain from their experience. We call it empowerment but I think empowerment comes to those who need it. We have struggled a lot to be here today and I thank you all for coming today. The people I see in front of me have all brought so much wealth of happiness and creativity into the world and I thank them in my small way. 

Dance: Thankamani Kutty 

Her story: The living force behind the institute of Kalamandalam in Calcutta, which was founded half a century ago, Thankamani Kutty’s work in Bharatanatyam needs no introduction. Her illustrious list of awards include All India Critics’ Award for Bharatanatyam and Mohiniyattam in 1998, Sangeet Natak Award from the government of West Bengal and government of Kerala, Bangabibhushan award from information & cultural department, government of West Bengal.

She said: I don’t have words to express my happiness now. Thank you very much for The Telegraph She Awards and everyone who selected me for this. I am very fortunate. May god’s blessings always be with each of the selectors of the awards. Thank you very much. 

Music: Lopamudra Mitra 

Her story: Lopamudra Mitra popularised the trend of marrying music to poetry like in Benimadhab, a song based on Joy Goswami’s poem Malatibala Balika Bidyalay. She made her way into folk music with Chhata Dhoro and the album Monfokira. She won many awards like Best Female Playback award for Sedin Chaitramash and Best Female Playback award for the movie Hemlock Society in the year 2013, from Bengal Film Journalists’ Association. Her albums Bhalobaste Balo and Ei Obelaay were accorded the best Puja album, best singer and album of the year by Anandabazar Patrika in 2001 and 2003.

She said: I don’t know how much of my need to sing drove me but I am a woman and I wanted to live with my head held high in this society, travelling, laughing and living the way I want and that’s why I sing. As much as I have been able to give back to music, music and life have returned much more to me and that’s why I am really happy. 

Creative Arts: Nandita Raja

Her story: An entrepreneur and textile designer, the co-founder and managing director of the celebrated brand Kanishka’s, a pioneer in contemporary hand-block printing and handloom weaving textiles for five decades in India, Nandita Raja has been awarded several times over the years for the groundbreaking work she has done in the field of Indian textiles.

She said: I am overwhelmed to be on this platform. Fifty years back when I started, I didn’t think I’d be here. I could have never imagined that my brand would get appreciated from every part of the world. And that is my greatest achievement. Kanishka’s is here not only for my hard work but the whole team whose love and dedication is also my achievement. And, of course, my customers whose encouraging words and criticism as well which helped me forge my path. Thank you everyone.

Social Work: Alokananda Roy

Her story: She is a dance educationist who works with the convicts of correctional homes, specially juvenile offenders and rescued young boys. Alokananda also works with transgenders and acid attack survivors, whom she heals with dance therapy, or ‘love therapy’ as she likes to call it. The prisoners have travelled with her on public transports, performing at different corners of the world.

She said: When my students perform on stage, the applause, acceptance and appreciation they receive as artistes and not just prisoners is what changed them. They knew then that they were being punished for something they have done wrong but they were also being applauded for something good that they were doing. Nobody wants to be bad and they never wanted to be bad again. They got their trust, dignity and self-respect back and that’s what actually transformed them. When you lose something you actually realise the value of it. They are my beautiful children and I trust them more than some people outside. Today, if they were not transformed, I wouldn’t be standing here receiving this award. Thank you The Telegraph for acknowledging my children and this movement. 

Theatre: Sohini Sengupta 

Her story: Associated with the Calcutta-based theatre group Nandikar since 1996, Sohini Sengupta has been acting since the age of three and is a stage actor, film actor and now a theatre director. She has acted in several plays like Sujan Badiyar Ghat, Gotraheen, Nagar Bappajiditya and Nachni and has directed plays like Manush and Panchajanya.

She said: Thank you The Telegraph She Awards. I am quite emotional today, having walked in slightly late and found my guruji (Thankamani Kutty) sitting on my right and Rinamashi (Aparna Sen) on my left. Sudipta is here whom I have grown up with. All the people I absolutely love and adore — I am here today for all of you. For Rinamashi for giving me Paromitar Ekdin, for aunty for scolding me when I was a bad dancer and a little girl, for all of you who have given me so much love and have held on to me. I would not be able to say which is my favourite character (from her plays). They are all my children. But there is one thing that drives me on, my Ikigai that is Nandikar. Nandikar roughly means ‘someone who does good work’. When I was an introverted girl, always on the big side, with no clue what to do in life, one fine day I went on stage and the lights dimmed and I felt empowered. I thought this stage had chosen me and that I can fight, hide, explore and grow. And whoever is afraid and doesn’t know what to do, I am going to take them on stage and ask them to try theatre. There is nothing more magical and true for me.

Literature: Bani Basu

Her story: Novelist, short story writer, essayist and translator for over four decades, with many of her works even getting adapted for films, Bani Basu has won many awards, including the Ananda Purashkar in 1997 for Maitreya Jataka and the Sahitya Akademi Purashkar for Khona Mihirer Dhipi in 2010.

She said: Everyone here has offered thanks to the authorities and I won’t add to it and embarrass them further. It is understood already. In all my characters, I try to put in something of my dreams — dreams about my work, the world as it should be and the achievements of humankind. I have been a loner most of my life and most of the people who’ve come here have walked with the society. So I feel rather humbled in their presence. I don’t know if I have been able to do that in my life but I have enjoyed my vocation, I am enjoying this evening and the company of all these people. 

Sports: Bula Choudhury

Her story: Apart from national and international sporting honours, champion swimmer Bula Choudhury — the first woman to have swum across the sea channels of five continents — has won the Padma Shri, Arjuna Award, Tenzing Norgay Lifetime Adventure Sports Award and First Ladies Award.

She said: You’ll be surprised to know that I would sing songs while swimming. I don’t know how to sing and you all can understand how my voice is anyway (laughs). Once when someone made me sing at an event, I sang in Chittagonian (I am from Chittagong) so that people don’t understand my tune or language! So while swimming long distance, I would end up singing all the songs, despite not knowing the lyrics but a lot of good songs, including patriotic songs. But the intoxication of touching the soil of a foreign land inspired me more than anything to finish swimming the distances.

Films: Konkona Sensharma 

Her story: She has successfully bridged the gap between independent and commercial cinema, having acted in acclaimed films such as Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, Omkara, Wake Up Sid, 15 Park Avenue and Lipstick Under My Burkha; and made her directorial debut with the critically acclaimed A Death in the Gunj.

She said: Thank you The Telegraph and it’s been such an inspiring evening for me. I am so glad that I was able to participate in this award ceremony with all these other fantastic women. If we have done anything, it’s because of all the women who have paved the way before us, my mother chief among them, setting such fantastic example for me. And meeting so many wonderful women, so many of whom I admire so much. The world can sometimes be such a cruel and unjust place but all these awardees tonight have contributed in making the world a better place and I thank you — I am so happy to share this evening with all of you.

Sponsors speak

She said: The Telegraph She Awards is a very powerful platform which not only acknowledges the achievements of women but also brings her to the forefront. This not only inspires but also encourages other women to overcome their obstacles and work towards their dream. We at Senco Gold and Diamonds are extremely happy and proud to be associated with such an inspiring and encouraging event
— Joita Sen, head of concept and design, Senco Gold and Diamonds

He said: This award is great encouragement for women who are doing some exemplary work in their respective fields. Such recognition is an inspiration to the new generation who, too, want to execute distinguished work, by creating role models for the society
— Manish Iyer, region head, West Bengal and Sikkim, Pernod Ricard India Pvt Ltd

He said: There is no real empowerment without women’s empowerment is my and my institution’s philosophy. And recognition, whether in a personal space or on a public platform, is a vital cog in the wheel of women’s empowerment. For this, I support and salute The Telegraph She Awards
— Miraj D. Shah, vice chairman, The Bhawanipur Education Society College (with wife Shibani Shah)

He said: We are fiercely proud of our association as the presenting partner of The Telegraph She Awards for the last three editions. We are absolutely committed to the United Nations SDG goal number five for gender equality and at IIHM we believe that gender equality is the one area how the world can change for the better. We had a great experience working with The Telegraph team and we loved every moment of it
— Suborno Bose, chief mentor and CEO, IIHM

He said: The Telegraph She Awards is the greatest encouragement for women’s stature. It uplifts the portentous value they contribute to the society. At Kutchina we believe in amplifying the voice of our lady heroes who believe in changing the world

— Namit Bajoria, MD, Kutchina

He said: It was an honour to be part of the brilliantly organised, well-curated, best-in-class The Telegraph She Awards. Endeavours honouring women who are game-changers, rule-breakers, and trailblazers are indeed commendable, as award-winning stories inspire others to keep pushing and unlock their own potential
— Lal Bhatia, chairman, David & Goliath

He said: The Telegraph She Awards had all the grandeur of an award function while also touching upon the most vital chord of gender equality. We at JDBI have believed, since 1963, that it is the sole path towards the betterment of society
— V.N. Chaturvedi, secretary general, Vidya Mandir Society

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