Tamil cinema mourns the loss of Kalaignar Karunanidhi
The celebrities from the Tamil film industry share their memories of late DMK President and former Chief Minister M Karunanidhi
The demise of the former Chief Minister and DMK President Karunanidhi has shaken the entire state, and that includes the Tamil film industry of which he was a part. The five-time Chief Minister's contribution to Tamil cinema cannot be overlooked. After spending his early days acting in and writing for the theatre, Karunanidhi went on to write scripts for films, continuing to do so even amidst his political commitments. In fact, he was fondly called 'Kalaignar' by the people for his massive contributions to cinema.
Prashanth, hero of Ponnar Shankar, the last film written by Karunanidhi
"I spent four years with him during the making of Ponnar Shankar. I had the privilege of observing how he works up close. Even at that age, he was an inspiration for all of us when it comes to working. He would be the first to get up at 4.30 and the last to sleep. His presence of mind and the way he came up with oneliners was amazing. I'll never forget his love and kindness."
Thiagarajan, director of Ponnar Shankar
“He had an amazing eye for detail. He would spot even minute errors in the film, and his memory power was truly unbelievable. Every day he would be the first person to call me for discussion. His punctuality was amazing and he never missed an appointment."
Director SA Chandrasekhar, who worked with Karunanidhi on three films, Neethikku Thandanai, Sattam Oru Vilayaattu, and Ithu Engal Neethi
“I always thought of him as an artist and never discussed politics with him. I first met him in 1983 and since then, I've always called him anna. I think I'm the only director for whom he has written dialogues for three films. He wrote dialogues in green ink and at the end, there would always be a post script in red ink saying, 'Ninaithal maththikollalam'. That's how much he respected the directors he worked with. When he said the words 'En uyirinum melana anbu udanpirapugale', he truly meant it. During the late 80s, they arrested him and I thought that was a wrong move. In fact, that incident was the inspiration for the title of my film Neethikku Thandanai."
Actor Prabhu, son of the late Sivaji Ganesan who shared a close friendship with Kalaignar
"The friendship that my father and he shared predates the coining of the name Sivaji. If we mentioned him by name, appa would hit us on our head and so, we always called him periappa. At my father's wedding, periappa was the best man and we still cherish the picture which has them alongside MGR sir, Kannadasan sir and PA Perumal Mudaliar (producer). Appa would often speak about his days with periappa, and periappa too would say that despite their difference of opinions when it came to politics, they shared a lot of affection. Just like how we miss Sivaji appa, we all miss our Kalaignar appa as well. I believe he and appa are still with us. As long as Tamil lives, his memory will live on."
Khushbu, actor and former DMK member
"I've lost my father, guru and guide. I have beautiful memories of him. While we were fighting for equal rights of women and fighting for 33% reservation in the parliament, he was a man who brought in a rule stating that daughters have an equal right to their father's property. He respected everybody and treated everyone equally. He coined new socially equal names for those who were cast out from society, such as Maatru Thiranalaigal (Specially abled) for the disabled and Thirunangai, instead of Aravani, for transwomen"
Actor Lakshmi, who worked with him on Pillaiyo Pillai in 1972
"When we met him four years back, he blessed our entire family and even made fun of my husband for losing his hair. He spoke to us for 20 minutes that day. He was a simple human and had no airs. He was easy to approach and very helpful to all. I don't think we can see another leader as great as him in our generation. When he did Pillaiyo Pillai, he was kind enough to come to the sets in AVM. He said he trusted me with the character and had written dialogues based on that. He was the best in everything he did, as a father, a brother and a leader. His command of the Tamil language was fabulous. His qualities are reflected in his family members as well, who are also simple and approachable."
Singer Chinmayi Sripaada
“Kalaignar was one of the few persons to boldly question the superstitions way back in the 50s. Coming from a socially oppressed community, he was the one person who boldly questioned many deeply ingrained casteist and supremacist ideas, that some people still harbour now in 2018. Apart from politics, the kind of social changes he heralded and the laws favouring equal rights for women which were spearheaded by him are truly commendable."
Santhana Bharathi, director of Kaavaluku Gettikaran, a film written by Karunanidhi
“Nobody in the Tamil film industry can match his energy levels. Kalaignar would come up with a full-bound script within a night of discussion. He wrote the script without even a wink of sleep despite being the Chief Minister at the time. He was always open to suggestions and treated everyone equally. He had a special love for artistes and always gave us special preference over others."
Radikaa Sarathkumar, actor-politican
"He was like family. He was my mentor. My father (MR Radha) and Kalaignar were part of a play called Thooku Medai. In fact, it was my father who gave him the name Kalaignar. One can't imagine Tamil politics without him. He would always put Tamil unarvu first and that is the legacy he leaves behind."
Suresh Krissna, director of Ilaignan, Kalaignar's 75th film
"He got up at 4 and before he used to begin his official duty, he would write dialogues for my film and send it in before 9. Similarly, whenever he had a break between duties, he turned up at my set and we would discuss all aspects of filmmaking. At one point, I hesitantly asked him if I could change part of the screenplay. He told me that as the director, I am the captain of the ship and if I wasn't satisfied, I should ask my writer (him in this case) to change whatever needed changing. At the end of the film, he called me aside and told me that he had expected me to make a film, but instead, I had made a kaaviyam. There can be no bigger praise."
Crazy Mohan, playwright
"There are two dialogues from Parasakthi that I distinctly remember. One scene where a policeman asks Sivaji, 'Enda muzhikara?' to which Sivaji would answer, 'Thoonginavana ezhupittu enda muzhikaranu kekkariye.' In another scene, there is a dialogue that goes, 'Paasha, unnoda paacha inimel inga balikaadhu.' That wordplay of his had an impact on me. In Tamil, lion is called seeyam, Kalaignar is the seeyam (CM) of Tamil dramatics."
(With inputs from Arunkumar Sekhar)