Karunanidhi: A Great Scriptwriter, Poet & Patron

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Muthuvel Karunanidhi

With his passing, M Karunanidhi has left a big void in Tamil cinema, not just as script and dialogue writer, but also as a patron who showered the film industry with tax waiver, freebies and awards when he was the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for five times.

It was ‘Kalaignar’ (artiste), as he was affectionately called by all, who introduced a novel scheme with twin benefits- to promote Tamil and to support film trade. During his regime, movies which carried pure Tamil titles were exempted from paying tax.

Karunanidhi, who always ensured that State film awards were given periodically, shared a great rapport with many stars, directors, producers and technicians and always gave a patient listening to their requests and demands.

It was his love for the industry that made himn allot free land near Mamallapuram on the outskirts of Chennai for film workers. And the list goes on.

On Wednesday, a day after he breathed his last, his mortal remains were laid to rest with full state honours. At 4 pm, his final procession started from Rajaji Hall, after Madras High Court gave order in favour of burying his body near the memorial of his mentor and former CM, C N Annadurai. He was 94.

Thousands of cadres paid tearful adieu to ‘Kalaignar’, even as tall leaders from across the country, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, came all the way to Chennai to pay their respects to him.

Karunanidhi began his career as a screenwriter in the Tamil film industry. His first movie as screen writer was Rajakumari (1947 film) produced by Coimbatore based Jupiter Pictures directed by A S A Sami starring M G Ramachandran.

During this period he and MGR, then an upcoming actor and later day founder of AIADMK party started a long friendship eventually turning into rivals in later years politics.

His stint with Jupiters Pictures then housed at Central Studios continued for another MGR starrer Abhimanyu (1948 film), Marudhanaattu Ilavarasi (1950) starring MGR and V N Janaki.

Around late 1949, T R Sundaram of Modern Theatres Studio in Salem engaged Karunanidhi as scriptwriter for the film Manthiri Kumari starring MGR which would become be a blockbuster hit. Later T R Sundaram had Karunanidhi on permanent rolls at Modern Studio.

His most notable movie wasParasakthi. a turning point in Tamil cinema, as it espoused the ideologies of the Dravidian movement and also introduced two prominent actors of Tamil filmdom, Sivaji Ganesan and S S Rajendran.

The movie was initially marred with controversies and faced censorship troubles, but was eventually released in 1952. becoming a huge box office hit. The movie was opposed by orthodox Hindus since it contained elements that criticized Brahmanism.

Two other movies written by Karunanidhi that contained such messages were Panam (1952) directed by famous comedian and political activist N S Krishnan and Thangarathnam (1960) produced and acted by S S Rajendran another popular actor and DMK activist.

These movies contained themes such as widow remarriage, abolition of untouchability, self-respect marriages, abolition of zamindari and abolition of religious hypocrisy. Another memorable hit movie was Manohara (1954) starring Sivaji Ganesan, S S Rajendran and P Kannamba known for its crisp dialouges.

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