Up close and personal with late DMK chief Kalaignar Karunanidhi

Having enjoyed an eventful political and cinema career, the former Chief Minister remains a source of admiration to many. Express highlights the different facets of his personality.

Published: 12th August 2018 04:10 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th August 2018 06:45 AM   |  A+A-


Late DMK stalwart M Karunanidhi (File | EPS)

By Express News Service

CHENNAI: KS Radhakrishna, DMK spokesperson, who was associated with Karunanidhi for over four and half decades.

I was fighting for interlinking of national rivers. The prayer in SC was to nationalise all the rivers in our country and to formulate a scheme to ensure equitable distribution of water from west-flowing rivers from Kerala to Tamil Nadu. We got a vital order for inter-linking of national rivers on February 27, 2012. Kalaignar knows about the number of trips I undertook to Delhi for this cause.  The SC gave its order when Sankarankoil by-election was being held.

I had to be present in the constituency to look after election works. But amidst campaign, Kalaignar called me over the phone and congratulated me.

"You are neither minister nor holding any post. Still out of hard work, you have obtained this verdict. The news has appeared in newspapers as DMK spokesperson and you have brought laurels to the party," Karunanidhi said.

"This is one of the unforgettable moments in my life."

Radikaa Sarathkumar

He always placed his Tamil pride above even his party, and that was something I adored about him. The film industry was like a family to him. I recall a particular instance when he met Sivaji sir. Until that time, I had never seen two men cry so much.

This was the time when Sivaji sir launched his own party and Kalaignar had decreed that none of us should campaign against him.

Unfortunately, Sivaji sir lost and he came to meet Kalaignar to congratulate him when the entire party was celebrating DMK’s victory. They hugged and cried for a really long time.

It showed how much he valued friendship. He was also tough. Even after DMK had lost the election post-Rajiv Gandhi’s death, he remained calm and greeted me with a smile when I visited him 

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. 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 postscript in red ink saying, Ninaithal maththikollalam (change if you wish). That’s how much he respected directors.

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 wrong. In fact, that was the inspiration for the title of my film Neethikku Thandanai

Actor Prabhu, son of the late Sivaji Ganesan

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 ask us to call him periappa. At my father’s wedding, periappa was the best man. 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 the latter too would talk about their relationship with fondness. He would say that despite a difference of opinion when it came to politics, they shared a lot of affection. Just like we miss Sivaji appa, we all miss our Kalaignar appa too. I believe he and appa are still with us

Arivumani, Tiruchy, (former sub-editor, Murasoli)

I worked as a sub-editor in Murasoli daily for three years from 1975 to 1978. My birthday falls on 29 April. And I was christened by Karunanidhi, as my father was a staunch loyalist of DMK. On the first birthday when I was working at Murasoli, I met Karunanidhi and sought his wishes and I recalled that I was christened by him. Following which, he wished me that I would become a poet as I was born on poet Bharathidasan’s birthday. And I showed my lyrics book because at that time, I used to write lyrics and poems about various political issues. After seeing that, he fondly called me as Kavingare (poet). After this, fellow employees also gave me a lot of respect. Even though I was one of the junior staff members, he treated me like one of the famous writers and encouraged me very much

P Wilson had been advising the DMK patriarch on legal matters since 1994

“I had the opportunity to interact with him when he both in and out of power. Just out of long years of experience, he would be able to take quick decisions concerning legal matters spontaneously,” said Wilson. One particular case that proved Karunanidhi’s faith in the legal system was regarding change in venue for one of Tamil Eelam Supporters Organization’s (TESO) meetings.

“One day before the meeting was supposed to be held in YMCA grounds, theAIADMK Government denied permission. Kalaignar could have arranged for another place, but told me to take up the issue in court.

Finally, we won the case and the meeting happened as planned,” he said, adding, “When the Anna Library was being converted into a hospital, he called me around 11 pm and told me to file a case. He called me again at 5am to check if the case file was ready. He was very keen on fighting for the library’s cause.” 

Suresh Krissna, director of Ilaignan, Kalaignar’s 75th film

Kalaignar got up at 4 and before beginning his official duty, he would write dialogues for my film and send it in before 9. Similarly, whenever he had a break, he would turn up at the sets, 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 was the captain of the ship, and that if I wasn’t satisfied, I should ask my writer (him in this case) to change whatever needed changing. After work on the film got over, he told me that he had expected me to make a film, but instead, I had made a kaaviyam (epic). There can be no bigger praise. He was always lavish with compliments

Pa Vijay, lyricist

The relationship I share with Kalaignar goes back several years. I learned two things from him: Stay the same regardless of success or failure, and always learn new things as an artist. I can recall at least two instances that illustrated the former. When he was elected as the Chief Minister in 2006, I met him right before his swearing-in ceremony. He greeted me with a smile. He also took the time to ask me about my son, amidst all the crowd and celebration. A few years later, I went to his house when DMK had lost an election. He was still the same cheerful person after that defeat. He was playing with his dog and greeted me with the same iconic smile. Only a man with an amazing understanding of life can do this

M Subramanian, DMK’s south secretary and former Mayor

Subramanian’s favourite memory is of the time when the movie Kannamma was shot, around 2004, for which Karunanidhi was screenwriter. “As DMK’s youth wing deputy general secretary then, I brought 200 of my men for shooting a song. After we completed the filming, the director asked me if I would also don the role of a police officer. After some persuasion, I agreed, and we filmed the scene. The dialogue was 18 lines long,” remembers Subramanian. “When I went to seek Kalaignar’s blessings the next day as it was Pongal, he asked me to recite the 18-line long dialogue. I did, but I left out a line. He immediately spotted it. I was stunned because he had written the dialogues three months ago” 

Kavithai Piththan of Pudukkottai, former MLA

Karunanidhi loved me very much than I loved him because of my poetry skills. Many used to say that he collects donation from cadre for party development. But, he gave me Rs 10,000 for my marriage expenses. And he solemnised my marriage also for free. It is a strict rule that DMK cadre should pay a fee for Karunanidhi to attend a function of their family. And he offered an MLA ticket for me thrice only because of my Tamil skills and he campaigned for me in 1996 despite it not being in his campaign schedule. In 1995, I met with an accident and was hospitalised at Pudukkottai district hospital. At that time, I was keeping a low profile in the party. But, on coming to know I was unwell, he came straight to meet me. I considered him my Gnanaththagappan (father of knowledge)

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