Cho Ramaswamy: The man who defied many and yet defined many

Cho was well known for his play Mohammed bin Tughlaq, a seminal work that was first staged in 1968.

Published: 07th December 2016 10:11 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th December 2016 04:01 PM   |  A+A-


Cho Ramaswamy (File | EPS)

By Online Desk

Who can be an actor, a journalist, a satirist, a comedian, a playwright, an editor, a filmwriter, a director, a politician and a pundit, all at once? Only Cho can. 

Originally known as Srinivasa Iyer Ramaswamy, he was fondly addressed and remembered as Cho. Born in a Brahmin family of lawyers, he began assisting his father and grandfather at their law firm which soon turned into a busy practice near the Madras High Court. But theater remained his true passion.

Cho was well known for his play Mohammed bin Tughlaq, a seminal work that was first staged in 1968. Many believe it portrayed former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's 'autocratic' rule. The success of this play led Cho to launch the famous Tamil magazine, Tughlaq in 1970.

Cho played a major role in introducing satire about socio-political issues, to the Tamil audience, through his magazine. The intelligentsia would often agree with his thought-process that was usually well ahead of his times.

In fact, during the Emergency era, Tughlaq was the only magazine whose advertisements were censored. When the publication resumed after Emergency, the first issue was boldly published with just a black front cover as a mark of protest. 

Cho entered the film industry and made his debut in 1963 with Paar Magale Paar as a comedian. From 1963 to 2005, he has acted in 190 Tamil films. In the recent past, Cho had directed the adaptation of his book 'Enge Brahmanan' (Where is the Brahmin?) into a television series. 

This series personified the quintessential Tamil Brahmin. As the story pursues in the background, Cho acted as the voice of the upper elite in Tamil Nadu explaining aspects, importance and the practical use of the Hindu religion, cultural practices, rituals etc. But what he starkly also indulged in was questioning what the religion and culture meant in common sense and the current times. 

Cho and Jayalalithaa have worked together in 19 films and have also been part of theater together. In the later years, Cho diligently worked with both MGR and Jayalalithaa, advising them on their political careers. While 'amma' was under treatment for months in Apollo Hospitals, little did many know that Cho was silently ailing, in the same hospital. 

In view of his extensive career and multifaceted knowledge in many fields, he was nominated to the Rajya Sabha by the President of India, KR Narayanan and served as an MP from November 1999 to November 2005. 

Throughout his 50-year career, Cho's unbiased views and his audacity to question the system was what made him popular amidst literary circles. 

As he died at the age of 82, there remains a sense of fulfillment and awe about his extensive contribution. Sporting a bald shiny head, sleek eyebrows and forehead that had the perfect three lines of veebhoothi (ash), Cho definitely was a man of many hats. 


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