A man of letters, who straddled the stage and the celluloid world

R Balaji | Updated on August 07, 2018

This September 1998 photo shows M Karunanidhi being honoured by the South Indian film industry for his contribution to cinema with a silver statue of himself, and a gold chain. Thespian Sivaji Ganesan, who debuted in Parasakhti , for which Karunanidhi penned the dialogues, looks on   -  PTI

A prolific writer, M Karunanidhi began his career as a script writer for Jupiter Pictures, a production house. He went on to author several social and historical novels, penned short stories, and poetry collections, scripted over 75 screenplays, was a story- and dialogue-writer for many movies, and produced over 30 feature films.

The DMK’s first leaders, particularly its founder CN Annadurai and leading light Karunanidhi, are said to have begun the tryst between politics and cinema in Tamil Nadu, which led to important political figures emerging from the entertainment industry. For Annadurai and Karunanidhi, cinema was a medium to propagate their social and political views.

Parasakthi, which released in the early 1950s, was one of the greatest hits of the times. It launched the legendary VC Ganesan, later ‘Sivaji Ganesan’, and gave him immediate stardom. But it also catapulted the movie’s scriptwriter, M Karunanidhi, to fame and prominence; he had used the storyline to expound many of the rationalist and socialist views associated with the Dravidian movement.

Progressive ideas

Karunanidhi’s official website points out that he deftly used the medium to further causes such as “widow remarriage, abolition of untouchability, self-respect marriages, abolition of ‘zamindari’ (feudal) system and abolition of religious hypocrisy”.

Karunanidhi was equally prolific as an author. He has written over a 100 books, which span a wide genre, including prose, poetry, fiction, biographies and historic novels.

Classical Tamil literature was close to his heart. This passion resulted in him setting up the Valluvar Kottam in Chennai, a monument celebrating the legendary Thiruvalluvar, and a 133-ft statue of the 4th century poet in Kanyakumari.

He also wrote the Kuraloviam, explaining with anecdotes the “kural”, the 1,033 couplets penned by Thiruvalluvar.

He also won an award for excellence in Tamil literature for his treatise on the classical Tholkappiyum, Tholkappiya Poonga, simplifying the Tamil grammar concepts in the classic.

Karunanidhi’s other books include Sanga Thamizh, Thirukkural Urai, Ponnar Sankar, Romapuri Pandian, Thenpandi Singam, Vellikizhamai, Nenjukku Needhi, and Iniyavai Irubathu.

Karunanidhi’s stage plays include: Manimagudam, Ore Ratham, Palaniappan, Thooku Medai, Kagithapoo, Naane Arivali, Vellikizhamai, Udhayasooriyan and Silappathikaram.

Published on August 07, 2018

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