Keralites are familiar with Karunanidhi the politician as well as an advocate of dynastic politics. However, his personality was much more diverse. He was a poet, film personality and writer along with being a politician. Even his speeches were decorated with poetry. He was elected to the Assembly eleven times and is the only leader in Tamil Nadu to be a member of the House for over 50 years.
Cinema is the path to politics in Tamil Nadu and cinema leads one to power. DMK leaders C N Annadurai and M Karunanidhi had realized this fact much early and cemented their position in politics with the help of cinema. Anna was Karunanidhi's political guru. It was Anna who inspired Karunanidhi to use his public speaking and literary skills to spread his ideas among the illiterate Tamil masses.
Karunanidhi ventured into the artistic field through drama. At age 20, he wrote the dialogues for 'Rajakumari', a film produced by Jupiter Pictures. It was on the sets of this film that Karunanidhi met MGR and struck a friendship with him. MGR, who was a Congressman at that time, shifted his allegiance to Dravidian politics prodded by Karunanidhi.
With their maiden film turning a big success, Karunanidhi came to be known as a capable scriptwriter and MGR got into the big league in filmdom.
However, the first film which displayed Karunanidhi's name among its credits was 'Maruthanattu Ilavarasi.' It had MGR and Janaki in the lead roles. The couple met and fell in love during the shooting of this film. Though it was for 'Rajakumari' that Karunanidhi had written dialogues for the first time, another man's name appeared on screen when the film was released. The film 'Malaikallan' (1954), which gave superstar status to MGR, was also scripted by Karunanidhi.
Karunanidhi ensured that at least one political message was conveyed to the viewers through each film. He penned around 70 film scripts and 100 books. Notable among his films are 'Poompuhar', based on the Tamil classic Chilapathikaram; 'Manthrikumari'; 'Parasakthi', which turned Sivaji Ganesan into a star; 'Manohara'; 'Thirumbipaar', 'Thaayillapillai'; 'Raja Rani'; 'Pookari' and 'Kannamma'. He excelled as scriptwriter, dialogue writer, lyricist, and producer.
'Marakkamudiyuma' and 'Valibavirunnu' were produced by Mekhala pictures, which had Karunanidhi as a partner. Murasoli Maran, who was Karunanidhi's relative and later central minister, made his directorial debut with 'Valibavirunnu.'
Kalaignar Karunanidhi, however, had made his foray into politics before debuting in films. His political activities started as a follower of E V Ramaswamy Periyar. Karunanidhi joined Annadurai when he formed the DMK in 1948. His first electoral battle itself was victorious. In 1961, he became the party treasurer and later the opposition leader. After becoming a minister in 1967, Karunanidhi took over as chief minister following Anna's death in 1969.
Karunanidhi was elected chief minister again in 1971, but he and MGR parted ways in 1972. Following his expulsion from DMK, MGR formed the ADMK (Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhakam). ADMK later became AIADMK. In 1975, Indira Gandhi dismissed Karunanidhi's ministry.
The departure of MGR proved costly for Karunanidhi and he was kept out of power from 1977 to 1987. During this time, MGR was the unchallenged chief minister of Tamil Nadu till his death. Karunanidhi, meanwhile, had to be content with a seat in the opposition. He could return as chief minister only after MGR's demise.
Karunanidhi has overcome numerous major challenges in the political arena. Now, it is for the new DMK leadership to prove that it has inherited Karunanidhi's survival instincts.
A few films for which Karunanidhi wrote the screenplay: 'Rajakumari', 'Manthrikumari', 'Manamakan', 'Parasakthi', 'Thirumbipar', 'Manohara', 'Rajarani, Malaikallan', 'Puthumaipithan', 'Pookari', 'Kannamma', 'Abhimanyu', 'Devaki' and 'Thayillapillai'.
His plays include 'Manimakudam', 'Ore Radham, Palaniappan', 'Thookumedai', 'Kakithapoo', 'Naane Arivale', 'Vellikizhame', 'Udayasuryan' and 'Chilapathikaram'.
Books by Kalaignar: Romapuri Pandyan, Then Pandy Singham, Vellikzhimai, nenjukkuneethi, iniyavay Irupathu, Sangathamizh, kuraloviyam, Ponnar Shanker and Thirukural Urai.