2 books on how Karunanidhi used Tamil, cinema for politics

New Delhi: M Karunanidhi used the medium of films and his command over Tamil language to reach out to the people and promote the Dravidian ideology, according to two books related to the late DMK patriarch.

“Tamil was his ‘uyir moochu‘ (life breath) in more ways than one. It dominated his politics and his political career. Over time, as the first-generation leaders of the Dravidian movement passed away, Karunanidhi attempted to take over the mantle of ‘protector’ of Tamils worldwide,” the book ‘Karunanidhi: A Life in Politics‘ by journalist Sandhya Ravishankar says.

Karunanidhi discovered early that his gift was language. Wit, clarity of thought and a firm grasp over Tamil history dominated his writing – whether as editor of ‘Maanava Nesan’ (Friend of Students), a handwritten newsletter started by him during those days in school, or as the founder of DMK organ ‘Murasoli’ (Drum Roll), or as contributor to ‘Dravida Naadu’ (Dravidian Land), a magazine started by DMK founder C N Annadurai.

The other book, ‘The Dravidian Years: Politics and Welfare in Tamil Nadu’, by S Narayan, who was the economic adviser to former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the writer talks about the phenomenal reach of Karunanidhi through media and films.

The people of Tamilnadu have always been avid cinema fans. Up to the 1980s, ‘touring theatres,’ basically thatched sheds with a screen, used to be the hallmark of all small towns.

The DMK transformed the medium of films into a platform for reaching out to the Tamil people about their Tamil and Dravidian identities. Karunanidhi wrote the screenplay of over 70 films, including hits such as ‘Parasakthi’, ‘Manthiri Kumari’, ‘Malaikallan’ and ‘Manohara’.

“The frequency of people going to the cinema in Tamil Nadu has been very high, and Annadurai and Karunanidhi used films as major propaganda vehicle for promoting Dravidian ideology,” Narayan writes in the book, published by Oxford.

Karunanidhi’s love for the written word perhaps stemmed from the nature of the Dravidian movement itself. Karunanidhi began his autobiography in 1975. Called ‘Nenjukku Needhi’ (Justice for the Heart), its five volumes cover in great detail his life and experiences until 2002.

Even during his stints in-between this period as chief minister, Karunanidhi continued to write. In the late 1930s, when there was a move to make the learning of Hindi in schools compulsory, there was furore among the intelligentsia of Tamilnadu.

By 1938, at the age of 14, Karunanidhi had cobbled together a band of boys as well as a cyclerickshaw. “This ragged gang roamed the streets of Tiruvarur with the Tamil Thaai (Tamil Mother) flag perched on a pole atop the vehicle. A picture of Rajaji stabbing the Tamil Thaai with the dagger of compulsory Hindi was soon added to it. Karunanidhi composed little ditties that his gang shouted as they went along,” says the book ‘Karunanidhi: A Life in Politics‘, published by HarperCollins India.

When he was 15 years old, Karunanidhi first put his writing skills on display. He founded the fortnightly magazine for students called ‘Manava Nesan’. The manuscripts were handwritten, and 50 copies were made by hand and distributed by him and his friends.