Muthuvel Karunanidhi’s forte as an ace scriptwriter was social films. The most notable among them, `Parasakthi’, starring the late Sivaji Ganesan, in 1952. That film was seen as the first attempt by the Dravidian movement to use media for propaganda. Karunanidhi’s scripts propagated the socialist and rationalist ideals of the Dravidian movement, with dollops of what was very controversial content for those times. While `Parasakthi’ criticised Brahminism, films like `Panam’ and `Thangarathnam’, written by Karunanidhi, focussed on widow remarriage, untouchability and abolition of the zamindari system.
More recently, ahead of the World Classical Tamil Conference last year, Karunanidhi penned its official theme song `Semmozhiyaana Tamizh Mozhiyaam‘, that was set to tune by A R Rahman at his request.
Today the music has gone out of Karuna’s life, with just about everything out of sync. The former chief minister who does not even qualify to be Leader of Opposition, has become the butt of jokes. Not just in Tamilnadu, but across the country. His party, that bit the dust last week in a humiliating defeat, is parodied for being the embodiment of all that is corrupt in the political system. His ministers and leaders are deemed to be blackmailers in white veshtis. His son Azhagiri is accused of having converted bribing voters into an art form, that unfortunately did not find gallery space with the voters in 2011, unlike in 2009. His two families are seen as being constantly at loggerheads, the kind that would give the family soaps on Sun TV a run for their TRPs. And his darling daughter Kanimozhi’s arrest, has been like the last nail in Karunanidhi’s political coffin.
I am told, when Sharat Kumar was chosen to head Kalaignar TV, Karunanidhi’s confidant Arcot Veeraswamy went to Sharat’s home at 3 am to tell him that Kalaignar wants to see him right away. 4 am is when Sharat was ushered into Karuna’s room where the DMK supremo blessed him and asked him to proceed with work on the channel immediately. Sharat was to confide in a friend that he wasn’t even asked nor given a choice to say yes or no. When the DMK issues a decree, no questions are to be asked.
Karuna was then a man in a hurry, eager to show his ambitious grandnephews, Kalanidhi and Dayanidhi, their place. He named the channel after himself and the logo was also the rising son. As Daya came down the echelons of power, Kani took the escalator to the corridors of influence in Delhi. With his glares on, the patriarch displayed an inability to look beyond a closed circle of family members and their loved ones.
Karunanidhi, the husband and father, defeated Karunanidhi, the DMK chief, the day he shed his socialist ideals and became a family man. When the focus of a man, walking into his sunset, becomes the content of his will, there is little willpower to spend the sunset years generating goodwill through his actions. The DMK, attracting silly jokes like `Delhi Money for Karunanidhi’, was no longer the grand Dravidian outfit that propounded the values of Periyar and Annadurai. It had got reduced to a Karunanidhi family branch.
With two sons at loggerheads over control of the state, a wife with dreams for her daughter, grandnephews who saw politics as a huge business opportunity, family members who control virtually every enterprise in Tamilnadu, Karuna’s parivaar was strangulating the average Tamilian who just wanted relief from the claustrophobia. The Tamizh voter, fed up with Jayalalithaa’s authoritarian ways, was happy to go along with Karuna in 2006 but found the family coming on too strong for anyone’s liking.
Where does Karuna go from here? People like to call him the master of the craft of politics but my guess is that his bag of tricks is now empty. He himself has said the people have given him rest, perhaps meaning, he does not intend to play an active role any longer. His family has reduced a great leader to a caricature. A man surrounded by so many relatives but deep inside, he is lonely. The man who fought all his life against friend-turned-foe M G Ramachandran and later arch rival Jayalalithaa, will unfortunately be remembered by today’s generation only for how 2G drained out his political battery.