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DMK chief M Karunanidhi’s journey from screen-writer to politician; 16 interesting facts about ‘Kalaignar’

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94-old-year Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) chief M Karunanidhi called the shots in his party even when at the age of 94. But age was just a number for the veteran politician of Tamil Nadu, also called as ‘Kalaignar’ by his followers. He has also been associated with Tamil film industry after starting out as a screenwriter.

Karunanidhi wrote film scripts and fiery dialogues for Tamil movies. That ability, along with the fact that he is a fantastic public speaker gave a rise to his political carrier. M Karunanidhi was a highly respected leader of the masses. Karunanidhi’s remarkable literary skills and success as a screenwriter and subsequent popularity played a big role in his rise in the DMK and his overall stature.

Due to his deteriorating health, he couldn’t even be part of celebrations of completing 50 years as DMK President. A few days ago he was suffering from urinary tract infection and was being treated at home. And, on July 28, he was shifted to Kauvery Hospital around 1:30 am. Karunanidhi, on Sunday night, suffered a “transient setback” in his health but his vital signs normalised.


Bound to his wheelchair for the past couple of years, Karunanidhi, an atheist, was the most multifaceted wily politician who strode Tamil Nadu’s literary and political scene leaving his mark in the socio-economic fabric of the state in the last seven decades.

Here are some facts about DMK chief M Karunanidhi:

 DMK President M Karunanidhi (94) on July 27 entered the 50th year as the party chief even as he is fighting age-related ailment at his home here. On July 27, 1969, Karunanidhi took over as the party President, after he became Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister on February 10, 1969, following the death of DMK founder C.N.Annadurai.

  •    Karunanidhi had the party in his strong grip despite presiding over two major splits and being out of power continuously between 1977-1898. It had been a long journey for Karunanidhi who was born into a poor Isai Vellalar family on June 3, 1924 in Thirukuvalai in Thanjavur district.

  •    He had been elected to Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly for a record 12 times as an MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly).

  •    Originally named as Dakshinamurthy by his parents Muthuvel and Anjugam, he later changed it to Karunanidhi as it is a pure Tamil name without any Brahminical tinge.

  •    Starting his public life at the tender age of 14 at his native place, Karunanidhi was attracted by the ideologies of E.V.Ramasamy (also known as Periyar) the founder of Dravida Kazhagam (DK) organised the local youth as the reformist association.

  •    The five-times Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Karunanidhi contested his first assembly elections in 1957 from Kulithali constituency successfully and ever since then he has not lost any one of the 13 elections he contested.

  •    Perceiving the popularity of movie hero and party leader M.G. Ramachandran (MGR) as the future threat to his chair, Karunanidhi started sidelining him and finally expelled him in 1972.

  •    MGR, raising the banner of corruption within the party, went on to float AIADMK to become the Chief Minister. Consigned to the opposition benches, DMK’s fortunes revived only in 1989 when it won handsomely assisted by the split in AIADMK with one faction led by its founder’s wife Janaki Ramachandran and the other by J.Jayalalithaa.

  •    Karunanidhi brought his sons – through his second wife M.K. Dayalu – M.K. Alagiri and M.K. Stalin – into the party. Later, Alagiri became Union Minister while Stalin was declared as the political heir. Karunanidhi also made Kanimozhi, his daughter from his third wife Rajathi, a Rajya Sabha member.

  •    Karunanidhi’s first film as a screenwriter was for the MGR starrer, Rajakumari, in 1947 while his last was Ponnar Shankar, starring Prashanth in 2011.

  •    Parasakthi the movie in which Sivaji Ganesan made his debut was written by Karunanidhi. The film was noted for its dialogues and it features the famous ‘Odinen Odinen’ dialogue. It was a film that acquired cult status in Tamil Cinema.

  •    Karunanidhi faced protests for his writings initially. Parasakthi faced controversies because of its portrayal of Hindu customs and practices in poor light. The then ruling State government even demanded the film be banned. Two of his plays were banned initially.

  •    He wrote the screenplay for the breakthrough films of both MGR, Sivaji Ganesan. Legend has it that Manthiri Kumari is the film which gave MGR his breakthrough. Similarly, Parasakthi was the film that gave Sivaji Ganesan his breakthrough. Both the films were written by Karunanidhi.

  •    The 1997 film Iruvar directed by Mani Ratnam featuring Mohan Lal, Prakash Raj, Aishwarya Rai and Tabu is based on his relationship with MGR

  •    He wrote the screenplay for Ellis Dungan’s last film. Ellis Dungan is the American film director who is credited for revolutionising Tamil cinema. His last film was Manthiri Kumari.

  •    Karunanidhi was a screenwriter and playwright for Tamil cinema and theatre. His work helped him grow as a leader of the Dravidian movement.