Saturday, 11 August 2018

The Poet, Who Broke the Shackles of Prosody

The departed DMK patriarch Kalaignar M. Karunanidhi, as a poet, seems to have been a self critic too on his poetry. If not, he would not have written poems in his earlier days and titled them as Kavithaiyalla (It is no poetry)! Besides being a veteran politician and one of the pillars of the Dravidian movement, the poet of the poets was so humble about his creative writings.  

Despite the linguistic fact that grammar being born of literature, and not literature from grammar, Karunanidhi says:

“I was writing poems in my earlier days under the title Kavithaiyalla (It is no poetry). Because I could not accommodate myself within the boundaries of Tamil prosody.  After I became the state minister  in 1967, I eased out my stress under the shady, cool woods of Kaviarangams (Poetry reading sessions). When I felt the spontaneity of poetry through words, I could not bridle my poetry to the strict rules of Tamil prosody. I accept it is my weakness” says the humble poet in his foreword to the book Kalaingarin Kavithaikal (The poems of Kalaingnar M. Karunanidhi) which was published in 1977 by Thamizhkani Pathipagam.

The book, which this correspondent treasures in his library, was priced at Rs. 10 some four decades ago. It contains a miscellany of Karunanidhi’s poems, which include his individual verses and the ones he read out while presiding over a number of Kaviarangams across Tamil Nadu.
The eminent poets who had taken part in the Kaviarangams presided over by Karunanidhi, include Kannadasan, Pulamaipiththan, K.C.S. Arunachalam, Tho.Mu.Si. Raghunathan, Ponnivalavan, Anandam, Soundhira Kailasam, Erode Thamizhanban, Abdul Rahman, Mudiyarasu, Kovai Elancheran, Murugu Sundaram, Shahul Hameed ( Inquilab), Va. Mu. Sethuraman and Tamil scholar Ki.Va. Jaganathan.   

It is also surprising to come across in the book that Periyasamy Thooran, who edited the ten-volume Tamil Encyclopedia and Yogi Suddhanandha Bharathi, who rendered Thirukural in his beautiful English, had presented their poems in the Kaviarangams presided over by Karunanidhi. Moreover, poet Puviarasu of Coimbatore, a two-time Sahitya Akademi award winner, had presented his poem with Karunanidhi on the dais.

The politician and poet, who used to be busy in one way or another, was invited to preside over a poetry reading session on his mentor and rationalist leader Peryiyar E.V. Ramasamy on January 11, 1974.
“From last morning till midnight, I had to address about eight meetings in Coimbatore. Do you think my spring of imagination for writing poetry would open thereafter? Still, like a creeper that moves to the direction of wind, I have come here after your orders, friends” said Karunanidhi in his poetic speech.

The atheist poet, who was known for his pun in Tamil, said:  

“Let’s first worship Samy (God)   before beginning to present our poems”
Then he finished the line to the thunderous applause of the audience:

“By saying ‘Samy’, I meant Periyar E.V. Rama ‘Samy’ “

The poetic way, through which Karunanidhi dropped a hint at his mentor and rationalist leader Periyar E.V. Ramasamy, enthralled the audience.  

Link to my article in The New Indian Express: 


Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Coimbatore Recalls the Young Kalaignar

A pall of gloom descended in Coimbatore, as Former Tamil Nadu CM and DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi passed away after battling illness at the Kauvery hospital in Chennai on Tuesday.

With the functioning of Central Studios and Pakshiraja Studios in Coimbatore in the 1940s, the city was a popular cinema hub and it played a key role in shaping the Dravidian stalwart's literary personality. Because it is here Karunanidhi wrote scripts for the film Rajakumari ( 1947), Abhimanyu (1948), Malaikallan (1954) etc. Interestingly, the tile-roofed house, where Karunanidhi lived for a monthly rent of Rs.10 at Singanallur, is still the same, bringing back his memories to every Coimbatorean.

A. Mani, son of the late Dravidian activist Annasamy of Singanallur, recalls:

 “ My father was an uncompromising crusader in Dravidar Kazhagam that he carried Dravida Nadu, a maganize edited by C.N.Annadurai wherever he went. On an occasion during a train journey, a self-styled god man looked at the magazine in my father's hand and picked up an argument, criticizing Periyar E.V.Ramasamy and Anna for their atheist ideology. As the debate gained momentum, another gentleman,who was in the compartment, backed my father in the argument. In a little time, the gentleman alighted at a railway station between Erode and Salem. However, at his point of leaving, my father asked his name and he said that he was Karunanidhi, an activist in Dravidar Kazhagam and sub-editor of Kudi Arasu, a popular magazine, published by Periyar E.V.R !”

Mani says that, though the friendship between his father and Kalignar M.Karunanidhi began just as a 'Rayil sneham' ( A short-lived train friendship) on a day in the early 1940s, it lasted till my father's demise in 1993. Sharing another anecdote in Karunanidhi's life in Coimbatore , the 66 year old Mani, reminisces:

 “ While my father was working as spinning clerk at Saroja Mills in Singanallur, T.S Rajagopal, a Tea Board Officer befriended him and sought a help from him. It was to find a rented house to accommodate one of his relatives, who got an opportunity to write script for a Tamil film in Central Studios. And my father told him that he was ready to allot a portion in his house ”

 A rare coincidence awaited Annasamy, when Rajagopal, later, brought the young script writer. And Annasamy was all surprise to meet the script writer as none other than Karunanidhi, who backed him in the argument with a god man in the train journey!

“Glad in providing accommodation to the debutant writer and his wife Padmavathy, my father bought all the essential household articles from the Singanallur weekly Shandy to the couple. Later, my mother and Padmavathy became close friends that they always went together to fetch water at a nearby well and wash clothes in the kolatheri ( Singanallur tank) “ recalls Mani.

The D.M.K patriarch, who did not forget his early days in Coimbatore, published a tribute in his party's mouthpiece Murasoli when Annasamy passed away in 1993. He also made his presence to the house at Singanallur, where he once lived.

“ The leader sat silent for a little time in the room. From his eyes welling up in tears, we felt his taking a trip down memory lane. You know, it is in this room, he wielded his pen for the Tamil cinema” avers Mani. The D.M.K chief recalls in his masterpiece Nenjukku Needhi: “ Our house at Singanallur was very small like a sparrow's nest. Staying there, I penned a plenty of literature. But, after I scripted dialogues for the film Abhimanyu ( 1948), I did not find my name in the title cards. When I asked the reason, the film producer told me that I was not popular enough to get the byline. It is quite natural that a writer expects only recognition rather than remuneration. Deeply agonized, I shed tears and decided to leave Coimbatore “

 B. Meenakshi Sundaram
 Photos by A.Raja Chidamparam

Link to my article in The New Indian Express: