Karunanidhi films mix politics, melodrama

Karunanidhi films mix politics, melodrama

M Karunanidhi (1924 — 2018)

The history of Tamil Nadu is closely intertwined with that of Tamil cinema. A history of one would be incomplete without the history of the other. While the two continue to have their fates muddled in that of the other to this day, Karunanidhi was of a generation where the ideologies were of the bolder, more rational sort.

Many at the time believed that the Indian National Congress of the time was filled with upper-caste men, most of whom were Hindi speakers. Legendary politicians such as Periyar Ramaswamy Naicker and C N Annadurai created a brand of politics that subverted this. Karunanidhi the screenwriter was a seed of this great tree.

Karunanidhi brought cinema to the masses and became the voice of the voiceless. However, he was no stranger to commercial flavours. His writing is characterised by heavy melodrama that appealed to the masses but which contains a kernel of rationalism.

Metrolife puts together five of his top films.

Thirumbi Paar

Thirumbi Paar is Karunanidhi’s take on the “other woman” theme. However, despite the theme of adultery at the centre of this Sivaji Ganesan-starrer, Thirumbi Paar is also remembered as being the film where Karunanidhi’s skills as a writer of dialogues are at their sharpest. The film is also political satire, which takes on the Indian National Congress.

Pudhumai Pithan

Although a box office failure at the time, Pudhumai Pithan is stands out for being Karunanidhi’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The story, however, removes much of the originals tragic intensity to tell a lighter story. It is a Hamlet where neither the king nor Ophelia were killed. MGR plays the crown prince.

Raja Rani

The film is another great beloved of Tamil cinema audiences. Once again, we see Karunanidhi’s mastery of dialogue writing here. The dialogues in Raja Rani are often alliterative, which is in keeping with the great songs and music in the film. The highlight of the film was the Sivaji Ganesan-Padmini pairing.


One of the greatest films of Tamil cinema, Parasakthi is a classic in almost every sense. The incredible script is given its due by one of the most impressive feats of acting in Tamil cinema history by Sivaji Ganesan. The film spoke about the misfortunes that befell a Tamil family during World War II. The film created a massive controversy at the time for attacking conservative Brahmin beliefs. It was created as an important vehicle for Karunanidhi’s Dravidian ideologies. One of the directors of the film, S Panju, later said that Parasakthi was designed to “create havoc. Of course, it did. We were challenging the social law itself, the basic Constitution itself”.

Manthiri Kumari

Karunanidhi took out a part of the Tamil epic Kundalakesi for this classic. Manthiri Kumari was one of the most successful films of the fifties. It was in this film that T M Soundararajan sang for MGR for the very first time. When Karunanidhi had recommended to producer T R Sundaram that MGR be considered for the role, he agreed on one condition: MGR must hide his double-chin with a beard.

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