Chennai, Sept. 12: A four-day fest to celebrate south Indian cinema later this month has thrown up an intriguing prospect — arch enemies Jayalalithaa and M. Karunanidhi on the same stage.
However, the intense political rivalry between the Tamil Nadu leaders could eventually see Karunanidhi being cold-shouldered, though it is people like them whose contribution will be recognised at the event to be graced by the President and actors Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan.
While chief minister Jayalalithaa has paired with MGR, the original hero-turned-politician, in 28 movies, the man she dethroned in 2011 has written scripts for over 50 Tamil films.
The South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce, which is organising the September 21-24 event to mark 100 years of Indian cinema with help from the AIADMK government, has not yet included the DMK boss on the list of luminaries to be honoured. It has not yet decided if it should even invite Karunanidhi.
“It would be strange if Karunanidhi is left out when stalwarts from the Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam film industries are being honoured. It would mar a unique commemoration,” said a film producer who is part of the organising committee.
Another organiser pointed out that since Karunanidhi and DMDK founder Vijayakanth were also political leaders, it would be inappropriate to invite them to a film programme. “Only the governors and chief ministers of the four states and the President are being invited in their official capacity,” he said.
Among those being honoured are Telugu icon Chiranjeevi, Kannada actor Ambareesh and Kerala stars Mammootty and Mohanlal. While Chiranjeevi is a central minister, Ambareesh is an MLA.
The organisers have also not considered any Karunanidhi-scripted movie for the special screening of select films from all four south Indian languages. Even landmark films like Parasakthi, which launched Sivaji Ganesan, and Mandirakumari, which made MGR a star, have been omitted as Karunanidhi wrote the dialogues.
Some DMK MPs are said to be lobbying with the Centre to ensure Karunanidhi’s contribution gets recognised too.
But there was a time when stars of the south’s celluloid world shared an easy camaraderie. Film historian “Film News” Anandan recalled that when Chennai used to be the sole production centre for movies in the south, stars from Andhra, Karnataka and Kerala such as N.T. Rama Rao, Rajkumar and Prem Nazir used to live in the Tamil Nadu capital. “All of them had bungalows here and Telugu fans would wait for hours just to get a darshan of NTR from his balcony. MGR and Sivaji regularly used to have lunch or dinner at the homes of these stars,” he said.
Since 1967, Tamil Nadu has seen five chief ministers who have been associated with cinema. DMK founder Annadurai was a well-known dialogue writer. His pupil Karunanidhi wrote scripts even during his last term (2006 to 2011).
While MGR was the country’s first film hero to become chief minister, his wife Janaki Ramachandran, a film heroine, was briefly chief minister after his death.
“It is ironic that cinema, which has played a key role in Tamil Nadu’s politics, has now become a victim of the state’s petty politics,” said film critic and playwright Gnani.