This is a proposal  for the  Govt of India to confer the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for film writings in Indian Cinema , to the late Thiru M Karunanidhi. Of course the Bharat Ratna is also within consideration, but that is a matter of political convenience. I am for the merit of the man, I am familiar with!

The Award is not categories into divisions of film production and retains its exclusive unitary class in cinema. Under the rules for the Phalke Award, the recommendation is valid for the current year as the candidate has demised within the year of consideration of the Award.

Also under the guidelines kept for this Award,  the candidate’s past police record and lack of integrity, is not to be considered and only the academic merit of the recommended, is  the criteria for evaluation. Thiru M. Karunanidhi fitted into this meritorious list,  splendidly.

Thiru M. Karunannidhi was born in a family of educated  Tamilians where  effort was being made to educate the child. But  M Karunanidhi  failed them.  As a child  he spent a lot of his time in day dreaming,  writing poetry and  acting on school stage. He was already into small political skirmishes at the age of 12 years which caught the attention of the bigger ‘actors’ of the day and finally  M. Karunanidhi entered the portals of the Tamil film industry in 1947. Now   aged  20  years , he  wrote the script of  film ‘Rajkumari’ which featured T. Rajkumari and M.G. Ramachandran (MGR). The crisp dialogues and an interesting story line immediately caught attention of the casting crew of the film producer and M Karunanidhi found himself a job in the Jupiter Studio, in Salem.

The success  with film Rajkumari was followed with the next film Abhimanyu  released in 1950,where he was not given credit for his writing, followed with films  Manthiri Kumari  and  Marudhanaathu Ilavarasi in the same year. The triple  success  made  M Karunanidhi a celebrity writer, and introduced him into the charmed circle of the then  major leaders of the Justice Party of India, namely Peyriar, C.N. Annadurai and MGR,  who were soon to create a new political  party to be called the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham (DMK).

For Thiru M. Karunanidhi there was no looking back. From his pen flowed  silver jubilee hits one after another like Manohara, Panan, Naam, Malai Kallan,Thirumbi Paar, Ammai Appam, Thai Illa Pillai , and others. Karunanidhi crowned  the first part of his career by writing the story and screenplay of the evergreen classic film Parasakthi   made in 1951 featuring a young Sivaji Ganesan. This film  was initially banned and  created a controversy because of its radical story content and anti Brahminism,  but finally it was  cleared by the Madras High Court in 1952,  and  found a ready audience because of its controvertial content.

The film when released for screenings in cinema halls, changed the entire character of Tamil cinema forever. Till date, Tamil Cinema was dominated by dozens  of songs connected by  thin story lines and  a had  running times  upto 3 hrs and 45 minutes. Film Parasakthi dumped the formula story, hook line and sinker ,and replaced by with a strong theme of social  injustice, discrimination and the need for reforms in society. The film had dialogues written in the simple  language devoid of  slang  and interpolation of other regional languages. It was pure aggressive Tamil and honey to the ears. The audiences gave it a minimum golden jubilee run at theatres wherever it was released.

M. Karunanidhi realized he had created a new story formula of success in his regional language and he plunged deep into its cultural waters. He decided to use cinema and his regional language as a vehicle to fight his social battles and create a political platform for himself and the political party he associated with.

In 1967, the American  film industry and the Republican Party, both sent their researchers to find out how the DMK under Karunanidhi and its horde of workers of the local film industry, could create a full fledged political party and rule a big State.

A time came when by 1964,  films were being publicized  on publicity posters by  splashing the name of  the script and story writer  going by the name of M Karunanidhi, and not by the principle artists  of the film.  In South India Cinema this was the first instance of a person working behind the screen, carrying the film to its jubilee run. The only other example of a writer carrying a film, came in Hindi Cinema in post 1975 period, when the duo writers Salim- Javed  got  bigger mention in film publicity than the main artists. It was Mehboob Khan who placed  Nargis in his twelve sheet posters of Mother India  in bigger face than the title of the film. That is still the ultimate tribute to any film artist in the world.

At the peak of his writing activity which concluded by about 1967 when  M. Karunanidhi joined the State Cabinet as a senior Minister, he could churn out a  complete  script within three days of commencement of his work, but he was still short of the genius of his mentor,  C.N. Annadurai, who could write  two scripts with both hands simultaneously and finish the work in two and a half days! The nation and its film industry , never had a film writer of the  like  of Annadurai. But that is not to deride the talent of M. Karunanidhi.

In a period  between 1947 and 2014, M Karunanidhi wrote 75 films, 105 poems ,  songs for 19 films, 12 books ,all in Tamil language,  hundreds of articles, and nine  full length stage plays. In 2011 he wrote his last film  script, a huge  historical drama,  titled, ‘ Punnar Shanker’, with good commercial success.

Let it be on record that as a film  script and screenplay  writer Thiru M Karunanidhi was not the most voluminous writer in Indian Cinema. Perhaps that credit goes to the prolific Sachin Bhowmick who wrote 105 film scripts , story and screenplays in Hindi and  Bengali languages and still remained unrecognized for his genius.

Thiru M Karunanidhi  gets  our attention because  in his literary talent he created a major social and political  movement in the country. He, using  the film medium, introduced and educated his Dalit community  into the history of Tamil people and the more glorious past, and created a separate identity of the Tamil people worldwide.  Sachin Bhowmick could not achieve this, even by long lengths.  Karunanidhi did more good to the Tamil film industry in more than one way by bringing in order and discipline in its studios, attended to labour welfare and pushed Tamil cinema to the forefront against the onslaught of Hindi and other language cinemas of the country.

Therefore,  I submit that  Thiru M. Karunanidhi should be conferred the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for his contribution to Indian Cinema.

Incidentally for a life spend for 71 long years in public service, save for a lone citation by  S.S. Barnala, then Governor of Tamil Nadu for public service,  the Nation did not consider it fit to confer upon him even a single Award of national merit. Those who were handling this business,  feared his political talent and missed out on the writing genius, which brought him in the forefront of public service, in the first instance.

The writer is a national awardee film historian, and a former IPS officer. Trade Magazine