The demise of Kalaignar Karunanidhi on Wednesday sent a wave of sorrow across the nation. Not only the political arena, but even the cinematic spheres were feeling a gaping hole. Given, the veteran politician had started off his journey as a screenwriter in the Tamil industry. And while he is no more, the greatness of his works stays. On that note, let's talk about the 1952 movie Parasakthi, which was scripted by Kalaignar.
Parasakthi, which marked the debut of legendary star Sivaji Ganesan, is considered as one of most iconic films in the history of Tamil cinema, as it successfully managed to convey a socially responsible story with strong political views. The movie was way ahead of its time and faced a lot of opposition considering its theme that was heavily-laden with religious tones.
Karunanidhi’s script touched untrodden areas in Tamil cinema at that time, making it a benchmark for films that showcased the realities of life on screen. At baseline, it may have been a family drama centered on a brother-sister relationship, but it did have tons of references to religion, caste and system practices. Before the release, the film faced a lot of opposition from the censor board and a section of the audience, who were against the dialogues and the viewpoints that the film put across.
We spoke to G Dhananjayan, National award-winning author, film historian, and producer, and got an insight into why and how the film broke barriers in the Tamil cinema.
“Many people do not know that the story of Parasakthi was not written by Kalaignar, it was originally a stage play penned by Pavalar Balasundaram. Producer Perumal Mudaliar was the one who acquired the rights of the play, with the idea of bringing in Sivaji to play the lead role after being impressed by his performance in another play named En Thangai (which was later done by MGR in its film adaptation, interestingly),” he says. “Many people in Perumal Mudaliar’s circle wanted KR Ramasamy to play the lead role, but the producer was very particular about Sivaji’s inclusion.”
And that is when Kalaignar came in. “After doing films such as Rajakumaari, Mandiri Kumaari, Abhimanyu and Bharatnatya Ilavarasi, Kalaignar had a good name as a writer then. Until this point, the stories which he had written were all narrations of history. For the first time, Kalaignar had the chance to write social dialogues in Parasakthi. He took the opportunity with both hands, bringing in his own version of the stage play. He added a lot of elements so that it looked contemporary, tackling many topics such as superstitions, family situations, politics and the organisation of a living environment,” Dhananjayan shares.
The script was written in 1950, so it was just three years after India got independence, giving him the opportunity to pull in ideas from the daily operation of the society and its troubles. The whole milieu of seeing a layman’s life on cinema was new to the audience, as people had got used to experiencing only the regal romances involving kings and queens on the big screen. It was a representation of life, and also the breakthrough of using cinema as a medium to communicate principals, philosophies, and ideologies to the people.
Adding more, G. Dhananjayan says “The output of the film shocked the audience. Other writers started thinking wide on how such things could be portrayed openly, with oppositions flowing in from both the censor board and some common folk as well. Despite all the negativity, the film went on to become a huge blockbuster. After the release, just the audio gramophone recordings of the film sold in large numbers, mainly for the thought-provoking dialogues.”
With the death of Karunanidhi, we indeed have lost a great leader, but we have also lost the creative mind who took the baton of revolutionary filmmaking ahead in Kollywood. Parasakthi shall always be remembered for its path-breaking content.