King Poet’ Kannadasan at 91

Random Thoughts, Part 4

by Sachi Sri Kantha, September 18, 2018

Santhithaen Sinthithaen book cover

One of my favorite books in my Kannadasan collection is, ‘Santhithaen Cinthithaen’ – translated as ‘[I] Met and [I] Thought’. It was a collection of thumb nail sketches Kannadasan wrote to the Kumudam weekly magazine in 1979 and 1980. Only 55 individuals were featured in this collection. Among these 55, Kannadasan wrote about a few personalities affiliated to the movie world. These included, MGR (then the chief minister of Tamil Nadu), MGR’s ‘Man Friday’ R.M. Veerappan, actresses T.R. Rajakumari, Devika, Pusphalatha, director K. Balachandar, producers T. Rama suntharam (son of Modern Theatres T.R. Sundaram), Dasari Narayana Rao, music directors M.S. Viswanathan and Pukalezhnthi (aka Velappan Nair), playback singer Vani Jayaram and script writer A.L. Narayanan. As Kannadasan had died in October 1981, this collection was published posthumously in 1982.

An apt publisher’s note for this book was written by Vanathi Thirunavukkarasu. He was also one among the 55 portrayed by Kannadasan. I provide a translation of this publisher’s note below:

“King Poet Kannadasan had left us. What he had left us had gained the status of ‘immortal life’. Whatever he touched became gold. Whatever he said became songs.

To the Kumudam magazine, he wrote about his friends under the caption ‘The Person I met this week’. Whoever he wrote about, and whatever field they belonged to, when that particular issue was released, their fame became magnified. With strength in their hearts and woke style, they advanced further.

Occasionally he wrote about folks who lived silently and were side-tracked by the society. Their deeds were healed and they cried with joy.

In those days, kings honored folks with epigraphical recordings and copper inscriptions for permanent placements. They gained status in the society and continued their heroic deeds.

Like this, many folks wished that they will be chosen for recording in King Poet’s ‘The Person I met this week’. How many can be incorporated (in his column)? Only one per week. Those who were chosen were the lucky ones.”

Rajadurai (left), Dudley Senananayake (middle), Chelvanayagam with garland

One of those lucky ones was Mr. Chelliah Rajadurai (b. 1927), Federal Party stalwart from the Eastern Province, who moved into UNP’s camp in 1979. He was the only Eelam Tamil, who gained this recognition from Kannadasan. I provide the English translation of what Kannadasan wrote about Rajadurai below.

“Sri Lanka’s Tamil minister C. Rajadurai has been my close friend for nearly 20 years. His children have been studying in Chennai, under my responsibility.

In 1955, he invited me to Batticaloa and gave me a great welcome.

After he had become the Minister, he had visited Chennai twice. This time, his visit was related to the Golden Jubilee anniversary of Annamalai University, and I met him in Chennai.

He had been a member of Federal Party of Ceylon for over 25 years. He also served as the mayor of Batticaloa for 15 years and as MP in parliament for 15 years. Now he had left the Federal Party and had become a cabinet minister in Jayewardene’s party.

Even before he left the Federal Party and after that too, he consulted with me. He told me that the Federal Party had used him, but dug hole to him many times.

For instance, the party had given tickets to two: himself and another individual. That second guy was poet Kasi Ananthan, though they endorsed eventually Kasi Ananthan. Nevertheless, Rajadurai won that contest. [Note by Sachi: Kannadasan makes reference to the 1977 general election.]

Rajadurai had successfully maintained his popularity in that same constituency for 25 years.

Rajadurai’s views are as follows: ‘It is reasonable that the Ceylon Federal Party made antagonistic actions against [then PM] Sirimavo. But it’s wrong to oppose Jayewardene. The edict of Sirimavo’s government that Tamil government officers should also learn Sinhalese language. But Jayewardene cancelled this edict. Thus, Tamils who were affected for 15 years in their job promotions, were able to succeed in it. He also helps in the promotion of Hindu culture. Federal Party can benefit by working with him [Jayewardene].

Twenty five years ago, his [Rajadurai] speech and writing followed the DMK style. Even now, his use of Tamil still resembles Anna’s style.

Rajadurai is one without any bad habits. He is a cool friend. During Karunanidhi’s tenure, Rajadurai’s daughter Poongothai received admission to a medical college. Now she works as a doctor. Until he became a minister, when he visits Chennai, he stayed with me. Now he stays at the Chepauk Guest House. He compares our friendship as an ancient link to previous birth. The way his children and family is treated by our family proves this to be true.”

Kannadasan was born on June 24, 1927. Rajadurai was born, a month later on July 27, 1927. What Kannadasan mentions about Rajadurai’s use of Tamil was apt. Rajadurai has a moniker, ‘Ezhil Tamil Aalar’ (literally meaning, One who rules with charm Tamil). In fact, if I characterize his career as a charmer and survivor, it will not be an exaggeration. He became a familiar face to me in mid 1960s, when he occasionally visited our school, Colombo Hindu College in Ratmalana, to deliver speeches on festive occasions. One of his sons, Raveenthiran was a classmate of me for a year in 1966.

Twenty five years ago, to the Tamil Nation (print edition), I wrote, “After the death of S J V Chelvanayakam in early 1977, Rajadurai’s political fortune as a Tamil leader took a bad turn. He misjudged the mood of the young Tamils. Now in hindsight (after the passing of the Amirthalingam wave), I feel that Rajadurai’s contributions to Tamil nationalism and literature in the East Eelam of 1950s and early 1960s need re-evaluation. Whatever may be his misdemeanors in 1980s, Rajadurai did earn the trust of Chelvanayakam as well as the friendship of MGR and Kannadasan in Tamil Nadu, way back in the 1950s. One couldn’t have been such a bad guy to be misjudged by three beloved Tamil leaders.” []

Now I infer that Rajadurai was a victim of ‘Amirthalingam wave’ that lasted for six years, from 1977 to 1983. Like Karunanidhi’s politics, Amirthalingam also uprooted a few fertile plants, whom he considered as his rivals for post-Chelvanayakam leadership in the party. The first was V. Navaratnam (1910-2006). Rajadurai (b. 1927) was second. Born in August 26, 1927, Amirthalingam was a month younger to Rajadurai. Both V. Navaratnam and Rajadurai chose the option to leave the party. Another front ranking leader of Federal Party, V.N. Navaratnam (1929-1991), who was two years younger to Amirthalingam retired from politics in 1983, partly due to differences with Amirthalingam. V.N. Navaratnam, mentioned this to me, when I met him in 1985.



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