The Artiste as a Young Man

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NO CHIEF minister in India is as multi-faceted as Tamil Nadu’s M Karunanidhi, who at the age of 85, apart from heading the government, also regularly writes poems and articles in the party organ Murasoli. Nearly 60 years after writing the fiery lines in the critically acclaimed Parasakthi — which was also the debut film for late thespian Sivaji Ganesan — he is still writing scripts. He recently wrote the screenplay and dialogue for a new film which will probably star Uday Kiran and Meera Jasmine. Karunanidhi, who took over the reins of the DMK in the late 1960s, still has an iron grip on it, though confined to a wheelchair these days.

M Karunanidhi
M Karunanidhi
Age: 85
Profession: Chief Minister, Tamil Nadu and leader of the DMK
Lifestyle : He has been living in a modest house in Gopalapuram for years, and has refused to move. His house will become a charity hospital after his lifetime Photo: AP

His day begins around 5am. After reading the dailies, he is on the phone pulling up officials or giving instructions to ministers. He prefers vegetarian food, though he occasionally eats fish. He goes to bed around midnight.

When he is at home he is either writing or reading. At present, he is reading Jaswant Singh’s book on Jinnah. He prefers to write with his own hand. When someone in the family asked why he doesn’t dictate to his secretary, his response was: “I am not a dictator.”

His ability to recall dates and details of old events is legendary. “One thing that I envy about him is his memory. I may not even have 0.01 percent of his memory,” says his daughter and Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi. That’s just one of Karunanidhi’s assets at 85, which has put him on the CM’s seat for the fifth time.