Actress Saroja Devi, in a conversation with Silverscreen, spoke at length about working with the late DMK leader and erstwhile scriptwriter M Karunanidhi. Saroja Devi, who collaborated with him on two films – Iruvar Ullam and Ellorum Innaattu Mannar – said, “Karunanidhi ayya was a great artist and an administrator. He dedicated his life to Tamil language and the state that bears its name. He wanted the language to be restored to its former glory and undertook so many efforts to make sure that it happened. I was always a little wary about speaking his dialogues onscreen, but he cheered me on. He would patiently explain the nuances of each line so that they do not get lost in translation. That is how dedicated he was.”
The actress added that she had always felt insecure about speaking Tamil on screen. And so, when she had to work with Karunanidhi, Saroja was understandably anxious. “I told him about my reservations. I was thinking of all possible scenarios. I would have even quit. His dialogues were high-minded and in pure Tamil. I felt that I wasn’t up to the task. He told me that my konju Tamil will only add flavour to his work. Without his encouragement, I wouldn’t have done those two movies. I regret that I couldn’t do more.”
He possessed a frightening intellect, Saroja recalled. “It would be difficult to get anything past him. He would spin us all in circles with his logic and wit. We have lost a great thinker and intellectual. And imagine, all of that was self-taught.”
Saroja Devi broke down yesterday when she went to see Karunanidhi one last time. “I knew him very well and he was very dear to me. His family is close to me as well. I tried consoling them the best I could. However, grief cannot be wished away with a hug or a gentle word. It will take us all a long time to get over the vacuum created in our hearts by his passing.”
Karunanidhi died on August 7 at a private hospital in Chennai due to age-related complications. He was laid to rest at Marina, near the memorial of his mentor and DMK founder CN Annadurai.