Tuesday, Aug 16, 2022

Chennai Corner

Jayalalitha should be gloating over the rap on the knuckles for the CM, but she is curiously silent. What is more, she seems to be reluctant to return to the rough and tumble of politics in Chennai, four months after she went and took up residence in

Taking The SC For Granted
In response to the contempt of court notice served by the Supreme Court regarding the state-sponsored bandh in Chennai on October 1, 2007, the Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police had duly filed their affidavits but, curiously enough, Chief Minister M Karunanidhi and union minister for shipping, road & transport, T.R. Baalu, did not. The bandh -- coming a few weeks after the CM had famously queried, "Who is Ram? Was he a civil engineer?" -- was called to pressure the centre for speedy implementation of the Sethusamudram project. The demands had also included action against VHP activist Ram Vilas Vedanti who had issued a "fatwa" against Karunanidhi for his disparagement of Ram.

Now the CM blames the two lawyers (V G Prakasam and D Harishkumar) who, he claims, did not bring to his "notice the urgency of the matter and the need to file the affidavit in time" and that his "government has always upheld the supremacy of law" on being threatened with an arrest warrant by the apex court. Needless to say, the hapless lawyers have been relieved of their posts as government counsel.

"Intriguing", says a former bureaucrat. Implying, of course, that when the Apex Court had threatened the CM last year that it would recommend to the President that his government be dismissed when he and his cabinet had authored the bandh violating a court stay, Karunanidhi should have been more careful in responding to the contempt of court notice. Both the CM and Baalu had repeatedly sought adjournments since the contempt notice. 

K Malaichamy, AIADMK MP and a former home secretary is more direct: "Though the CM claims that his advocates had not brought the matter to his notice, the government should be held responsible as it had vicarious liability". He thinks the the Apex Court was "taken for granted." Well, this is certainly not the first time. Electricity minister Arcot Veeraswamy -- who is believed to speak for the CM on certain occasions -- had once accused the high court of -- among things -- behaving like a "kangaroo  court" and ended up having to file a petition saying he had not intended "to intimidate the judiciary or interfere in its functioning." 

Even J Jayalalitha had to come up with a mea culpa after her comment, "judges are also human beings, with likes and dislikes," in February 2005 when she was CM.

Amma In The Hills
Incidentally, Jayalalitha was the one who moved the Supreme Court against the bandh announced by the CM on September 24. Her initial approach was to the high court which implied that since the Democratic Progressive Alliance, the rainbow coalition formed by the DMK, called for a bandh, not a strike or hartal, it was okay. But the Apex Court took a different view with the result that the CM quickly converted the bandh into a "hunger-fast" (as against a hunger-strike, presumably) and rushed to the secretariat to push files.

Curiously, although Jayalalitha should be gloating over the rap on the knuckles for the CM, she is silent. What is more, she seems to be reluctant to return to the rough and tumble of politics in Chennai, four months after she went and took up residence in her house in the Ooty hills at Kodanadu estate. This week was the third time she cancelled her return in 45 days. She had planned to return on June 20, but cancelled at the last minute. Even while the nation was riveted to the trust vote of the Manmohan Singh government, she was booked to return on July 21 but pulled out. While she has no MPs, she was still the only major political leader in the country who played no part -- unlike UP CM Mayawati who positioned herself as the potential PM of the third front -- in the trust vote.

Amma was scheduled once more to return this Monday and had booked nine tickets for herself, her friend Sasikala and the rest of her entourage but cancelled 15 minutes before the departure of the flight.

A New Look Amma?
One wonders whether a new look Jayalalitha will emerge since her last public appearance at Sundatti village on May 19 when she danced with the local tribals, the Badagas. Word from the Ooty retreat is that she is undergoing Ayurvedic rejuvenation therapy, taking long walks around her sprawling estate and also nurturing a garden. Has she gotten more spiritual since she turned 60? Or is she just taking a breath after the flurry of press statements criticizing Karunanidhi and his governance and taking on the CM's son Azhagiri accusing him of "terrorizing" Madurai? Perhaps she is now planning to put Karunanidhi on the mat on the law and order situation in the context of the psycho killer on the loose in Chennai? 

Psycho Killer
Incidentally, while the public and police was distracted with the terrorist footprint in Tamil Nadu, even if bombs did not go off here, five more watchmen have been killed in the last 10 days in different areas including East Coast Road. The earlier spate of nine murders happened in and around the Vadapalani area. While a serial killer who attacked women in toddy compounds over three years has been nabbed in Hyderabad, the police here are still clueless. The latest theory is that there's a gang of seven psycho-killers who have "graduated" from being rowdies to murderers. But all the victims were poor, if not homeless. Go figure!

Script Is King
The proof of a film is in the footfalls in movie theatres notwithstanding the hype that precedes its opening. And on this count, both Kuselan which was marketed as a Rajnikanth film and Dasavatharam, which was hyped up because Kamal Haasan played 10 roles (a wag asked, "Why did'nt he play the part of the heroines too?") have failed. The script is the king in a film and in Dasavatharam, Kamal was so busy essaying his different roles, the script took a back seat. And in Kuselan, which was a super-hit in its Malayalam version with a mere cameo by Mamooty, Rajni's extended role did not do the trick. Nor did his dialogue where he tries to explain his flirtation with politics. For a man who delivered loaded political dialogue in most of his films -- which implied his response to the political dispensation at the relevant time -- in Kuselan, Rajni makes it clear that he merely spouted lines written in the script. 

So, in addition to apologising abjectly to Karnataka on the Hoganekkal project (where he had advocated "kicking" those creating trouble) and buying anger and jealously from the Tamil film industry -- as can be read in the statements from Sharat Kumar and Satyaraj -- and from many of his fans in Tamil Nadu--Rajnikant seems to have delivered a dud. Of course, there are loyal fans who say the film failed because it was not a "typical" Rajni films, but that comes from the goodwill he has earned. Here's a small sampler of that. A Salsa and western dance trainer told me, "The dancers who are hired for a Rajnikant film get double the money they earn in other films. He sees to it." He's  one actor who earns in crores but generously doles it out to his crew and junior artists which makes him a true blue Superstar in their eyes. Don't mind it!

Have you checked your Inbox lately?
Speaking of scripts, Kiruthiga Udhayanidhi confessed to me, "I love to write stories and beg my husband to read them." A candid confession from someone who is the CM's granddaughter-in-law. She is married to Stalin's son Udhayanidhi, who is a producer. Must say this couple wears their links to the "first family of TN" lightly and not in your face like some of Udhayanidhi's Madurai-based cousins.

Twenty-something Kiruthiga, who has been married six years and has a three and a half-year-old son, has poured her creative energy into Inbox 1305, a magazine about Chennai which was launched last week. For those who think it is a corny title, Kiruthiga has an explanation "13 05 stands for Chennai's latitude and Inbox is because "everyone asks whether you have checked your inbox." Call me cynical, but I would argue that despite Tamil Nadu having good parameters on the social index and a wide mobile and TV coverage, having an inbox would be an alien concept to many. 

Still it's a glossy magazine (one attractive Pg 3 person approvingly told her the best thing was that her fingers did not turn black with the ink coming off the pages) and circulated among the beautiful set, because even if it is priced at Rs 25, the magazine is for them. The first issue has Kamal Haasan on the cover, with an interview that unravels his close association with the city since his childhood. The magazine has the staple of such publications -- food, travel, profiles, tech talk, fashion, book reviews. Needless to mention, it is ad-heavy -- one of the perks of being related to the CM. But neither the CM nor father-in-law Stalin were at hand when Kiruthiga unveiled her baby (they were both in Vellore inaugurating the newly-formed municipal corporation). But Udhayanidhi was there to greet the guests including Aishwarya (Rajni's daughter), actors Vishal and Shreya Reddy and designers Chaitanya Rao, Sidney and Erum Ali.

Kiruthiga started her professional life as a copywriter and now is an editor. Will she get her hubby to turn one of stories into celluloid? Stay tuned.