Tamil Nadu

Cho Ramaswamy, editor of 'Thuglak', dies at 82

Veteran journalist and actor, Cho Srinivasa Ramaswamy   | Photo Credit: Bijoy Ghosh

Cho S. Ramaswamy, political commentator, theatre personality and editor of Thuglak, a Tamil magazine known for its withering satire and fearless criticism of political figures, died here at Apollo Hospitals early on Wednesday. He was 82 and is survived by his wife, son and daughter.

Ramaswamy had been ailing for some time, and was admitted to hospital last week for breathing problems and poor intake of food.

Born on October 5, 1934, he was a lawyer by training and later branched into theatre, films and finally to journalism. Winner of the B.D. Goenka award for excellence in journalism, he was nominated to the Rajya Sabha by the BJP government and served as an MP from 1999 to 2005.

Besides his plays, some of which were made into successful films, Ramaswamy’s other writings covered a wide variety of subjects. Well-versed in the Indian epics, Vedas and Puranas, he wrote copiously on religion and culture.

The cremation took place in the evening. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among the first to condole Cho’s death.

Gadfly who carried satire & comedy from stage to print

A versatile personality, Cho Ramaswamy was a lawyer, actor, playwright, journalist, commentator and a political interlocutor, all rolled into one.

Born into a family of lawyers — his grandfather Arunachala Iyer, his father Srinivasa Iyer and uncle Mathrubootham were well-known lawyers — Cho also took up the legal profession. For some time, he was a legal advisor to the TTK group, before plunging fully into theatre. Later, he ventured into films and finally made his mark as a journalist by launching his own magazine.

Even before he entered journalism, his work in the popular theatre was laced with political and social criticism. If the attempts of the Congress government led by M. Bhaktavatsalam in the late 1960s to censor the script of his play Sambavami Yuge Yuge drew popular attention, his political satire Muhammed Bin Thuglak was a runaway success. It struck a chord with the people, as through the story of a whimsical king, it pilloried the vice of floor-crossing that was playing havoc with parliamentary democracy in many States then.

Cho was a close friend of many political leaders, former Chief Minister and late Congress president Kamaraj being one of them in his early days. He even worked as a go-between Kamaraj and Indira Gandhi for a possible merger of the Congress some time after its split.

Among the others he was close to were Jayaprakash Narayan, L.K. Advani, RSS leader Balasaheb Deoras, Chandra Shekhar, G.K. Moopanar. Among contemporaries, he was close to late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Muhammed Bin Thuglak was made into a film despite the then DMK government’s efforts to stop its production. Party cadres sought to disrupt the screening too — in some places the screen was torn by vandals.

By the time he launched Thuglak on January 14, 1970, he had already established a name for himself. The articles and cartoons in it were a bold challenge to vested interests. Often writing from a common man’s perspective, he seemed to lend his voice to the voiceless and the disempowered middle class.

Cho had a simplistic view of his success in the fields he forayed into. He described the launch of Thuglak and its role as a gadfly in Tamil Nadu political discourse as just an extension of the satire and comedy that were integral to his plays.

“I have been lucky,” he used to say. It was no surprise when he titled his memoir Athirshtam Thantha Anubavangal (‘Experiences Given by Fortune’).

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Printable version | Oct 28, 2020 8:42:12 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/Cho-Ramaswamy-editor-of-Thuglak-dies-at-82/article16771236.ece

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