Cho Ramaswamy passes away

Chennai: Cho Ramaswamy, veteran journalist, playwright, actor, director, editor and political commentator, passed away on Wednesday morning at Apollo Hospital in Chennai at the age of 82. His last rites were performed in the afternoon.

Generally, disciples follow the guru. In this case the guru has followed his sishya, J Jayalalithaa, in death. He was personally close to the former chief minister who breathed her last on Monday night at 11.30. When Jayalalithaa needed advice after MGR’s demise in 1987 and his political legacy was not passed on to her in a smooth manner, Cho was her friend and philosopher.

Cho Ramaswamy had a very friendly disposition towards Narendra Modi. In his inimitable style, he called upon Narendra Modi to address a gathering in Chennai some time ago saying, “I invite the ‘merchant of death’ to address the gathering.” The audience, including Prime Minister Modi, burst into laughter. Cho went on with his introduction, “The merchant of death of terrorism, the merchant of death of corruption, the merchant of death of nepotism, the merchant of death of inefficiency in bureaucracy etc. is requested to speak.” Modi has paid rich compliments saying that he heard of Cho as a bold fighter against Emergency regime and a savior of democracy. He also recalled that some time back Cho told him that he is known as ‘Raj Guru’ in Tamil Nadu. It can be stated that Cho was behind the invitation to Modi from Jayalalithaa for lunch at her residence, Poes garden, after Modi got elected for the second time as chief minister of Gujarat.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted on hearing about the demise of Cho Ramaswamy saying,” He was multi-dimensional personality, towering intellectual, great nationalist and a fearless voice that was respected and admired.”

Jayalalithaa, who was not in the habit of visiting any one in hospital, had visited Cho and spent some time inquiring about his health when he was in hospital a few months ago. However, on policy matters Cho did not spare JJ. Though she was extremely touchy when she was criticized by the media and went on to harass veteran journalist N Ram of The Hindu with defamation notices and cases, she did not resort to any such punitive action against Cho. She treated it as friendly criticism. She could be both mean and generous when she chose.

Cho is the name of a character in his play ‘Thenmozhial’ which he played on the stage. Since the play was a runaway hit, the character’s name got associated with the actor and the playwright.

Born on 5th October 1938 in a family of lawyers in Mysore, Srinivas Iyer Ramaswamy also practised law for some time and he was a legal advisor to TTK Group. But his passion for stage and writing took him away from the legal profession and made him a famous editor of a feisty magazine, Thuglak. He acted as comedian and character artist in 200 films, directed four films and wrote script for 14 films. He wrote script for many TV serials in which he also acted.

The title of his magazine also came from a stage play, Mohammed Bin Thuglak, which was highly successful. In this play, Cho resurrected Thuglak from his grave and made him a prime minister of India.  It was a satire on floor-crossing and duplicity that was pervading politics. Despite opposition from the DMK, Cho had produced a film basing on the stage-play. He launched his magazine Thuglak on 14th January 1970. He described it as a responsible opposition. He wrote scathing prose full of weathering satire, peppered with fearless criticism of contemporary political figures and political punch. He criticized the mightiest in the land including Indira Gandhi, Karunanidhi, MG Ramachandran and J Jayalalithaa.

Cho was also a political activist in a way. He tried to broker a deal between Indira Gandhi and Kamaraj Nadar, his old friend, in order to facilitate a merger of the two factions of the Congress party. He was in contact with RSS chief Balasaheb Deoras, Jayaprakash Narayan, LK Advani, Modi, Chandrasekhar and Moopanar. His weekly, Thuglak, is selling about 60,000 copies. It stands by the weak and the meek. Cho always lent his voice for the voiceless.  Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his condolence message, said, “Cho was insightful, frank and brilliant.”

He was suffering from chronic lung infection. He was admitted in Apollo hospitals on November 29. He died at 4 AM on Wednesday. He is survived by wife, son and a daughter. He would be remembered for his fearless campaign against the despotic rule of Indira Gandhi during the Emergency between 1975 and 1977.

 

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