Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Looking another way

For almost 40 years, this statue was in the middle of things. Unveiled on January 14, 1969, Kalaivanar's statue looked towards the west, almost as if he was turning his back to the trappings of power - the state legislature and secretariat were to the east. In an era where politics seemed to be the logical next step for a successful movie actor, Nagarcoil Sudalaimuthu Krishnan stayed away from the temptation, preferring to advance his theories of community development through the dialogues and songs from his films. 

The unveiling of his statue on Pongal day of 1969 was the then Chief Minister Aringar Anna's last public function. The event was attended by two others who would go on to become Chief Ministers themselves - Karunanidhi and MGR. And it was during Karunanidhi's most recent tenure that this statue was shifted from the middle of the roads - the junction of G.N.Chetty Road, Dr. Nair Road and Thirumalai Pillai Road - to the northeast corner of that junction. The flyover that came up at that intersection was named Kalaivanar Mempaalam, becoming only the second named flyover in Chennai.

The auditorium named after him - Kalaivanar Arangam - has been demolished; it is good that this statue was spared. Now NSK looks across to Vani Mahal - possibly to the stage that was his first love!

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