Just as Vijay’s film, Sarkar, is facing hostility from the state government, the classic movie, Parasakthi, in which Sivaji Ganesan made his debut and whose dialogues were written by M Karunanidhi, also had to undergo trials when it was released in 1952 during Diwali. Sarkar has had to undergo cuts including references to Komalavallli, apparently the original name of Jayalalithaa, burning of freebies, PWD as the source of dengue mosquito and so on.
Based on a play by Pavalar Balasundaram and directed by Krishnan Panju, the film faced rough weather triggered by the Congress government in power at that time. Though set during the World War II period, the film’s critique of religion and attacks on the establishment created much heartburn among Congress leaders. Many wrote to the government asking for a ban. The Congress party held public meetings condemning the film.
Dinamani Kathir, Dinamani newspaper’s magazine section, savaged the movie in its review. The article was signed in the name of NR – pseudonym for N Ramarathinam who served in the editorial board. Even the cover was a parody of the film. It showed a scantily-clad woman dancing and the poster carried the title, “Parabrahmam”. The poster said story and “slander” – in Tamil the word for slander rhymes with the word for dialogue – were by Dayanidhi, an unmistakable referene to Karunanidhi. Not to take it lying down, Karunanidhi penned a counter-attack in the form of a play called “Parabrahmam”. In his multi-volume autobiography, “Nenjukku Needhi”, Karunanidhi recalls that he, Sivaji and other DMK party members acted in it. “The scenes in which Sivaji played the role of Cheran Senguttuvan are still vivid in my memory,” he has written.
Researcher MSS Pandian wrote an article on this issue in the Economic And Political Weekly during the 1990s. A translation of the article was published in Kaatchi Pizhai, a Tamil publication focusing on films.
Pandian’s article says demands for banning the film cited dialogues such as a character in the film saying if she had become a prostitute ministers and top police officials would have been in her lap.
The researcher and thinker explains how the film passed the censors. He says many of the scenes and dialogues could be taken as attacks on the misuse of religion, rather than on religion itself. The overtly atheistic elements in the film were, howerver, dealt with, Pandian adds.
For instance, in the movie the temple priest asks if the goddess Parasakthi herself was speaking to him when Gunasekaran, the character played by Sivaji, talks to the priest from behind the Parasakthi idol. But Gunasekaran chides the priest for being a fool, asking how the Parasakthi idol which was just stone could speak and if she could speak she would have spoken up when his sister was molested inside the temple. Though the censors muted the word stone, Sivaji’s lip movements made it clear that he was speaking the word, stone, explains Pandian in the essay.
Some six months later, the central censors got some cuts done in the film. Among the cuts were Gunasekaran emphasizing idols are just stone pieces and the attempted rape of his sister, Kalyani.
Since the fear of a ban was always looming, audiences rushed to see the movie before it was banned. The film ran to 100 days in many theatres. The controversies surrounding the film and the ban talk helped to make Parasakthi a landmark movie of historical significance. It helped to establish Karunanidhi’s name in the people’s mind.
A famous scene from the movie Parasakthi