Towering public intellectual, journalist, actor and satirist Cho Ramaswamy passed away on December 7 in Chennai. Founder editor of Tamil Magazine Tuglak, Cho shaped the consciousness and opinion of generations
T S Venkatesan, Chennai
Journalist, Actor, play-write, Political satirist Ramaswamy, popularly known as Cho Ramaswamy, died in Chennai on December 7 following a cardiac arrest at the age of 82. Born on October 5, 1934 to senior lawyer-turned agriculturist Srinivasa Iyer and Rajambal, he grew up in Mylapore and studied law. During his college days, he was a member of an amateur theatre troupe, where he befriended young Jayalalithaa who used to accompany her mother Sandhya for rehearsals. He had practised law in Madras high court for six years before joining TTK Group as its legal advisor for several years.
Cho wrote nearly 23 stage dramas, including ‘Mohammed Bin Thuglaq’, where he resurrected Thuglaq from his grave to become the prime minister of India. He acted in 200 films, directed four and scripted another 14. He got the name “Cho” from a character he enlivened on the stage in a play called ‘Thenmozhiyal’. He scripted and directed TV serials and acted in them. He worked with matinee idols M G Ramachandran and Sivaji Ganesan, Jaisankar, besides Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan. He was a close friend of former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa, who died on December 4. He had good equations with all political leaders.
Cho was admitted to Apollo Hospitals on November 29 for chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). He was moved to the intensive care unit when his condition worsened. “He was watching the news and Jayalalalithaa funeral procession until Tuesday (December 6) afternoon. His condition deteriorated and he was put on a ventilator,” said a treating doctor. He died at 4am. Cho is survived by his wife Soundara Ramaswamy, son Rajivakshan alias Sriram and daughter Sindhu.
Cho was founder editor of Tamil magazine Thuglak (1970). Every year, on January 14, he held a public meeting to meet his readers and honour staff of the magazine. Senior leaders also attended the annual meeting. He championed continuously for right wing ideologies. He was constant contrarian to the populist Dravidian parties, Tamil separatism, support for LTTE etc. Cho was a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha from 1999 to 2005.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his tweet said:“Cho Ramaswamy was a multidimensional personality, towering intellectual, great nationalist and fearless voice who was respected and admired,” and brilliant” he said
In his condolence message to his wife Soundara Ramaswamy, the President Pranab Mukerjee said, “I am sad to learn about the passing away of your husband, Cho Ramaswamy, well known theatre and film personality, journalist and former Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha). “Shri Ramaswamy was admired for his wit and satire. He was a fearless critic of all that was wrong. A non-conformist who lent voice to the silent majority through his incisive writing,” Mukherhjee said. He said Ramaswamy maintained the highest standards of professionalism throughout his life for which he was honoured with many awards, including the G D Goenka Award for excellence in journalism.“Cho proved a pen and a brush are the mightiest weapons against falsehood, was crusader for truth, supported movement to popularise Thiruvalluvar in Northern part of Bharat. I had met him in Apollo Hospital Chennai some time back when he was convalescing though had a difficulty in speaking. He was very happy to see me and blessed efforts to bring the teachings of Thiruvalluvar to the masses specially in the North India schools and colleges. Though unable to speak due to illness, he was kind to write on a slate his appreciation of Thiruvalluvar Ganga Payanam: “You are doing great work. Congrats. Keep it up”. He was awarded the Panchjanya award for fearless journalism by Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee in 1997. His voice was the voice of the masses, his satires pardoned none and his commitment to India's culture and civilisational values was unshakeable,” remembered Tarun Vijay, former editor of Panchjanya who was present in Chennai.