Former chief minister J Jayalalithaa and former founding editor of Thuglak magazine, political commentator and fellow actor Cho Ramaswamy shared a long friendship that continued till their very last, and as fate would have it, passed away within few hours of each other.
If Jayalalithaa found in Cho, a well-read intellectual on the sets when she was an actor, Cho saw in her a spark as a leader that he tracked all through his working life as the editor of Thuglak that drew heavily on wit, humour and sarcasm to narrate political stories tellingly.
Jayalalithaa may have been his friend, but he did not spare her when criticizing her government. Neither did she allow any concessions and targeted his publication, denying advertisements after Cho had invited one of her party MLAs, Karuppaiah, to address one of the magazine’s annual functions.
In January this year, Karuppaiah had launched a stinging criticism of Jayalalithaa and her style of governance and was summarily expelled.
But Jayalalithaa and Cho’s friendship survived the turbulence.
Cho once described Jayalalithaa as a “phenomenon”.
A little before 2011 assembly elections, Cho said, “If Jayalalithaa teams up with Captain, she will be invincible.” Tamil actor Vijaykanth, also known as Captain, heads the DMDK, which won 29 seats that year.
Ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, he hit the nail on the head saying, “Even all by herself, she will do very well in Lok Sabha elections.” The AIADMK won 37 of the 39 Lok Sabha seats in the state.
But Cho never sweetened his comments on Jayalalithaa. “She does not take anyone’s advice, she has a mind of her own,” he once said.
Ahead of the Tamil Nadu assembly elections in 2016 though, he seemed to back the then AIADMK chief when he said, “Her government may be corrupt, but Jayalalithaa is still better than Karunanidhi.”
Describing Cho, Jayalalithaa once said, “He is my friend, philosopher and guide.”
And although the two had disagreements, she still had a soft corner for the acerbic Cho.
“Nothing will happen to you, promise me you will be around for a long time,” Jayalalithaa told Cho when she called on him last year at Apollo Hospital where he was admitted.
Cho had been in and out of hospital in recent times and was admitted to the Apollo hospital for the last time about a week ago. But the good friend that he was, Cho kept his word and breathed his last after Jayalalithaa was laid to rest at the Marina beach.