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From PA to minister

When D Napoleon started off as a personal assistant to a minister, he didn’t imagine he would become one himself. Kumkum Chadha tells more.

india Updated: Oct 02, 2009 00:56 IST
Kumkum Chadha

When D Napoleon started off as a personal assistant to a minister, he didn’t imagine he would become one himself.


Napoleon’s uncle, K.N. Nehru, was Public Welfare Minister in the DMK-led government in Tamil Nadu in the late Eighties. Napoleon served him, pushing files and juggling appointments -- an ordinary life of an ordinary man.

It was when people began describing him as tall, well built and handsome that Napoleon started believing the image. That was enough to push him into films. He signed his first one when he was 27 years old. His role was to play a 60-year-old villain. It was tough, but he did it. The film was a hit and he never looked back. Except that he changed from villain to hero, dropping his name Kumaresan and adopting Napoleon.

“I wanted to be named after French statesman who is famous for his courage and valour,” Napoleon told HT.

Having had his fill in films, he then wanted to help transform lives — his own and those of people he came across. The answer, he figured, was in being elected an MP or an MLA. So, he took the plunge.

“In my films I played a politician, also a chief minister. But they are shadows of the real thing,” Napoleon said. As he had been active during elections in the Eighties, he found a ready platform and the support of DMK chief M. Karunanidhi. He was pitched for the Assembly in 2001 from Villivakkam — Asia’s largest constituency. Within nine years he headed for
Parliament and also made it as a minister the first time around. This, he said, was an additional promotion.

“In films he portrayed a villain but in real life he is a hero. He stands by his friends and reaches out to his people,” said businessman V.R.D. Krishnamurthy, who has seen Napoleon rise in films and politics.

Last year, Napoleon had appealed to his fans not to celebrate his birthday and instead express solidarity with the innocent Tamils’ plight in Sri Lanka.

During a trip to Malaysia, Napoleon turned down a dinner invitation from a minister who was selective about who he was hosting. “There were 50 of us but the minister invited only 15,” said his childhood buddy S.V.M. Saravanam. “Napoleon refused, saying, all or none. Finally, the minister invited everyone.”