Will film the 'dark Gandhi' work magic for Congress?

A film on late Congress leader K. Kamaraj - also known as "the dark Gandhi" - is set to make a splash, coming as it does ahead of general elections in India.

"Kamaraj", by producer-director A. Balakrishnan, is being distributed across Tamil Nadu. Such a project was on the cards for decades but it was only some two years ago that it began in earnest.

The release of the film at this time is seen as a shot in the arm for the Congress in southern India because it is a documentary not only on Kamaraj but also on the contributions of the party.

The film, says Balakrishnan, was shot in 20 days, with a budget of Rs.5 million.

Kamaraj was one of the most successful chief ministers of Tamil Nadu. But Congress rule ended in Tamil Nadu in 1967 and after that Kamaraj moved to backstage politics.

He was referred to here as "Karuppu Gandhi", or the dark Gandhi.

The film uses a considerable amount of archive footage to recapture scenes on people who moulded the early life of Kamaraj, who came from the southern district of Virudhnagar.

The film is being released also at a time when the DMK and its allies, including the Congress, have all gathered in Virudhnagar to hold a two-day strategy conference for the forthcoming parliamentary elections.

An aide to Kamaraj was roped into the production team by the director to ensure that scenes and speeches looked authentic. Dubbing artiste M.S. Bhaskar gave the voiceover.

The film has not been made with Congress funds but a lot of archival material pertaining to the party in the 1950s and 1960s has been used.

It is in three parts, the first showing Kamaraj's growth as a politician before independence and the influence of another Congress stalwart, popularly known only as Sathyamurthy, on the young Kamaraj.

The role of Kamaraj is played by actor Sampath. In the second half of the film, it is played by Richard Madhuram.

The second phase shows Kamaraj as the man he was, incorruptible, an able chief minister who steered reform in the education sector, a large-hearted Gandhian, and as a man ready to walk the extra mile for a good cause.

The third phases captures the leader's life as a Congress strongman, his tabling of the Kamaraj Plan, rejuvenation of the Congress party and his own personal disillusionment with politics and the ethics of politics until his death.

Veteran music director Illayaraja has given the music.

Illayaraja, says director Balakrishnan, was so influenced by the film that he was not satisfied with just providing the background score.

"When he saw the completed version, he offered to do the music for three songs in the film. He even chose the parts where the three new songs would fit," he said.

Lyrics writer Vaalii wrote the songs. Illayaraja also provided the music for the scene showing Kamaraj's funeral.

He says he has produced the film "keeping young audiences in mind".

"Kamaraj entered the freedom movement at the tender age of 13, going round the streets singing 'Vande Mataram'. It was the young in those days who formed the core of the social reform movement.

"This film will bring back memories of those days for the older generation. But it will also make a strong impact on the younger generation."