Actor, journalist and political commentator Srinivasa Iyer Ramaswamy, popularly referred to as Cho Ramaswamy, passed away in Chennai in the early hours of Wednesday morning. He was 82 and was admitted to Apollo hospital on account of chest pain on Saturday, where he suffered from a cardiac arrest three days later. A popular household name in Tamil Nadu, he was a close friend of late chief minister Jayalalithaa, who passed away just a day earlier in the same hospital.
While he began his career as a lawyer and then went on to become an actor and theatre personality, Ramaswamy’s popularity in Tamil Nadu in his later years lay in the Tamil language weekly magazine ‘Thuglak’, which he founded and edited. Known for his audacious and impartial political assessments, he was the winner of the B D Goenka Award for excellence in journalism. Despite being close to several political leaders, he did not shy away from making critical evaluation of their administrative failures. An admirer of Jayalalithaa, he was heard saying in an interview that the only time he was critical of her was during the period between 1998 and 2002, when he felt the former was misusing her power.
Born in a family of lawyers, Ramaswamy had a brief stint at the legal profession before moving on to theatre and films. As a theatre personality, his plays were reputed for having in them a strong tone of political and social satire. One of his most popular plays, ‘Muhammad bin Tughlaq’, written by Ramaswamy in 1968, ran well into the 2000s and was also turned into a film.
As an actor, Ramaswamy made his debut in 1963 with Tamil film, Paar Magale Paar where he acted as a comedian. He played a part in some 190 films in his acting career. Ramaswamy acted along with Jayalalithaa in 19 films and alongside both Jayalalithaa and her mentor MGR in several films as well.
Ramaswamy was also a Rajya Sabha MP from 1999 to 2005 and was elected to the seat by president K R Narayanan. In his last years, he was particularly appreciative of the current prime minister Narendra Modi, whom he described as a ‘merchant of death’ with reference to death of terrorism, corruption, nepotism, official inefficiency and poverty. His death is being mourned by many who will miss his witty and intelligent take on politics.