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On 6 March 1967, fifty-eight-year-old Conjeevaram Natarajan Annadurai became chief minister of Madras state, when his party, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), swept to power for the first time. Marking the pinnacle of his public life, it reflected his popularity among ordinary people who revered him as Anna, or elder brother. This rich biography illuminates his many lives as a charismatic leader of modern India, as a stalwart of the Dravidian movement, as the founder of the DMK, as spokesman for the South besides documenting his abilities as an acclaimed orator and littérateur in Tamil and English, and as a stage actor. Born into a weaving caste family in Kanchipuram, Anna was exposed to the non-Brahmin politics of the Justice Party during his college years and this interest led him to become a protégé of the radical thinker Periyar E.V. Ramasamy in 1935. Anna promoted his mentor s ideas of Self-Respect and Tamil identity but not his atheism. Like him, he attacked Brahminism and Aryan values as the cause of Tamil political and cultural decadence and opposed the imposition of Hindi as the official language. In 1962 Anna took his independent Dravida Nadu demand to the Rajya Sabha, threatening the nation s unity. Importantly, he used public speaking, journalism, theatre, cinema and agit-prop to broaden the base of the party, which drew renowned film actors into its fold, a bond that endures to this day. The book does not shy away from the controversies that surrounded the Dravidian movement and candidly examines Anna s complex relationship with Periyar. It records Anna s move to form the DMK in 1949, his split with Sampath in 1961 over the party s strategy and course, and his disillusionment with the corruption and power politics he witnessed as chief minister. Kannan draws on Anna s considerable body of writing, the memoirs of other leaders and authors in Tamil, including critics like the poet Kannadasan, Jayakanthan and P. Ramamurti, apart from secondary sources. Featuring luminaries like Rajagopalachari and Kamaraj, Kalaignar Karunanidhi and MGR, among many others, Anna offers a warm and rounded portrait of a man who showed the way for the democratic expression of regional aspirations within a united India.
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R. Kannan is a child of the Dravidian movement and has long been a commentator on Dravidian politics. Raised and educated at Chennai, Kannan completed his LLM from the University of Georgia and PhD in International Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. He has served in various capacities with the United Nations in two continents for nearly a quarter of a century. He presently heads the Basra office of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq. His latest book is MGR: M.G.Ramachandran, A Life.Review:
Thoroughly researched, engagingly written, combining analytical rigour with anecdotal verve, R. Kannan's life of C.N. Annadurai is a landmark in the annals of contemporary Indian political biography. It brings to life a giant of our age who deserves to be far better known outside his native Tamil Nadu. The impact of Anna's life and message still endures. Every thinking Indian should be aware of it, and there could be no better source in the English language to understand Anna's contribution in shaping our India than this fine book. --Shashi Tharoor
Anna: The Life and Times of C.N. Annadurai admirably fills an intriguing gap, the absence of a reliable biography of one of the most interesting, attractive, and consequential of modern India s political leaders, whose legacy is no less than the permanent transformation of Tamil Nadu s socio-political landscape, the ascendancy of the federal idea, and a whole new democratic language of connecting with the masses. This is a sympathetic work that . . . uses its sources well and keeps a critical distance from its subject and the movement he led. A special triumph is the fresh life it brings to the fascinating personal and political relationship between Anna and his formidable mentor, the iconoclastic social reformer Periyar . This accessible and lucidly written work is an invaluable read on the Dravidian Movement in its dynamic and most democratic phase, before the loss of innocence. --N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu User Reviews
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