Comedian actor, political satirist and editor Cho Ramaswamy, a legend in his own right, died here early on Wednesday, just a day after viewing on TV the burial of his old friend J. Jayalalithaa.
A former member of the Rajya Sabha, Cho, as he was widely addressed, suffered a cardiac arrest and died just before 4 a.m. at Chennai’s Apollo Hospitals, where the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister too passed away.
The 82-year-old Cho had been in and out of hospital since January 2015, family members and friends said.
Messages of condolences poured in from across the country, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi describing him as a friend and “a multi-dimensional personality, towering intellectual, great nationalist and fearless voice who was respected and admired”.
Cho founded and edited the political magazine Thuglak, where he earned universal respect as one who did not allow his personal friendship to pass impartial judgement on political events and personalities.
Between 1963 and 2005, the versatile Cho acted in 180 Tamil films, directed five movies, wrote and directed 20 plays, scripted and acted in 27 TV serials and also wrote 10 books.
The films he directed include the hugely popular Tamil political satire “Mohammed Bin Thuglak”, apart from “Mr Sampath” and “Sambo Siva Samboo”.
He was also a dialogue writer and lawyer.
Friends and even foes admired Cho for his impartial reading of political developments, both in Tamil Nadu and beyond, even when he had a soft corner for the BJP and Jayalalithaa.
Cho and Jayalalithaa, who died just before midnight on Monday, acted together in 19 films. He admired Jayalalithaa and she was said to pay heed to his views at one point.
As Editor, Cho built a rapport with many politicians in the country.
Way back in 1977, when the Emergency rule of Indira Gandhi ended, Cho campaigned for the newly formed Janata Party, which unseated the Congress for the first time nationally.
He was nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 1999 by the government of Prime Minister Atal Bihar Vajpayee.
Cho was among the few in Tamil Nadu who was never attracted to the violent ways of the Tamil Tigers from Sri Lanka even when the rebels used to enjoy widespread support in the state in the 1980s.
Both Modi and Jayalalithaa called on him when he was ill earlier this year.
Cho also acted with M.G. Ramachandran, Shivaji Ganesan, Kamal Hassan and Rajinikant among others.
BJP President Amit Shah described Cho as a fearless critic whose impartial assessment of political issues would be missed.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam expressed grief over his death and said Cho had immense affection for Jayalalithaa.
Superstar Rajinikanth and actors Ajith and Suriya were among the first from Tamil filmdom to pay homage to Cho. “As a writer, Cho never compromised,” Rajnikanth said.
Actor Suriya and brother Karthi also paid their last respects to Cho, whose best known films were “Nirai Kudam”, “Galatta Kalyanam”, “Bommalattam” and “En Annan”.
On her Twitter page, actor Shruti wrote: “Deeply saddened to hear that we have lost Cho Sir – a great mind and thinker.”
Filmmaker Aishwarya Dhanush wrote: “Memories of your witty humour and the most intelligent discussions we’ve had on many topics will remain etched in my heart forever.”
Calling Cho a “learned and intelligent man of the sharpest wit and humour”, R. Madhavan said he was “awesome on stage and unforgettable in films”.
According to Cho’s family, he learnt about the death of Jayalalithaa from his hospital bed.
And from there, he watched the last journey of Jayalalithaa until she was buried on the Marina beach. A night later, Cho passed away.