With his passing, former DMK chief Kalaignar Muthuvel Karunanidhi leaves behind a large family, who may not always see eye to eye. Apart from navigating the pressures of his political life – appeasing partymen and the occasional altercations with rivals – he has also had to walk a very fine line at home. With three wives and six children, it hasn’t always been easy.
Former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, one of Kalaignar’s greatest political rivals, often brought up how he had “power centres at home” in reference to his wives.
Meet the family:
Image created by Akruti Rao and Jaseem Ali
The Padmavathi branch
Karunanidhi's first wife was Padmavathi, who died very early. His first son, MK Muthu, was born to Padmavathi in 1948. Padmavathi died the same year of tuberculosis. Her jewellery had been pledged to help pay the running costs of ‘Murasoli’, which eventually became the DMK’s official newspaper.
Son MK Muthu
MK Muthu had great ambitions of being an actor. He idolised MG Ramachandran, a close friend of Kalaignar at the time, and often dressed like him. His debut, scripted by his father, Pillaiyo Pillai, was his greatest hit. Even though he did go on to act in a few more movies, none of them did well. He dabbled in politics briefly, even joining the DMK’s rival – MGR’s AIADMK – for a short period of time.
Muthu eventually faded and came back to prominence in 2008, when he recorded a song for the movie Mattuthavani. He married Sivagamisundari, and the couple has a son, Arivunidhi, and a daughter, Thenmozhi.
Thenmozhi is married to CK Ranganathan, who owns CavinKare. Their son, Manu Ranjith, married actor Vikram’s daughter, Akshitha in 2017.
Arivunidhi, a doctor and playback singer, is Muthu’s son. In 2013, Muthu and his wife Sivagamisundari filed a complaint with the Chennai Police alleging torture by Arivanudhi. They alleged that he shunted them out of their Gopalapuram house, and has been demanding money for their property.
The Dayalu Ammal branch
Four years after Padmavathi passed away, Karunanidhi’s family arranged his marriage to Dayalu Ammal. With her, Kalaignar had four children – Alagiri, Stalin, Tamilarasu, and Selvi. Now 86, Dayalu has been suffering from Alzheimer's and other age-related diseases for several years.
Son MK Alagiri
MK Alagiri was sent to Madurai in 1980, where he rose through the party ranks to become the South Zone Organisational Secretary of the party. Madurai was considered Alagiri’s kingdom, and his orders were often final here, no matter what the party high command said. In 2009, he was elected as MP and was made Union Minister for Chemicals. However, he soon ran into controversy for his poor attendance in Parliament, which, he said, was due to the fact he couldn’t communicate in English or Hindi, the two main languages used in Parliament.
In 2013, DMK pulled out of the Central government in protest of it not addressing the concerns of Sri Lankan Tamils, and Alagiri resigned from his Cabinet post, along with other DMK leaders.
He was expelled from the DMK in 2014, for his alleged anti-party activities.
He has one son, Dayanidhi Alagiri, and two daughters, Kayalvizhi and Anjuga Selvi.
Grandson Dhayanidhi Alagiri
Dayanidhi Alagiri, also known as Durai Dhayanidhi, is a Tamil movie producer and distributor. He was named in the multi-crore illegal granite mining scam that rocked Tamil Nadu in 2012. Dhayanidhi and 9 others were charged for mining sand and granite illegally, which allegedly cost the exchequer hundreds of thousands of crores.
He was later granted anticipatory bail. He is married to Anusha, an advocate who was based out of Chennai.
Granddaughter Kayalvizhi Venkatesh
Daughter of MK Alagiri, Kayalvizhi is a poet. She was appointed propaganda secretary of the DMK's women's wing in 2009. She is married to Venkatesh, an architect.
Granddaughter Anjuga Selvi
Anjuga Selvi is MK Alagiri's second daughter.
Son MK Stalin
Stalin, named after Joseph Stalin, is the heir to Karunanidhi’s throne in the DMK. He shot to prominence when the Emergency was declared by Indira Gandhi between 1975 and 1977, and he vociferously opposed it. He was arrested in 1975 under the draconian Maintenance of Internal Securities Act (MISA), and was beaten up by the police. Mayor Chittibabu tried shielding Stalin from the blows but passed away after he got beaten up.
He slowly climbed up the political ladder in the DMK, serving as the Mayor of Chennai between 1996 and 2002. He was also the President of the Youth Wing of the DMK, and served as Deputy CM in 2009. In 2013, he was named heir apparent of the DMK, and in 2017, he was appointed as the Working President of the party.
He married Durgavathi in 1975, and has two children Udhayanidhi and Senthamarai.
Grandson Udhayanidhi Stalin
Udhayanidhi Stalin is an actor and producer in Kollywood. Earlier this year, in an interview, he made his political ambitions abundantly clear, saying he was all set to enter active politics. He married Kiruthiga some years ago, who runs a lifestyle magazine and has directed one movie.
Granddaughter Senthamarai Sabareesan
Senthamarai and her sister-in-law Kiruthiga Udayanidhi are members of the Durgavathi Educational Trust which runs the Sunshine Academy Matriculation School.
She married V Sabareesan, who is believed to have put in place Stalin’s much-talked about campaign ‘Namakku Naame’ ahead of the 2016 Assembly polls.
Son Tamilarasu Karunanidhi
Tamilarasu has kept a low profile, and runs a few businesses in Chennai. In the 2016 polls, he actively campaigned for his father, but has not expressed any political ambitions otherwise. His wife is Mohana, and the couple has two children, Arulnidhi and Poonguzhali.
Grandson Arulnithi Tamilarasu
Son of Tamilarasu and Mohana, Arulnithi is an actor and producer. His most notable films are Mouna Guru and Demonte Colony. He is married to Keerthana, the daughter of retired Madras High Court judge Kannadasan.
Granddaughter Poonguzhali Tamilarasu
Daughter of Tamilarasu, Poonguzhali made the news when the Coimbatore Corporation sealed a commercial building that was jointly owned by her in 2013. The building that housed a two-wheeler showroom was reportedly sealed as the building was constructed without proper permissions.
Daughter Selvi Selvam
Selvi married Murasoli Selvam, Murasoli Maran’s brother, and the couple lives in Bengaluru. She was instrumental in brokering peace between Murasoli Maran’s sons – Dayanidhi and Kalanidhi – and Karunanidhi’s family, after they had a falling out. She campaigned for her father in the 2016 polls.
The couple has one daughter, Ezhilarasi.
Granddaughter Ezhilarasi Jothimani
Daughter of Selvi and Murasoli Selvam, Ezhilarasi is a doctor. She played the veena during the cultural function at the World Classical Tamil Conference that Karunanidhi as CM organised in 2010.
The Rajathi Ammal branch
During the 1960s, Karunanidhi met Rajathi Ammal during an election campaign and fell in love with her. They had a self-respect marriage, where they took the blessings of family and party elders and exchanged garlands. Since there was no priest or court involved, the marriage was never legalised. He used to refer to Dayalu Ammal as his manaivi, while Rajathi Ammal was his thunaivi.
Once in Assembly, he was asked who Rajathi Ammal was for him, and pat came the reply: “My daughter’s mother.”
They have one daughter, Kanimozhi.
Daughter MK Kanimozhi
A journalist, poet and politician, Kanimozhi has been a member of the Rajya Sabha since 2007. She was named in the 2G scam, along with A Raja and Dayalu Ammal. She was cleared in the case in 2018. She married Aravindan, who lives in Singapore, and the couple has one son, Aditya.
Karunanidhi’s sister, Shanmugasundarathammal, has two sons, Selvam and Maran. Murasoli Selvam married Karunanidhi’s daughter, Selvi.
Murasoli Maran served in politics for over three decades. He took oath as a Union Cabinet Minister on three separate occasions. He also worked as a journalist and wrote screenplays for Tamil movies. He passed away in 2003, and is succeeded by two sons – Dayanidhi and Kalanidhi Maran. He also has a daughter, Anbukarasi Maran, who works as a doctor in the USA.
Grand-nephew Kalanidhi Maran
Kalanidhi Maran, owner of Sun Network, is valued at $4 billion by Forbes Magazine. Sun Group owns TV channels, radio stations, newspapers and a movie production house, among other things. He had multiple cases filed against him, including an ED probe into alleged money laundering and the BSNL fraud, which also named his brother Dayanidhi. He has never actively taken part in politics. He is married to Kavery, who is a part of Sun Network, and they have a daughter Kaviya.
Great grand-niece Kaviya KM
Kaviya heiress to Kalanithi Maran’s vast business empire, handles Sun Network’s Sun Music, Sun NXT and the FM arms of it. She is also closely involved with the management of IPL team Hyderabad Sunrisers, owned by Sun Network.
Grand-nephew Dayanidhi Maran
Dayanidhi Maran was once seen as a favourite of Karunanidhi, and served as the Union Minister for Telecom after his father died. He was also seen as the DMK’s eyes and ears in New Delhi. However, he ran into trouble when Dinakaran, run by Kalanidhi, published a survey which said Stalin was the people’s favourite to become Kalaignar’s heir. The newspaper office was vandalised, and three people were killed, allegedly by Alagiri’s men. The Maran brothers were quickly ostracised by Karunanidhi’s family, who thought the survey was one way to break them apart.
Dayanidhi was forced to step down from his Cabinet berth and his political career took a plunge.
Selvi then stepped in and helped broker peace between the two families. In 2009, Dayanidhi was re-elected to the Parliament, and got the berth of Minister of Textiles.
He married Priya Maran, and the couple has two children: Karan and Divya.
With inputs from Anna Isaac and Priyanka Thirumurthy.