MUMBAI – MAHARASHTRA – INDIA DECEMBER 28 , 2012 05.35 P.M.
Marudhur Gopala Ramachandran or M. G. Ramachandran or simply M. G. R. needs no introduction in Tamil Nadu . Though he died 25 years ago , still his popularity refuses to wane . I always knew about his phenomenal sway over the masses in Tamil Nadu but I personally experienced it during my recent visit to the state .
One morning when I came out of my room in Subam Lodge , Vaitheeswaran Koil , I noticed that arched are being erected on the streets and photos of M. G. R. are being garlanded everywhere . Old hit songs of the films of M. G. R. were being played . People in large number were queuing in front of his photos and paying respect .
I was astonished . I was astounded by the fact that it is his 25th death anniversary and still people are remembering him . To know the height of his popularity , please go through the description of his death scene , which I am quoting from Wikipedia :
” M.G.R. died on December 24, 1987 after his prolonged illness. He was 70. His death sparked off a frenzy of looting and rioting all over the state of Tamil Nadu. Shops, movie theatres, buses and other public and private property became the target of violence let loose all over the state. The police had to resort issuing shoot-at-sight orders. Tamilians from Bangalore rushed to Madras in trains to see the mortal remains of MGR. Govt had announced free train facility for this visit. The violence during the funeral alone left 29 people dead and 47 police personnel badly wounded. This state of affairs continued for almost a month all over the state of Tamil Nadu. Around one million people followed his remains, around 30 followers committed suicide and people had their heads tonsured.
In 1989 Dr. M. G. R. Home and Higher Secondary School for the Speech and Hearing Impaired was established in the erstwhile Residence MGR Gardens, Ramapuram, in accordance with his will dated January 17, 1986. His official residence at 27, Arcot Street, T.Nagar is now MGR Memorial House and is open for public viewing. His film studio, Sathya Studios has been converted into a women’s college. “
Now non – Tamil people can understand his impact and popularity among the masses . It was well – crafted image with the help of his films . He was the first major film star of India , who became Chief Minister of any state and won 3 consecutive elections in 1977 , 1980 and 1984 . He became Chief Minister in 1977 and remained in office till his death in 1987 . In 1984 assembly elections , though he was in the hospital for treatment and could not participate in electioneering , still he led his party to unprecedented victory . His images , from his hospital bed in the U.S.A. , were broadcast through cinema halls . And his party A.I.A.D.M.K. got 56% of assembly seats .
How he created this larger – than – life political image ? You can watch the song “…….. neenga nalla irukkanum ……… ” of his film ” Idhayakkani ” [ 1975 ] . In the ……neenga nalla irukkanum ……… song , he pays homage to his mentor Annadurai , whose image is clearly visible on the screen . His party flag is also fluttering in air and you could see that in the song itself his screen character is doing his philanthropic work . ” Idhayakkani “ was released 2 years before he became the Chief Minister . His last released film was ” Madurai Meeta Sundara Pandian ” [ 1978 ] . This was his 136th film . It was released 1 year after he became the Chief Minister . So through his 136 films , he created this kind of image , which is unheard of anywhere in the world . After becoming CM , the ongoing project ” Anna En Theivam “ was stopped and later on it was released by Bhagyaraj with modified story in which Bhagyaraj was the hero.
Apart from M.G.R. , no one in India or in world could replicate this kind of success . He was the first and till date only actor turned politician , who got this kind of mass popularity and could generate mass hysteria of this magnitude . N.T.R. or Nandamoori Tarak Ramarao was also an actor in Telugu film industry and he did succeed in Andhra Pradesh but his success was short – lived as he was soon toppled by his own son – in – law . President of U.S.A. , Ronald Reagan was also an actor in Hollywood but he was not a major star.
On my previous visit to Chennai in 2011 , I visited memorial of M.G.R. at Marina Beach to show my respect . In December 2012 , when I visited Chennai again , I was again able to pay respect to him on his 25th death anniversary .
It is sad that he died when he was only 70 . And 70 is not the age to leave the world . Had he been alive he would have been a formidable Prime Minister of India . In these days of coalition politics it would have been a real possibility .
Alas ! We lost him too early and too soon .
I think it would be fascinating to tell his story to all the students of my acting academy , Vidur’s Kreating Charakters . Who knows ? They might replicate M.G.R. story in their lives also .
MUMBAI – MAHARASHTRA – INDIA
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