Tamil Nadu : 25 Years Without M. G. R.


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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 .

English: MGR with Kerala politician K.Karunaka...

MGR (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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 .

On 25th Death Anniversary , MGR Being Rememberedin a Village of Thanjavur

On 25th Death Anniversary , MGR Being Remembered in a Village of Thanjavur

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.

After his death, his political party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, split between his wife Janaki Ramachandran and J. Jayalalithaa; they later merged in 1988.

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. “

English: New emblem for All India Anna Dravida...

New emblem for All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam Party, designed by B. Balamanigandan email:bbm@drmgr.org (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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 .

At MGR Memorial , Marina Beach , Chennai

At MGR Memorial , Marina Beach , Chennai

With Poster of MGR in a Small Town

With Poster of MGR in a Small Town

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 .

VIDUR

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Vidur’s Travel Diary – 6 : Kanchipuram


MUMBAI – MAHARASHTRA – INDIA          DECEMBER 05 , 2011           01.00 P.M.

On the 30th morning , my last day in Chennai , I started for my journey to Kanchipuram . It is 71 km. from Chennai . I had read in the Holy scriptures that 7 holy cities have powers to give you salvation or Nirvana . They are Ayodhya , Mathura , Maya [ Haridwar ] , Kashi [ Varanasi ] in Uttar Pradesh , Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu , Avantika [ Ujjain ] in Madhya Pradesh and Dwarka in Gujarat .

अयोध्या , मथुरा , माया , काशी , कांची , अवंतिका ;
पुरीद्वारावातिश्चैव , सप्तैते मोक्षदायिका

This is the shloka from Garud Puran and I used to recite it during my childhood . I had already visited 6 cities and only Kanchipuram was left . So the excitement was palpable . After fabulous breakfast in a roadside restaurant , we reached Kanchipuram in 2 hours . The city , formerly known as Conjeevaram , is situated on the banks of Vegavati river and is known for thousand temples and silk sarees . It is also called City of 1000 Temples . Once upon a time , it was kingdom of Pallava empire for 200 years , and is one of the oldest cities of South India .

Our first stop was 3,500 years old Ekambarnathar Temple :

At The Gate of Ekambarnathar Temple

Gopuram of 3,500 years old Ekambarnathar Temple :

Gopuram of Ekambarnathar Temple

Kanchipuram is the centre of one of the four Mathas , stablished by Adi Shankaracharya . Badrinath in the North , Dwarka in the West , Jagannath Puri in the East and Kanchipuram in the South . So our next stop was Kanchi Kamkoti Peetham Meenakshi Temple :

Meenakshi Temple of Kanchi Kamkoti Peetham

Gopuram of Meenakshi Temple : Kanch Kamkoti Peetham

After Kanchi Kamkoti Peetham , we visited Varadharaja Perumal Temple :

Varadharaja Perumal Temple

Entrance of Varadharaja Perumal Temple

Kanchipuram is birthplace of famous Sanskrit poet Dandin . He is writer of Dashakumaracharitam . Another famous Sanskrit poet Bharavi , who wrote Kiratarjuniyam , also hailed from here . Bharavi wrote his Kiratarjuniyam here under the patronage of the Pallav king Simhavishnu .  So out of four most famous poets of Sanskrit , two ; Dandin and Bharavi belong to Kanchipuram . Other two are ; Kalidas and Magha . The famous shloka describing their eminence is still fresh in my memory :

उपमा कालिदासस्य , भारवेरर्थ गौरवं ;
डंडीनः पद लालित्यम , माघे सन्ति त्रयो गुणाः

It is irony of the fate that Kanchipuram , which is second only to Varanasi in Sanskrit learning and which is the centre of Hinduism since time immemorial , is also the birthplace of C. N. Annadurai , an atheist and most famous Dravidian leader , second only to E. V. Ramasami Naicker Periyar . He formed Dravid Munnetra Kazhagam in 1949 and led it to victory in Tamil Nadu assembly elections in 1967 . Though C. N. Annadurai ruled only for 2 years and died in 1969 but his influence on Tamil Nadu and Dravid politics is immense . He is the first Non – Congress and Dravid leader to become Chief minister of Tamil Nadu , then known as Madras  . He is the first Non – Congress leader to come to power with absolute majority in any Indian state and ended monopoly of Congress in Tamil Nadu . M. Bakthavatsalam was the last Congress Chief Minister and since 1967 to 2011 , it is 44 years since Congress lost power . C. N. Annadurai symbolized this Non – Congress sentiment .

Kanchipuram is his birthplace and his house is converted into a memorial . I visited his memorial also ;

C. N. Annadurai's House in Kanchipuram

After Kanchipuram , I proceeded to Vellore . It is a small town 145 km. from Chennai . It is situated on the banks of Palar river . It is famous for hospital and V.I.T. University [ Vellore Institute of Technology ] . Since my sister’s son is studying there I went there to meet him .

With My Nephew Kaustubh in the V. I. T. Campus

V. I. T. Gate

While coming to Kanchipuram from Chennai , one can see Rajiv Gandhi Memorial in Sriperumbudur also . This small place is situated 40 km. away from Chennai and comes under Kanchipuram district . It is birthplace of Sri Ramanujacharya , one of the most prominent Hindu Vaishnav saints . In 1991 Rajiv Gandhi was killed here during an election campaign and this small , unknown town became known to all . I visited his grand memorial ;

Rajiv Gandhi Memorial at Sriperumbudur

Rajiv Gandhi Memorial at Sriperumbudur

Rajiv Gandhi Memorial at Sriperubudur

It is a grand and opulent memorial . I am not against it  . But I am sad that crores are spent on Rajiv Gandhi’s memorial and Subramanya Bharathi’s memorial in Puducherry is now closed .

With this I finished my 12 days pilgrimage , said good-bye to Chennai , took train from Egmore on December 01st and reached Mumbai on December 02nd .

Egmore Station - Chennai

I don’t know whether I would be visiting these place again or not . I do intend to visit but …….? As usual I remember few lines of Hindi poet Agyeya and leave everything to my destiny .

पार्श्व गिरि का नम्र चीड़ों में , डगर चढ़ती उमंगों सी ;

बिछी पैरों में नदी ज्यों दर्द की रेखा , विहग शिशु मौन नीड़ों में ; 

मैंने आँख भर देखा , दिया मन को दिलासा ; 
पुनः आऊँगा , भले ही बरस दिन , अनगिन युगों के बाद ;

क्षितिज ने पलक सी खोली , दमक कर दामिनी बोली ;
” अरे यायावर ! रहेगा याद ? “
………………………………………………..अज्ञेय 
[ Tenderness of mighty mountains reflected in pine trees ,
Upward moving pathways symbolizing my enthusiasm ,
River , flowing deep down like a line of pain ,
Tiny tots of birds sitting silently in their nest ,
I saw everything with contentment ,
Consoled myself , I would come again ,
After a year or may be after ages ……….
Horizon opened its eyes , lightning dazzled in the sky ,
As if saying ………………
O Wanderer ! Would you ever even remember ? ]

VIDUR

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