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Vettaikaran Golden Jubilee

Golden Jubilee Padagotti

03 June 2010

MGR Book Review - MGR the Man and the Myth

Sri MGR Year 93, 3rd June Thursday

Entha tharavattu peru? (What is your family name?)

This was the question that MGR asked me when I met him for the very first time, way back in 1969. I was then the Superintendent of Police, Madurai. On my way back to Headquarters from Theni. I dropped in at Vaigai Dam Guest House where MGR was camping for his location shooting of a movie titled Mattukkara Velan. He was also the Vice Chairman of the Small savings scheme of the then DMK Government, with Cabinet rank. Courtesy therefore demanded that I call on him. I found a large crowd waiting to witness the film shooting.

It was about 8 am when I was ushered into his suite and I found him clad in a sleeveless banian and dhoti. The familiar cap and dark glasses were absent and I found him engaged in weight lifting exercises.

He dropped the dumbbells, and asked the question in Malayalam with a pronounced Tamil accent. The security officer attached to MGR had apparently briefed him about my background as a native of Kerala. The possibility that MGR had obtained my superficial bio data from the security officer, was to impress me with his knowledge of men and affairs. This was a practice, I learnt, that he often adopted with strangers and with great success.

I replied Kondath tharavadu (joint family) from Cheramangalam village near Palghat. MGR said that he had his origin from the same area. Vadavannur village to be exact. He switched on his bewitching smile, with his milk white teeth matching his rare wheat complexion. I could feel his charisma hitting me like a ton of bricks...

He got up and started wearing a starched blue shirt, humming a Carnatic tune quite scientifically. A dark blue suit with matching tie was hanging on the coat stand. I told him that I better leave while he was getting dressed but he waved me to sit. No Problem, he said in English.

I expressed by surprise that he was getting suited and booted for the lead role which was that of Velan, a cowhered. He replied with a wink, That is cinema, the world of make-believe. Mind you, the same is true to politics. I kept silent and he asked me suddenly in Tamil, Why don't you watch the shooting for a while? I excused myself stating that I had some urgent work at Madurai and that it was time that I got moving. MGR said, You are missing the chance of meeting Jayalalitha, the heroine. Anyway I appreciate your devotion to duty. I thanked him and came out of the suite...

I had heard a lot about MGR, professionally and otherwise. He was a man, I knew, who, was turning into a myth. But I was certainly not prepared for the lasting impression that MGR left on me after a few minutes face-to-face meet. This man, I thought, will certainly go places.

I however thought that MGR, unlike other politicians was not in politics for his bread and butter. In my view, it was a pastime for him and he might not continue for long, as he had already made his point having vanquished his arch rival and occupied the CM's chair. The hurly-burly of politics was not for him. I thought and before long, he will be itching to get back to the glamorous film world with its easy, lucrative and fashionable style. But, as things turned out, I was proved completely wrong.

It took some time for MGR the actor to catch up with the nitty-gritty of administration and, more importantly, to change his life style. But once he started seriously addressing the tasks of administration, the bureaucrats were impressed by his native wisdom and ability to quickly grasp the essentials. His unfamiliarity with the English language (he did a formal school education) was a handicap which he however got over in a reasonably short time.

I could easily see that he had an unquenchable thirst for information, because he knew that information was power. I had to adjust the Intelligence Wing to suit his needs...

MGR's work style as Chief Minister was unique. Many factors, imponderable to others, entered his thought processes. He got where he did from scratch. That required grit and determination. He kept everybody around him - from ministers to personal servants - on tenterhooks....

He remained a lonely man, kept odd hours, and was unpredictable. But people just loved him - though they might not be sure whether they were on the right or wrong side of MGR. He kept everybody guessing.

M.G.R. Blog to you via E mail

M.G.R. Blog to you via E mail
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