Sri MGR Year 94, 21st May, Saturday
MGR Devotee S.Vinod called me this morning and informed that there is an article published in Indian Express written by Shampa Dhar-Kamath about our Beloved Leader Puratchi Thalaivar MGR. I am presenting the article as it is appeared in the Newspaper Indian Express.
He was in the midst of an important phone call. It was a Sunday, and he’d been chilling at home with his family when the office called. The wife asked the kids to put the TV on mute and picked up a book. There was obviously a crisis at work, and the man was barking instructions down the line to whoever had called. This went on for about 15 minutes.
Then, suddenly, the wife heard his voice change. “I’ll have to call you back; something urgent has come up,” the man almost-shouted into the phone and quickly put it down. She looked at him in alarm. Was he feeling ill? He’d had a heart attack the previous year, and she was always worried about him.
But no, he looked all right. Nor did he head for the bedroom or the bathroom. Instead, he rushed to the TV and turned up the volume. Legendary Tamil song Naan Anai Ittal blared out, and MGR — in full make-up and red and white shoes — burst into the room dancing, wielding a long whip. The man had been watching Tamil news when the office called. Clearly, the news had ended, and an entertainment programme had come on.
The father matched MGR move for move. He snapped his make-belief whip in the air, jumped up and down sofas and tables, pulled his wife out of her chair and danced her around the room. His Delhi-born children stared, open mouthed. They’d heard their father talk about someone called MGR and knew he was a famous Tamilian actor but that was the extent of their knowledge.
They didn’t know that their father, like most people born in Tamil Nadu in the 1950s and 60s, had grown up on a staple of MGR films. That he’d spent his youth romancing and fighting and dancing to the superstar’s songs. That, in 1967, he’d gone with his parents to join the crowds outside the hospital where MGR lay with a bullet lodged in his throat. And that, 20 years later, he’d wept as he watched his hero making his last journey around then-Madras. Not that he was the only one.
Twenty-four years after the death of Maruthur Gopalan Ramachandran aka MGR aka Puratchi Thalaivar (Revolutionary Leader), the charismatic actor and chief minister of Tamil Nadu, the mythology refuses to melt away. Re-runs of the old movies run to crammed houses, and new movies like Aayirathil Oruvan pay homage to his songs. People still show up at his memorial at Marina Beach every January (when he was born) and December (his death anniversary).
Just like it was with his films, hyperbole is an understatement when it comes to the Thalaivar, described once as “someone with the movie magic of John Wayne, the political success of Ronald Reagan and the messiah appeal of Martin Luther King Jr.”
If there’s any relief for the movie-going public of Tamil Nadu at all, it’s the fact that god’s given them Rajinikanth. But that’s another story. For our man in Delhi, meanwhile, the Tamil songs continued. Athai magal came on, and he twisted and lurched with MGR. His god could be in heaven, but all was right with his world.