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Vettaikaran Golden Jubilee

Golden Jubilee Padagotti

17 June 2015

World Cinema

Sri MGR Year 98, 17th June, Wednesday

I happened to see the Encyclopaedia of World Cinema, old edition which had the article of our beloved Leader Purtachi Thalaivar MGR. The book had allotted 1.5 pages about MGR and with a photo of MGR from Nadodi Mannan movie.

Though the article has many errors and blatant lies, I had given below the scanned pages of the Encyclopaedia and the article typed separately.


Ramachandran, Marudur Gopalamenon (1917-1987)
Aka MGR, Tamil megastar since 1950 and populist politician; one of the most controversial figures in Indian cinema. Born in Kandy, Sri Lanka (possibly in 1912). Legend has it that his birth coincided with his father's death, and the family moved to Tamil Nadu where they lived poorly. Three siblings died as well. Aged 6, joined a theatre group, the Madurai Original Boys, where he learned dancing, acting and swordplay. Screen debut for Ellis R.Duncan (1936); first major starring role in A.S.A.Sami's Rajakumari (1947).

Joined the DMK party (1953), having featured in the Karunanidhi scripted Manthiri Kumari. Apparently modelled on Douglas Fairbanks, his 50s screen persona in adventure films directed by T.R.Sundaram, Ramanna, Yoganand and P.Neelakantan constructed an image of political as well as physical invincibility (vanquishing tigers with his bare hands in Gul-e-Bakavali and righting all wrongs) identified with the people and promoting his political programme. In the 60s esp. after Thirudathe, he turned to more realistic fantasies in a contemporary setting, often playing a saintly member of an oppressed class e.g., a peasant, fisherman, rickshaw puller, gardener and taxi driver.

Member of the DMK (1953-1972) including a brief stint in the Madras Legislative Council (1962-4) member of the Legislative Assembly (1967)when the Party won the state elections. DMK Party Treasurer (1970) fell out with the DMK's boss, Karunanidhi, and used the DMK Film's propaganda idiom against the DMK itself in Nam Nadu.

Set up the rival Anna DMK (1972) claiming allegiance to the DMK's founder, Annadurai, who had died in 1969. In 1977, his party, renamed the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) won the state elections in alliance with Indira Gandhi's Congress, became chief minister and was re-elected for three consecutive terms, organising a totalitarian crackdown on all political dissent while introducing populist schemes like the Chief Minister's Nutritious Meal Programme and taxing the poor to subsidise the rural rich. Having survived a bullet wound when he was shot by fellow actor M.R.Radha in 1967 (affecting his speech), he achieved demi-god status following a paralytic stroke in 1984 which he survived for three years, acquiring the label thrice born in the process.

Last film released in 1978. Thousands of fan clubs provide a political and promotional support structure with a constant stream of e.g. lithographs depicting the star as a godlike figure, Ganesan, who acted with MGR in Kundukkili, became an opposition MP, MGR developed a fantasy land via his movies, playing numerous double roles and borrowing as much from stage historicals as from pamphleteering rhetoric.

M.S.S.Pandian's The Image Trap M.G.Ramachandran in Film and Politics (1992) noted: The social universe of the MGR films is a universe of asymmetrical power. Thus we have landlords who try to grab peasants land (Vivsayee) rural rich who wiled whips on farm hands (Enga Veetu Pillai) money lenders who bleed the poor (Padakotti) industrialists who dismiss workers at their whim (Thozhilali) avaricious men who desire others property (Muharasi, Madappura, Ayirathil Oruvan) city slickers who leave poor rural girls pregnant (Ther Thiruvizha) married men who desire other women (Genova, Asai Mukham, Mahadevi).

The conflict between these upper caste/class oppressors and MGR as a subaltern and its resolution form the core of his films. MGR, in the course of the conflict, appropriates several signs or symbols of authority or power from those who dominate.

Three such symbols that repeatedly and prominently appear are the authority to dispense justice and exercise violence, access to literacy/education and access to women. The hero's invincibility on the screen acquires a certain authenticity and appears credible not merely because the dream like experience of film watching but equally because the subaltern consciousness most often dwells between the impossible religious myth and possible history.

To construct this impossible myth, MGR used food (Mattukkara Velan, Ninaithathai Mudipavan) colour patterns, (black and red, symbols of the DMK), masquerades (often through double roles of oppressor and oppressed) etc. Viewing an MGR film has been promoted as a ritual with stories of poor people selling their blood to get money to see his films on first release. His funeral procession was attended by over 2million people. A temple has been built in Madras with MGR as the deity.


Above is the the original scanned pages.

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