‘Ponmanachemmal’: Thiru. M.G.R. remembered on his birth anniversary
Thiru. Maruthur Gopala Ramachandran popularly known as M.G.R. went on to become one of the most dominating personalities of Tamil Nadu state in India. He served as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu between 1977 and 1987. He was awarded the highest honour in India, the Bharat Ratna award, posthumously in 1988. All this did not happen by chance.
It happened after a long and illustrious career in Tamil cinema, wherein M.G.R. acted in a variety of roles right from a farmer, to a soldier to a family person…to a saviour, and many other roles. It was through tremendous talent and hard work that M.G.R. built himself into one of the enduring great personalities of Tamil cinema and of the Tamil political scene. He was a contemporary of the Insuperable Role Model Actor, Thiru. Sivaji Ganesan and the Romantic Hero, Gemini Ganesan in Tamil cinema.
The story of M.G.R. is one of the most inspiring stories of modern times. M.G.R was born in Kandy in British Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka) to Melakkath Gopalan Menon and Maruthur Satyabhama, both originally from Kerala in India. After his father’s demise, M.G.R.’s mother brought him and his brother, M.G. Chakrapani to Kerala in India. However, she did not receive proper support from relatives in Kerala. So, the trio relocated to Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu. That single move of his mother was a game changer. Tamil Nadu, the land of good and illustrious people as well as great culture was to bestow upon him, much fame and respect. He was known to be greatly attached to his mother, Satyabhama. M.G.R. started acting in the Boys Company Drama Troupe, while in school. After he joined Tamil cinema, he slowly and surely rose to prominence. The first few movies were medium-level successes.
He acted in many movies, starting with Sathi Leelavathi in 1936. He went on to star in a number of other movies such as Veera Jagathis in 1938 and Harichandra in 1944 and in commercially successful movies like Manthiri Kumari in 1950, Malaikkallan in 1954, Alibabavum 40 Thirudargalum in 1956, Madurai Veeran in 1956, Pudhumai Pithan in 1957, Nadodi Mannan in 1958, Baghdad Thirudan in 1960 and then a series of super hit movies like Nallavan Vazhvan in 1961, Maadappura in 1962, Vettaikaran in 1964, Enga Veetu Pillai in 1965, Aayirathil Oruvan in 1965, Anbe Va in 1966, Mugarasi in 1966, Parakkum Paavai in 1966, Ragasiya Police 115 in 1968, Adimai Penn in 1969, Nam Naadu in 1969 and Rickshawkaran in 1971. The other important movies of M.G.R. were Ulagam Sutrum Valiban in 1973, and Netru Indru Nalai in 1974, which were all big box office hits. One can understand that the 1960s were the years, which brought tremendous success to M.G.R.
Ragasiya Police 115 is a lovely movie with impeccable performances by M.G.R. and J. Jayalalithaa. Parakkum Pavai is a memorable movie, too. Kanavan is a very sensitive portrayal of Tamil family sentiments in matters of marriage. Both M.G.R. and J. Jayalalitha were one of the best ‘on-screen couples’ of Tamil cinema. The masses loved the lovely on-screen couple. In later years, both M.G.R. and J. Jayalalitha became chief ministers of Tamil Nadu. They were both extremely charismatic and good-looking people and had their own fans as well as followers.
One is able to notice certain trends, very clearly. During the 1950s, M.G.R. was just an actor filled with a creative spirit. At the beginning of the 1960s, one notices that the M.G.R. movies are interspersed with political messaging. One notices that he had begun to play the quintessential hero – saving women, fighting against a decadent caste system, being kind to the poor and vulnerable, etc.
Malaikkallan is the 1954 Tamil film, which gave his big break in Tamil cinema. It appears to have heralded the beginning of the self-realization of M.G.R. that he was cut out for something more. He had started to realize that people loved him when he essayed brave characters with panache. Nadodi Mannan is another gripping historical film and one of the early M.G.R. double-action movies. This black-and-white movie is full of palace intrigues, wherein M.G.R. essays the role of both a King and a Commoner, who look alike. M.G.R. essays the role of the King with aplomb. This late 1950s movie appears to mark the beginning of the political aspirations of M.G.R. The commoner is shown sympathizing with the poor. Ayarathil Oruvan marks the maturing of M.G.R’s political ambitions. With Enga Veetu Pillai and Aayirathil Oruvan, the political messaging became very clear. Here was the emerging Hero, who cared for the poor, alleviated the sufferings of the masses, took on authoritarian rule, who respected women, and who was compassionate to the poor, old, lonely, diseased, and handicapped as well as the vulnerable people among other things. Anbe Va was one of the best movies of M.G.R. He acted in some fine comedy scenes in the movie. Anbe Va sets the tone for the future CM of T.N. M.G.R won the National Film Award for Best Actor for the film, Rickshawkaran in 1972. Movies like Netru Indru Naalai (1974) and Idhayakani (1975) promoted his political career.
While his cinema journey was full of super-hit movies, his personal life was full of sorrow. He lost his first and then his second wife in quick succession. His first two wives, Chitarikulam Bargavi known as Thangamani and Sathyanandavathi both passed away rather early. It was his third wife, V.N. Janaki, who was also an actress in Tamil cinema, who outlived M.G.R. His third and last marriage was the lasting marriage of his life.
Initially, Shri. M.G.R. joined the Indian National Congress and stuck with it till 1953 and then he joined the DMK or the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. Later, he went on to be the founder of the AIADMK – All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam on the 17th of October in 1972 after the demise of his Political Mentor, Shri. C.N. Annadurai. Thiru. M.G.R. suspected Thiru. M. Karunanidhi of financial irregularities, while he was in the DMK During M.G.R.’s time, the AIADMK was still known as ADMK or Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.
Thiru. M.G.R. was the real disciple of Arignar Anna. M.G.R. did not join politics to earn money but to do service to the people of Tamil Nadu unlike some of his cunning contemporaries. M.G.R. won a State Assembly constituency (St.Thomas Mount) for the first time in 1967 at the age of 50 as a member of the DMK. After he founded the ADMK in 1972, M.G.R. led the ADMK to success in the 1977 elections. He became chief minister of Tamil Nadu in 1977. The AIADMK won every State Assembly election as long as M.G.R. was alive. He remained as chief minister of Tamil Nadu till his demise in 1987. M.G.R. led the ADMK to continuous success in the 1977, 1980, and 1984 Tamil Nadu State Assembly elections. The sky-high popularity of M.G.R. in Tamil Nadu can be gauged from the fact that he won from Andipatti Assembly constituency in Tamil Nadu in 1984 without campaigning in the state of Tamil Nadu as he was recovering from an illness in America. He must be the only leader in the history of India or even in the world to have won an election without campaigning! Such is the greatness of the Tamil People, Tamil land, Tamil language, and Tamil culture that once they give their heart to a leader, they remain loyal to the leader till his death! Most probably, if M.G.R. had lived longer, M. Karunanidhi would never have become chief minister for even a second term ever. Thiru. M.G.R. was the first leader of Tamil Nadu to win re-election as CM. He was known for his centralized decision-making system, a legacy which his protégé, J. Jayalalithaa also continued.
One of the big achievements of M.G.R. was his successful conversion of the former Tamil Nadu chief minister K. Kamaraj’s ‘Mid-Day Meal Scheme’ into the ‘Nutritious Meal Scheme’. This meal scheme was a roaring success and has been replicated all over India. The main beneficiaries of the nutritious mid-day meal scheme were school-going children from poor families. He also introduced a liquor ban in Tamil Nadu. ‘Bharat Ratna’ M.G.R. was the saviour of the poor. He was kind and generous to the poor. M.G.R. had a soft corner for Tamilians not just in Tamil Nadu but also for Sri Lankan Tamils was well known. He won several laurels and awards in both his cinema career as well as his political career. Thiru. M.G.R. is revered till today in Tamil Nadu as the man with a heart of gold. He is known as ‘Ponmanachemmal’. He is remembered with love, loyalty, and gratitude by the Tamil masses for his pro-poor attitude and successful execution of several welfare schemes in Tamilnadu.
He is fondly remembered as ‘Makkal Thilagam’ or the ‘People’s King’ and as ‘Puratchi Thalaivar’ or ‘Revolutionary Leader.’ Today, there are two major landmarks in Chennai named after him. The Chennai Central Railway Station was renamed Puratchi Thalaivar Dr. M.G. Ramachandran Central Railway Station in 2019 and the Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus at Koyambedu in Chennai was renamed Puratchi Thalaivar Dr. MGR Bus Terminus in 2018. Similarly, Salem Central Bus stand was renamed Bharat Ratna Dr. M.G.R. Central Bus Stand and a number of roads and parks have been named after M.G.R. Thiru. M.G.R. left us many legacies – the most important of which were his wide-ranging movies, the nutritious mid-day meal scheme, welfare measures for the poor, and the Monolith Political Structure – AIADMK, which he almost single-handedly created. He was charismatic, kind, strong and a true patriot. Thiru. M.G.R. was the Giant Colossus of both Tamil cinema and Tamil politics.
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
PGurus is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel and stay updated with all the latest news and views
For all the latest updates, download PGurus App.
- Interesting information capsules regarding Smt. Sarojini Naidu - March 2, 2023
- Veer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar – The greatest patriot ever - February 26, 2023
- Bharat Ratna Thiru. M.G.R. - January 17, 2023
MGR authorized the creation of Private Engineering Colleges in Tamil Nadu in 1984 which provided the workforce for India’s private sector when liberalization of the economy in 1990s were implemented.
Fact:1st hand information
Chief Minister MGR used to visit costal Karnataka in the early 1980s. He always paid his gratitude for Nara Sakthi Sthalam – Moogamibka Temple in Kollur Karnataka. MGR has donated a golden sword to the Goddess and to seek her benevolance in restoring his health after major surgery in USA.
MGR always stayed at Manipal Institute of Tech (MIT) as he had health issues and needed physician care from MIT. A group of students from Tamil Nadu studying at MIT visited MGR in his hostel. MGR asked the student why they have come so far to study in Karnataka. The students replied that there was only a handful of Govt Engineering colleges in Tami Nadu and with plenty of loop holes in the selection via interview process. Upon completion of his temple pilgrimage, Chief Minister MGR immediately called his cabinet ministers and granted them land to start private engineering colleges similar to land grant universities in the United States.
In 1984 then Chief Minister MGR sanctioned land for seven colleges including India’s #1 private Engg college Vellore Institute of Technology. They rest as they say is history. The small seed planted by MGR with blessing of Thai Moogambika resulted in lakhs of engineering gratitude who have filled the ranks in corporate and private sector as India underwent liberalization from command economy to market economy in 1990s.
Nutritious noon meal scheme which included egg in the schools led to boom to children health as PEM (protein energy malnutrition) was eradicated and leading to economic developments having established animal husbandry and chicken farms in Tamil Nadu hinterland
[…] Source […]