Did you know that MGR was Tamil Nadu’s biggest celebrity for twenty-five years after he joined the film industry? That he was the first film actor to don the mantle of Chief Minister? Read on to find out more…
Maruthur Gopala Ramachandran or MGR as he was known was no ordinary mortal. He began his steady rise to fame and stardom with his foray into the film world. The popular idol who was the leading man in Tamil films became Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu in 1977 and governed the state till his death in 1987.
His movies cast him in roles that portrayed him as the Robin Hood of the poor. For the next quarter of a century, MGR was the most worshipped man in Tamil Nadu.
The rising star
MGR was a member of the Congress party till 1953, after which he joined the DMK (Dravidian Progressive Federation). This Dravidian movement was steadily spreading across Tamil Nadu at the time when MGR added charisma to it.
Soon after this, in 1962 MGR became a member of the State Legislative Council and was then elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1967. After the death of his guru Annadurai, MGR was made treasurer of the DMK in 1969. Expelled from the party in 1972 for wanting its financial details to be made public, MGR floated his own party, the ADMK. This later became the AIDMK and won every state election after this!
Education was an issue close to his heart. He founded the Tamil University, The Tamil Nadu Dr. MGR Medical University and the Women’s University.
Larger than life hero
Born in Sri Lanka, MGR moved to India with his family as a child, after the death of his father. His exploits were the stuff of legends. Even after a fellow actor shot him in the neck in 1967 and his voice diminished, his popularity remained unaffected. Instead, he went on to sign several more films!
After the actor died, a temple was built in Chennai with MGR as the deity! Such was the love his fans had for him.
MGR’s protégé Jayalalitha is another actor who is essaying a larger-than-life political role. Why do so many film stars veer towards politics? Is it ethical for an actor to stand for public office, knowing that the Indian electorate can be gullible enough to confuse the individual with the heroic roles s/he enacts on screen?