Born On: January 17, 1917
Born In: Nawalapitiya, Kandy, Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka)
Died On: December 24, 1987
Career: Actor, Producer, Politician
Maruthur Gopalan Ramachandran, better known as M. G Ramachandran and fondly remembered as MGR was an imminent actor, producer and politician of India. Acting and politics were a major part of MGR's life since times immemorial. While he was a regular face in drama troupes organized during his youth, M. G Ramachandran became actively involved with the Indian National Congress when he was still young, out of respect for Gandhi and his principles. With over a 100 films to his credit, it was M. G Ramachandran who dominated the Tamil film screen for more than thirty years. He later joined hands with the DMK political party. M. G Ramachandran had an equally successful political career, a fact largely possible because of his immense popularity as a Tamil actor. MGR subsequently formed his own political party, the ADMK, after which he created history by being elected as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. M. G Ramachandran is the first film personality of India to occupy the chair of the Chief Minister of a state in the country. The reason why the people loved M. G Ramachandran very much was because he had a heart of gold. Ever since the actor rose to power in the field of politics, he became widely known for his philanthropic ways and his love for the poor and needy.
Family Background and Early Life
Maruthur Gopalan Ramachandran was born to Keralite parents. Melakkath Gopala Menon and Maruthur Satyabhama hailed from Vadavannur in the Palakkad region of Kerala. But M. G Ramachandran's father had to flee from his original home in Kerala because of several allegations made against him. He reached Ceylon and started a family and this was where M. G Ramachandran was born. Reports claim that Melakkath Gopala Menon was ex-communicated from Kerala because of his involvement with a Brahmin widow in his locality. Following the traditions of the Kerala society, fellow men conducted a Smarthavicharam, following which he had to flee to Ceylon as even his family disowned him. Melakkath Gopala Menon married Maruthur Satyabhama in Ceylon and M. G Ramachandran was born on January 17, 1917. M. G Ramachandran's birthplace is located in today's Sri Lanka. From the beginning of his childhood, M. G Ramachandran was a staunch Hindu and firmly believed and worshipped Lord Murugan, the most popular deity among Tamil Hindus.
Career in Tamil Films
M. G Ramachandran was involved in acting from his youth days. His father expired when MGR was still young, leaving him to fend for himself. It was primarily an urge to earn money that drove MGR to enroll his name in a drama troupe named Original Boys. His brother was also one of the members of this troupe. It was only after some years that MGR quit acting in dramas and joined the Tamil film industry in the year 1935. His first film as an actor in a Kollywood movie was that of a supporting role in the 1936 film 'Sathi Leelavathi'. It was only in and after the mid 1940s that he was offered the lead role in a film. The one film that established MGR as one of the best commercial romantic and action heroes that the Tamil film industry had ever seen was 'Rajakumari' penned by M Karunanidhi. 'Rajakumari' hit theaters in the year 1947 and three decades from then the Tamil film industry chanted MGR. In the year 1956, MGR ventured into the field of producing and directing movies. His first film as director 'Nabodi Mannan' was a huge hit with the Tamil audience and ran to packed theaters in Tamil Nadu. Following the success of his first film as director, he made two other films 'Ulagam Sutrum Valiban' and 'Madhurai Meetha Sundharapandian' donning the caps of both director and actor. 'Rickshawkaran' released in the year 1971 won MGR the National Award for the best actor in a leading role.
Career in Politics
M. G Ramachandran had remained a member of the Indian National Congress from his days of youth till the year 1953. MGR was a great fan of the principles of Mahatma Gandhi and thus he wore only khadi as his garment. In the year 1953, MGR joined the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam or the DMK party on the insistence of M Karunanidhi. Cashing on the popularity of MGR the actor, the DMK made him the face of the Dravidian Movement, which was one of the most notable political movements in 1950s Tamil Nadu. In the year 1962, M. G Ramachandran became a member of the State Legislative Council in Tamil Nadu, following which he got elected to the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly in 1967.
In January, 12 1967 M. G Ramachandran survived a serious gunshot accident. He was shot in the neck area by fellow actor and politician M Radha. He had to be hospitalized for a couple of months, a time when the nation realized how popular MGR was among his fans. Thousands of people remained outside the hospital where he was housed for hours on end, praying and monitoring every minor development. Though he was in an ailing condition, MGR did not give up hope and contested for the Madras Legislative Assembly from his hospital bed. Not only did he win, MGR secured two times more votes than his rival and also the maximum number of votes in the history of the Legislative Assembly.
In the year 1969, M. G Ramachandran was appointed the treasurer of the DMK party after the death of actor and politician Annadurai, who was also M. G Ramachandran's mentor in the field of politics. The death of Annadurai also meant the end of M. G Ramachandran's days in DMK. MGR got involved in a great tiff with the party's head M Karunanidhi after the former accused that the party officials were getting corrupt in the absence of Annadurai. Karunanidhi was already eager to place his son at the party's helms, and this argument only made it easier for him to expel MGR from DMK.
M. G Ramachandran left the DMK to form his own party Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (ADMK) in the year 1972. Inspired by his mentor, MGR too used Tamil films as a means of preaching the propaganda of his newly formed ADMK. Understandably, MGR's popularity helped the party to rise and shine in the Tamil Nadu political circuit. M. G Ramachandran won elections to become the first film star becoming the Chief Minister of an Indian state. M. G Ramachandran remained in office of the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu from July 30, 1977 till his death in 1987 for three terms. The ADMK was then called the AIADMK (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam).
MGR the Humanitarian
M. G Ramachandran always assured the well being of the poor, needy and underprivileged in Tamil Nadu. As the Chief Minister of the state, MGR introduced the 'nutritious mid-day meal scheme', a policy that that would benefit all children attending government institutions in Tamil Nadu. He also set up primary and secondary schools for the children of technicians working in Kollywood. In addition, MGR introduced special buses for women in Tamil Nadu and opened two educational institutions, the Tamil University and the Mother Teresa Women's University, in the state. M. G Ramachandran always came forward to help people with money and basic necessities when natural calamities like floods or fire struck. The money that he received from the ownership of the Thai magazine, the Anna newspaper and the Sathya and Emgeeyar Pictures film studios were all willed to charity. M. G Ramachandran was the first person from India to donate money to the war fund of the India - China War of 1962.
Awards and Recognition
- M. G Ramachandran was chosen for the Padma Shri award of India in the year 1960, but he refused to accept the award on grounds of unpatriotic behavior by the government. He wanted the wording to be in his mother tongue Tamil instead of the traditional Hindi.
- MGR won the National Award for best actor for his performance in 'Rickshawkaran’ in 1972.
- Received an honorary doctorate from the University of Madras and the World University.
- Won the Bharat Ratna posthumously in 1988 for his contribution to the betterment of the Tamil Nadu society.
M. G Ramachandran was married three times. His first two wives died prematurely due to illness and it was his third wife Janaki Ramachndran who took over the reins of the AIADMK after the death of MGR.
M. G Ramachandran was a patient of kidney problems and was hospitalized with kidney failure at the Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn in the US in October 1984. He underwent kidney transplantation the same year and finally succumbed to the disease in 1987. M. G Ramachandran's death on December 24, 1987 left the state of Tamil Nadu in a state of turmoil. The government and police officials found it difficult to manage the riotous masses and the emotional Tamils who fought and died in large numbers. After his death, the AIADMK got divided into two units under his wife Janaki Ramachandran and the other under J Jayallitha. His film studio, the Sathya Studio is now a women's college. His residence at the T Nagar area of Madras is now a memorial house of tourist interest.
1917: M G Ramachabdran was born on January 17.
1936: He debuted in the Tamil film industry.
1947: His first hit 'Rajakumaari' was released.
1953: Joined the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam political party.
1956: Became a film director for the first time.
1960: Refused to accept the Padmashree award.
1962: Became a member of the State Legislative Council.
1967: Elected to the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly.
1967: Shot in the neck by M Radha.
1969: Became the treasurer of the DMK.
1972: Formed his own political party, the ADMK.
1972: Won the National Award for 'Rickshawkaran'.
1977: Became the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for the first time and repeats success for three terms.
1984: Suffered kidney failure and undergoes kidney transplant.
1987: Died on December 24.
1988: Awarded the Bharat Ratna posthumously.