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Maruthur Gopalan Ramachandran (January 17, 1917 – December 24, 1987), popularly known by his initials MGR. MGR was an Indian film actor, director, producer and politician.

Early life

MGR was born in Nawalapitiya near Kandy, British Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka), to immigrant Malayali parents Melakkath Gopala Menon and Maruthur Satyabhama. His family was originally from Vadavannur, Palakkad, Kerala, but his father had migrated with his family to Ceylon. Melakkath Gopala Menon had been excommunicated (bhrasht) during a Smarthavicharam in 1903, regarding an allegation that dealt with an unlawful relationship with a widowed Brahmin woman; and hence he left his family, and married Maruthur Satyabhama.

MGR was a Hindu and a follower of Murugan, as is the common do for Hindus in Sri Lanka. This was during his early days. Later, when he joined the DMK,a pro-rationalist party, he followed the rationalist ideology, though not appearing very forcefully atheistic. However, in later days after he founded his own party following his expulsion from the DMK, he seems to have shown some leaning towards religious faith. He had asked his followers to pray for the success of his AIADMK party.

His followers even prayed for him when it was determined that he had a kidney illness. After his demise, his wife opened up a temple in his name. After his father’s death, he joined a drama troupe called Original Boys. Later, he enters the world of cinema, becoming an actor, and later a director, producer, and editor. MGR married Bargavi also known as Thangamani who died early due to illness. He later married Sathanandavathi who also died soon due to Tuberculosis. M. G. R. married V. N. Janaki a former Tamil film actress as his third wife after the death of his second wife. Janaki divorced her husband Ganapati Bhat, to marry MGR.

Acting and Political career

He finished his film debut in 1935, in the film Sati Leelavati, directed by Ellis Dungan, an American born film director. Generally starring in romance or action films, MGR got his big breakthrough in the 1947 film Rajakumaari, written by M. Karunanidhi. Soon he rose to superstardom in the 1954 blockbuster Malaikallan. He acted as hero in the Tamil film industry’s first ever color movie, the 1955 blockbuster Ali Baba and the forty thieves. He rose to become the heart throb of millions of Indians with movies such as Anbe Vaa, Aayirathil Oruvan, Mahadevi, Panam Padaithavan, Ulagam Sutrum Vaalibhan, Adimaippenn, etc. He won the National Film Award for Best Actor for the film Rickshakaran. His film Nadodi Mannan, which was a tamil version of the interpretation of the Prisoner of Zenda,was produced and directed by himself and released in 1956, ran to full houses. He begin to act in many movies that appealed to the direct sentiment of the ordinary man and the rich as well. His 1973 blockbuster Ulagam Sutrum Vaalibhan broke previous box office records. It was one of the few movies shot in abroad in those days. It was shot in nations like Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong and Japan. The DMK unsuccessfully tried to curtail that movie. His acting career ended in 1978 with his last movie, Madurai Meetta SundaraPandian, which he acted when he was the Chief Minister of the state. He was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, in 1988 (posthumous).

MGR was a member of the Congress Party till 1953 and he used to wear Khādī. In 1953 MGR joined the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) with the help of M. Karunanidhi. He became a vocal Tamil and Dravidian nationalist and prominent member of the DMK. He added glamour to the Dravidian movement which was sweeping Tamil Nadu. He became a member of the state Legislative Council in 1962. He was first elected to the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly in 1967. After the death of his mentor, Annadurai, MGR became the treasurer of DMK in 1969 after Karunanidhi became the chief minister.

Death

In October 1984, MGR was diagnosed with kidney failure and rushed to the Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, United States for treatment, undergoing a kidney transplant. MGR died on December 24, 1987 after his prolonged illness. His death sparked off a frenzy of looting and rioting all over the state of Tamil Nadu. Shops, movie theatres, buses and other public and private property became the target of violence let loose all over the state. The police had to resort issuing shoot-at-sight orders. Tamilians from Bangalore rushed to Madras in trains to see the mortal remains of MGR. Govt had announced free train facility for this visit. The violence during the funeral alone left 29 people dead and 47 police personnel badly wounded. In 1989 Dr. M. G. R. Home and Higher Secondary School for the Speech and Hearing Impaired was established in the erstwhile Residence MGR Gardens, Ramavaram, in accordance with his will dated January 17, 1986. His official residence at 27, Arcot Street, T.Nagar is now MGR Memorial House and is open for public viewing. His film studio, Sathya Studios has been converted into a women’s college.

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