Monday, January 17, 2011

MGR remembered - Birthday celebrations in State - 23 years after his death

  • Do you know what is significant about the film of Ellis Dungan released in 1936 ?
  • Do you know where is Nawalapitiya ?
  • Do you know who won the National Award for Best Actor in 1972 ?
  • Do you know who was elected to the Madras Legislative Assembly from St Thomas Mount in 1967 ?

You need not search anywhere.  It is the man who is still remembered even 23 years after his death in Dec 24, 1987.   Maruthur Gopalan Ramachandran  better known as MGR was born on Jan 17, 1917   in Nawalapitiya near Kandy, British Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka), to immigrant Keralite parents — Melakkath Gopala Menon and Maruthur Satyabhama.  His family had its origin to Palakkad.

BUT I doubt whether anyone of you will be able to correlate the following lines of a book with Tamilnadu and tamil cinema in particular. 

The book starts   THE MISTAKE รข€” THE DINNER TABLE.”  - It was a winter's afternoon, cold and bright, and the large nursery window of Danesbury House looked out on an extensive and beautiful prospect. Seated at it, occupied in repairing some fine lace, was a smart young woman of  twenty, an upper maid, sensible and sharp-looking, with quick, dark eyes, and a healthy color.

"There's the baby, Glisson," she suddenly exclaimed, as  a child's cry was heard from the adjoining room. Glisson, the person she addressed, was a woman of middle age, active and slender, the valued nurse in the Danesbury family. She was sitting in a low rocking-chair, right in front of the fire, nodding at intervals. She half opened her eyes, and turned them on Jessy, with a somewhat dull  or stupid expression.

Sathi Leelavathi  was a film directed by Ellis R. Dungan in 1936.   MGR made his debut in this film.  MK Radha, MS Gnanambal, NS Krishnan, TS Balaiah co starred in the film for which story was by SS Vasan and lyrics were by Sundara Vadhyar.  It reportedly was a based on tamilplay ‘pathi bakthi’ [devotion to husband] written by A. Krishnaswami Pavalar and starring K. P. Kesavan. It was  a film of M. Kandasamy Mudaliar  whose son M. K. Radha was cast as hero and an unknown 19 year old M. G. Ramachandran was cast as Police Inspector Rangayya Naidu.   The film reportedly  dealt with the evils of alcoholism and promoted prohibition and  also depicted the plight of plantation workers in Ceylon.

A precursor in some ways, the film’s release was delayed as it became a court case by the makers of film ‘ Pathi Bakthi’.  There are reports that the story was admitted to have been plagiarised from Mrs. Henry Wood's story Danesbury House.  The film was a moderate success (euphemism for failure)

In 1958, he directed his own starrer Nadodi mannan.   He acted in more than 100 films, many of which were run away hits.   Though Sivaji Ganesan was considered as a much better actor, MGR won the National Award in 1972 for his film Rickshaw kaaran. He received Honorary Doctorate award from University of Madras as also from World University (Arizona).

In 1967, he was shot by fellow actor MR Radha which damaged his voice.  MGR was elected as MLA from St Thomas Mount constituency in 1967 on DMK ticket. He broke away from DMK seeking financial details, was expelled and floated his own party which came to power later in 1977.  He died in 1987 after illness.


Bharat Ratna was conferred by the Government of India (posthumously) in 1988 for his reformation activities and support from Tamil Nadu.

Regards – S Sampathkumar


PS :  ages after his death, his birth day is celebrated and he is still remembered on his death day.  At many street corners, today,  pictures of MGR were garlanded and loud speakers blared hit numbers from his films.

Those are the opening lines of  “Danesbury House” the work of Ellen Wood (1814-1887), English novelist, known as Mrs Henry Wood, one of the best selling authors of the second half of the nineteenth-century.  She shot into fame after her novel  East Lynne, a sensational novel of 1860s.   She is credited with 30 novels.  She reportedly suffered from several childhood ailments; the most serious being a severe curvature of the spine.   She was also the Editor of magazine Argosy.

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