July 10, 2024
MG Ramachandran

MG Ramachandran: The Puratchi Thalaivar

MG Ramachandran, popularly referred to as M. G. R., was an Indian politician, film actor, and former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for ten years between 1977 and 1987. MGR is considered 

one of the most influential actors in the history of Indian cinema. He starred in over 127 films in a career spanning six decades, primarily in Tamil.”

About MG Ramachandran

He was popularly referred to as MGR. Popularly known as “The People’s Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu” or “The Pride of the South”, he was a three-time Member of the Legislative Assembly from Chidambaram constituency, and three-time Member of Parliament from Chidambaram constituency and once from Chennai North constituency. During his first two terms as Chief Minister, he governed Tamil Nadu with an iron hand, making him an ever-present danger to his political adversaries throughout India.

Life of MGR

His birth

MG Ramachandran was born on 9th June 1980 (as Dakshinamoorthy) into a Paraiyar family in the village of Nerkuppai near Ramanathapuram, Tamil Nadu. His father, R. Srinivasan, was from Kabilaney village near Srivaikuntam. He had his early education in his native village and at the age of 10 he joined the prestigious Christian Missionary Society Middle School in Ramanathapuram town. He later joined the Government Higher Secondary School and also worked as a part-time teacher for some years to assist his family financially.

His education

MG Ramachandran went on to study at the Maharaja’s College in Trivandrum, graduating with a BA degree and subsequently acquiring an M.A. degree in Economics from Presidency College, Chennai.

His personal life

MG Ramachandran married Padmavathy, a distant relative of the famous Travancore sisters – Lalitha, Padmini (Padmavathi), and Ragini (Parvathi), and had two sons with her : Prabhavathi and Thamizh MGR (also known as Mahadevan).

Sometime after his death on 18th January 1987, it was revealed that Ramachandran had been suffering from kidney failure for many years. He suffered a stroke late in 1985 due to which he ceased acting.


MG Ramachandran was first elected to the Madras Legislative Assembly in 1957 as a Swatantra Party candidate. He then joined the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and was elected to that party’s legislative council in 1960. He remained in the DMK until 1972 when a split in the party led him to float his own outfit, Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (ADMK), named after his spouse.

Acting career

After the success of his first movie, ‘Sathi Leelavathi’, MGR made a screen debut in ‘Sathi Leelavathi’ (1936). He later appeared in many more movies, but his work in Tamil cinema received little recognition until his first blockbuster hit “Malaikkallan” (1954). With this movie he started getting personal attention from film directors and became one of the most popular film stars in Tamil cinema.

MG Ramachandran acted in many films both with and without his wife, who was an actress as well. When she died on 14th February 1966, he was inconsolable and seldom acted for about a year before resuming his career. Although he played many supporting roles in films over the next few years, it was not until his super-hit “Rickshawkaran” (1972) that MGR was once again receiving high recognition.

Political career

MG Ramachandran continued to play leading roles until he joined politics in 1977 and he was thereafter rarely seen on the silver screen. However, his talent had been inherited by a number of his younger brothers who went onto become successful film stars. His elder brother R. Srinivasan entered films as an actor and went on to become one of the most popular supporting actors of South Indian cinema, while another younger brother, Arun Kumar Ahuja, became a hero and then a scriptwriter.

1967 assassination attempt

While filming in the sets of the movie “Manamagal” (1967), many members of the film crew were attacked by a man wielding a knife. MG Ramachandran, who was at that time busy with make-up for his next shot, stepped in front of his attacker and received multiple injuries on his face and waist. His wounds required 113 stitches and it took him more than a year to recover from them.

MG Ramachandran

Differences with Karunanidhi and birth of AIADMK

While all the other DMK leaders were against Jayalalitha’s entry into politics, MGR stood firmly behind her. MG Ramachandran later became the chief minister in 1977. MGR and his DMK party were bitterly opposed to Jayalalitha’s decision to join hands with Karunanidhi and she was expelled from the party because of this. She also joined hands with MGR’s rival, Chandrababu Naidu, after his expulsion from the DMK in 1978. The two leaders patched up their differences and fought a joint election contest, but they lost miserably to Rajiv Gandhi-led Congress Party.

1977 Assembly elections

MG Ramachandran was subsequently elected as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu in 1977 on an AIADMK ticket. He formed the government with a huge majority, growing it to 156 seats in the 234-member Assembly. Suspecting MGR of having amassed wealth disproportionate to his known income, the Jayalalithaa faction in the AIADMK had opposed him as Chief Minister.

Riots and feud with Karunanidhi

MG Ramachandran had a long-standing feud with his mentor and political mentor, Karunanidhi. Whom he accused of using him to further his own political ambitions. When MGR became Chief Minister, he did not want any interference from Karunanidhi. And also managed to keep all the powers in his hands. However, this did not help him in the end as Jayalalitha had to return to politics because of her party’s poor performance in the state assembly elections.

1980 Parliament and assembly elections

In 1980, MG Ramachandran, who was the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu at that time. Could not contest the general elections due to his poor health. Therefore, his deputy and AIADMK leader (and later chief minister), J. Jayalalitha contested from the R.K. Nagar constituency in an attempt to retain her hold on power and prove Karunanidhi’s wrongs.

In a bizarre turn of events, she defeat DMK’s M.Gopalaswamy by a margin of just 42 votes. Which is consider to be one of the closest electoral contests ever in India’s electoral history.

1984 assembly elections

MG Ramachandran lost the assembly elections in 1984, after a trial by the Karnataka High Court. In that election, which took place while his health was deteriorating rapidly. He was plagued by poor health, MGR lost to K. Karunanidhi of DMK by a margin of just 62,918 votes. Jayalalitha managed to retain her seat. But she had lost the support of many members within her party in that election.

Criticism and controversies

In 1984, MG Ramachandran was accuse of corruption by DMK. Which allege that he had amasse wealth disproportionate to his income. Although the case was heard in various courts. And in various parts of the country, he was always found not guilty. On 26th January 1987, a day before his death, the special court cleared him of all corruption charges.

MGR was also criticise for politicising and commercialising health care during his tenure as Chief Minister. He had even made cinema stars screenwriters and producers to ensure. That they would portray him favourably in their films – these movies were called “MGR films”.

Awards and Honor

In 1956, MG Ramachandran was award the “Seneviratne” (Virtue) award for outstanding contribution to public service. He got Bharat ratna in 1988.

MGR was conferr with the title of “Marmalade King” in 1971 by the state governor. He was bestow with many other awards and titles as well. He was also honour with a national award by Pravin Tandon, the then Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting.

In 1989, MGR became the first South Indian film actor who received an honorary doctorate from a foreign university. He also got honorary doctorates from universities in Australia and Japan in 1990 and 1993 respectively. In 1992, he was conferre with the honour of serving as a Chancellor of Anna University.

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