From inside a small brown suitcase, MGR reigns over E. Parameswaran, a diehard fan's life and the decisions he makes to this day.
In the movie hall, people have to plead with him to be silent, as he will shout out each dialogue, a minute before it is delivered on screen. But he can’t help it, says E. Parameswaran, also known as an encyclopaedia on MGR. From the names of directors, scriptwriters and lyrics of songs to dialogues, costume, and even the kind of shoes the star wore, he knows every little detail about MGR.
With folded hands he bows to a black-and-white photo of a dashing MGR, with a vermillion dot on the forehead, that is hung on the walls of his living room, next to the photos of his parents. “He is the only reason why I became successful in life. If you watch his film, you will learn about how to look after your family, and maintain good relations with people around you.”
Watching Parameswaran delivering MGR’s dialogues is quite an experience. He sits up straight, raises his head a little and launches into a dialogue of the star from Mattukkara Velan. It is from the scene where Raghu, played by MGR, tells his mother that a man can buy rewards and gifts but can never buy a mother. Parameswaran’s eyes well up and his voice quivers as he says these lines. “This scene always makes me cry. The love and respect that he shows his mother in his films, is what attracted me to him.”
His love for the star does not stop with his films. Soon, he is all ready to imitate MGR, the leader. He clears his throat, holds a pretend mic and thunders, “En rathathin rathamana udan pirappukkale…” Parameswaran, who has attended most of MGR’s rallies, knows his speeches by heart. “When there are issues in the family, I quote from his speeches and films. It is even said that if you see his films there will be no family fights.”
Perhaps his most treasured belonging is a brown suitcase. In it are Parameswaran’s collection of stills from MGR films, the actor’s cut-outs from newspapers and magazines and several editions of Idayakkani — an exclusive magazine on MGR, his films and personal life.
As he neatly lays down each CD on the floor, careful not to step on them, he bursts into songs and shares trivia of each film. “This film is Nam Naadu. Haven’t you heard the song, Vaangayya Vaadiyaarayya? MGR looks so good in this with his shirt tucked in! I have the CDs of all the 136 films he acted in. These are my life. When I die, I want them to be buried with me.”
Parameswaran also has a stack of cut-outs of just MGR’s head. Just by looking at the wig worn by the actor, Parameswaran can identify the film. “Every wig is special and unique to the film. I also note his costumes. In the film, Ulagam Sutrum Vaaliban, he wore 65 costumes. And, no one looks as good as him with glares. If you give me his picture, I can go on looking at it for hours, without food or water.”
His two sons have gifted him a TV and DVD player and given him a separate room so that he can watch the films in peace. Every day, he watches at least one film of MGR, but only after finishing work at the sugar mill where he works as a security guard. That is because, “MGR always says you come to the theatre to watch me only after finishing your work.”
Parameswaran does not take kindly to anyone who does not love MGR as much as he does. That includes his wife and children, too. Thirty years ago, he took his newly-wed wife to watch an MGR film. And was terribly offended when she said she did not like the movie all that much. “That was the last time I took her for a film.”
When MGR passed away in 1987, his mother and wife had to lock him in his room. “I was about to end my life. However, I remembered what MGR used to say, ‘You do not go after death until it comes to you.’ That stopped me from killing myself.” Every year, on MGR’s death anniversary, he visits his Samadhi. “MGR can never die. He is not just an actor. He comes alive on screen and talks to people like me. For us, it is not just a film that ends in three hours. It is life and he is our Thalaivar.”