It is yet another milestone for this made-for-each-other couple.
Theirs was an arranged marriage, performed like any normal wedding. But the couple tying the knot were not average. The groom was a stage, TV and film playback artist and the bride, an actor who had played the heroine and character roles in films starring MGR, Shivaji, Gemini Ganesan and S.S. Rajendran. A.L. Raghavan and M. N. Rajam got married at Tirupati on May 2, 1960. There was no media spotlight nor was it a star-studded affair.
May 2, 2013, ushered in their 53 years of togetherness. No small achievement in the film world where divorce is more the norm. And in April, ALR also stepped into his 80th year. A.L. Raghavan started his acting career in 1947 with Jupiter pictures’ ‘Krishna Vijayam’ as Lord Krishna and for Royal Talkies’ ‘Sudarsanam,’ he also played Krishna. He has also acted on the small screen for Ananda Vikatan Television’s ‘Alaigal.’ As a boy, ALR was introduced by Chidambaram Jayaraman and sang in a girl’s voice for Kumari Kamala in the film, ‘Vijayakumari’’.
M.N. Rajam gave up her hectic career for domestic responsibilities at a time when she was working three call sheets (7 to 1; 2 to 9 and 9 to 2 a.m.) every day.
In 1963, their son Brahmalakshman was born. He was named after ALR’s father. On the 11th day, Kripanandha Vaariyar came to their house and whispered Lord Murugan’s name three times in the baby’s ear and from that day his nickname became Muruga. Rajam says, “I nursed him for two and a half years and looked after him like any mother would.”
In 1969, their second child, Nalina Meenakshi, was born. It was only after she grew up that Rajam made a comeback in films.
She played the mother in movies such as K. Balachander’s ‘Arangetram’ (where she had seven children) and in K.S. Gopalakrishnan’s ‘Vandhale Magarasi’ with J. Jayalalithaa, she was Jaishankar and Ravichandran’s mother; and in TV serials that included ‘Siriputhaan Varugudhayaa’ (Vaali’s script), V.S. Raghavan’s ‘Vedha Vaaku,’ and J. Krishnaswamy’s ‘Kelviyin Nayaganey’ and in the Arjun-starrer ‘Marudhamalai,’ she was heroine Nila’s grandmother.
Rajam says, “Poverty drove us (ALR at age 8 and Rajam at 7) to join a drama troupe. So we ensured that our children got the best education.” Their effort was worth it as Muruga finished his Metallurgical Engineering in REC Warangal and is successfully managing his marble and granite business. Their grandson Vignesh (Muruga’s son) finished civil engineering and architecture from Edinburgh University, London.
Daughter Nalina Meenakshi did hotel management at London, Singapore and Rajasthan after graduating from Stella Maris. She then joined Le Royal Meridien as General Manager. She married Saravanan (actor M.K. Radha’s grandson) who is an electrical engineer.
Their daughter and the star couple’s granddaughter, Deepika, has finished her aeronautical engineering and is pursuing higher studies in Scotland.
On her marriage to ALR, Rajam says, “Although I was a heroine then, I did not deem it inferior to marry a playback singer. In fact my husband’s voice is as charming as ever. Till date I have toured the world with him for his concerts and have taken the undeserved credit for maintaining his youthful and melodious voice. My husband was probably the first one to conduct light music orchestra on stage with singers such as L.R. Eswari, K.Veeramani and Malaysia Vasudevan. He used to have around 36 shows in a month, sometimes with two shows on a single day.”
On their fame, she points out, “When our car stops at the red light, those also waiting at the traffic signal recognise us and talk to us cordially. We thank God for this recognition and for giving us a peaceful life.” That she was totally involved as a home-maker becomes obvious when she casually remarks, “My mother-in-law lived with us till her death.”
ALR credits his wife for being his strength. He says, “My wife’s unconditional support helped me to withstand and face the financial problems that were caused by my film production. We never had an ego problem either. Our children meet us on weekends and we spend time together at seaside resorts. They celebrated my 60th birthday at Thirukadayur and 75th at Le Meridien. It is on their insistence we decided to have a public function for my 80 birthday.”
On their meeting with Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, he says, “She wanted me to sing ‘Andru Oomai Pennallo Indru Pesum Pennallo’ from ‘Paarthaal Pasi Theerum’ for Jaya TV. She liked it very much.”
Rajam says, “Although I was invited for lunch with the Chief Minister I could not go, as I was leaving for Malaysia that day with ALR for his concert. I felt awful about that and apologised to her. On May 21, we sought and got an appointment to meet her to invite her for the 80th birthday celebrations. She spent time with us and our family in spite of her busy schedule.”