Meet KP Ramakrishnan: MGR’s bodyguard and body double


On the star’s death anniversary, his 88-year-old Man Friday goes down memory lane

Way back in 1947, KP Ramakrishnan, then 17, was working in the popular ‘Sowcarpet Paal Kadai’, an eatery that used to be open till late in the night. Ramakrishnan was new to Madras then — he hailed from Palakkad, but had shifted base to Madras in search of better opportunities. But he knew no one here, except the faces he saw on the big screen.

He saw one of them in the ‘Paal Kadai’ one day. “I recognised him as MGR. He used to frequent our shop with his brother Chakrapani. They were staying at a house in nearby Waltax Road, paying a rent of ₹15.”

Ramakrishan sought an appointment with MGR — and he visited the man’s house on Pongal day. “I cannot forget that day. It was the first time we had a long chat.”

But as luck would have it, Rajakumari released that year and MGR became popular, and moved out to Adyar. A couple of years passed, and one day, a production manager wanted a few people who knew silambam for a film shoot. Ramakrishnan was roped in. “I didn’t know cinema at all but I was paid ₹150 for a two-day shooting schedule. I was getting only ₹40 in my tea shop and so decided, cinema was going to be my life.”

Since then, Ramakrishnan has had a long association with tinseltown — he became MGR’s personal bodyguard and was also the actor’s body double in numerous films. This was back in the day when Tamil cinema was doing double role films and needed someone who could look and walk like the protagonist.

Sometimes, if the production wanted long shots of the star, they wouldn’t bother calling him; they’d call Ramakrishnan instead. “It’s not that MGR couldn’t do it. But he wanted to help me out financially,” The long shots you see in many big screen outings of MGR — in films like Maattukara Velan and Kudiyirundha Koyil — are actually not of the actor himself, but of Ramakrishnan.

My MGR moments

Nadodi Mannan

The first film in which Ramakrishnan was a body double. “The scene they shot was of me carrying him on my shoulders and saving him. The sequence was shot for a couple of days and MGR was happy with the way it turned out.”

Neerum Neruppum

It was a rehash of an earlier Tamil film (Apoorva Sagodharargal in 1949) and shot majorly in Gemini Studios. There were two brother characters and an important sequence had them both fighting it out. “The dagger used in it was an original one,” he says, “I had to match MGR’s fighting abilities. Dharmendra and Hema Malini were present on the set when that particular sequence was shot.”

Ninaithadhai Mudippavan

“MGR was a great fighter, especially when he had to wield swords and knives. To stand up to him, even if it was just a film shooting, was a big task,” says Ramakrishnan, “There was a risky sequence in which I had to jump from a height with a real knife.” Ramakrishnan remembers his work in this film being appreciated a great deal by MGR. “He gave me ₹2,000 at the end of shooting.”

Aasai Mugam

“There were two MGRs in this film; one of them sported a pant and the other, a veshti,” he recalls, “We had to keep switching between the two. My favourite memory of this film, directed by Pullaiah, was doing an action sequence wearing a veshti.”

The resemblance between the two was remarkable in this, he says. “So much so that a few days into the shoot, the star started calling me, ‘MGR’.” Ramakrishnan also remembers a song sequence when they shot him singing from a long distance.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 11:02:14 AM |

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