From The Hindu’s Archives Movies

MGR, man of the masses

Do the superstars of Tamil cinema make for good politicians? This is the question that everybody in Tamil Nadu is asking now, at a time when both Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan have made their political ambitions public. Four decades ago, though, the answer was pretty clear. MGR’s charisma and personality as an actor won the hearts of people and he is remembered to this very day as one of the most important Chief Ministers in the country. On the 101st birth anniversary of the cultural icon, we bring to you stories from the archives of The Hindu Group of Publications that bring forth the command the man had on the masses.

M.G.R.'s Unique Triumph

(An extract of an article published on 7-8-1965)

A NEW milestone—significant in every respect—was reached the other day when Vijaya Combines

Productions and the Madras City distributors, Emgeeyar Pictures, celebrated the Silver Jubilee

Week of their remarkable colour picture 'Enga Veettu Pillai*, which has proved to be a great money spinner. As described aptly by Mr. A. L. Srinivasan, the new President of the Film Federation of India, the success of 'Enga Veettu Pillai' symbolises the success of the Tamil film industry. The makers, the artistes and the technicians responsible for creating such ah unforgettable film have earned the salute of the motion picture industry in South India.

In recent years, only very few pictures had the distinction of celebrating the Silver Jubilee. They were 'Kalyana -Parisu', 'Pava Mannippu', 'Pasamalar' and 'Kathalikka Neramillai'. Yet. the success of those films cannot equal that of 'Enga Veettu Pillai'. The difference lies in this. While they were shown only at one picture house, 'Enga Veettu Pillai' has been drawing bumper crowds at three cinemas—Casino, Broadway and Mekala—in Madras. This apart, the film has had a Silver Jubilee run in four other district centres in the South—Madurai, Coimbatore, Tiruchirappalli and Thanjavur.

It is a' record, about which the makers can feel proud.  

Statistical figures reveal that the Government has received a bigger share of income from this film from the three theatres in the City than the distributers and the exhibitors. As many as 12 lakhs of people in Madras City, with a population of over 20 lakhs, have seen this film. The total income to the State by way of entertainment tax on this film throughout South India is estimated to be in the region of Rs. 50 lakhs. These staggering figures and the enormous box-office pull of 'Enga Veettu Pillai' have restored the needed confidence in the minds of the distributors to invest more and more in production.

What are the causes for the success of 'Enga Veettu Pillai'? The reasons are not far-to seek. A casual appraisal will convince everyone that the picture's universal appeal, capable of ensuring a repeat audience, has primarily contributed to its unqualified success. Besides wholesome entertainment values, the moral of the film, which is most inspiring, is another contributing factor. On top is the magnificent performance of the lead player, M. G. Ramachandran, in the dual role of the nitwit and his dashing, enterprising twin brother. The gamut of emotions displayed by M.G.R. in the dual role and particularly his interpretation of the nitwit have won for him the unstinted admiration of critics, connoisseurs and cinegoers. All of them have come to the conclusion that M.G.R., who is always capable of good acting has made great strides in the field of histrionics. The picture indeed marks the unique triumph of M.G.R. In the earlier years, M.G.R.'s own film 'Nadodi Mannan' was considered a great box-office hit. And now he has beaten his own record with his latest film, 'Enga Veettu Pillai', which is far superior in production and technical values to his own earlier hit. Further, it is in opulent colour. The actual "shooting" of the Him was completed within a record period of 45 days while the entire production took up less than two and a half months. This is a record for any colour film produced in India. According to B. Nagi Reddi and Chakrapani, the "de jure" makers of the film, the speed and efficiency with which the film was completed should be attributed t« the indefatigable work put in by M.G.R. as the "de facto" producer of the film, besides shouldering the dual role in it. The latter worked for nearly sixteen to eighteen hours each day on the film and supervised' every aspect of its production.

The impression about M.G.R. all the while has been that he is incapable of acting and that he is fit only for swashbuckling roles. Th.e discerning fiimgoers have taken pride in declaring that they scrupulously avoid seeing his pictures. But 'Enga Veettu Pillai' has dispelled all sorts of misgivings about him. It has, on the other hand, proved that his success as an actor has been mainly due to his talent, sincerity, humility, hard work and a spirit of camaraderie displayed by him. Both on and off the screen. His fans are now legion.

I wish to re-enter cinema: MGR

(Excerpts from an article published on 30-8-1979)

Madras, August 29:

The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Mr. M.G.Ramachandran has extended his desire to re-enter the film world. “I will not leave the cine field. I cannot say whether I will act again. But I will produce and direct films. I am only waiting for a chance and time,” he said here on Wednesday, inaugurating the Rs. 24 lakh theatre complex built by the South Indian Artistes Association Public Charity Trust.

The Chief Minister said there was no question of ‘retirement’ for anyone associated in whichever capacity with the cine field. Unless one was disabled, it was unthinkable to bid goodbye to the profession. He recalled his association with the South Indian Artistes’ Association since its inception, and his struggle to unite artistes of all the Southern States under one banner. Only Tamil Nadu could boast of such an association, while artistes in other southern states had their own respective bodies. He appealed to artistes in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka to open branches of the Association to express solidarity and strengthen units among the artistes. Mr Ramachandran offered to sanction a loan of Rs 50 lakhs from the theatre finance corporation to the Trust. The Tamil Nadu Government would never lag behind in protecting the welfare of artistes.

The Chief Minister said producers and artistes had a vital role to play in safeguarding the cultural heritage of the state. When the Centre was toying with the idea of entrusting the censorship to the film producers themselves, it was time producers, scriptwriters, directors and artistes evolved a code of ethics to justify such a confidence. Referring to the complaint voiced earlier by Mr R.M.Veerappan, Information Minister, that artistes were hesitant and unwilling to champion public causes, Mr Ramachandran said he would urge producers and theatre owners to show the way first before persuading artistes to fall in line. “I paid a heavy price for being a donor and my trouble with the income tax department started only on that account,” Mr Ramachandran added. He advised the artistes to develop courage to face challenges. If one were to bend under worries and blackmail from ‘yellow magazines’, there was no way out. Lack of unity among artistes also posed problems. He urged them to sink their differences and stand united to protect their interests. The Chief Minister said artistes had a grievance against the provisions of the new Prohibition Law and assured that no official would harass the law-abiding citizen at any time.

The Chief Minister announced that one half of Habibullah Road in Thyagaraya Nagar, where the new theatre complex in situated, would be named South Indian Artistes Association Road.


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