Marudhur Gopalan Ramachandran (17 January 1917 - 24 December 1987), popularly known by the acronym MGR, was an Indian film actor who worked primarily in Tamil films as an actor, director, producer, and politician who also served as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu successively for three terms. MGR is a cultural icon in Tamil Nadu and is regarded as one of the greatest and most influential actors the Tamil film industry ever produced.
In his youth, MGR and his elder brother, M. G. Chakrapani,
became members of a drama troupe to support their family. Influenced by Gandhian ideals, MGR joined the Indian National Congress. After a few years of acting in plays, he made his film debut in the 1936 film Sathi Leelavathi in a supporting role. In the late 1940s he graduated to leading roles and for the next three decades dominated the Tamil film industry. He became a member of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and rose rapidly through its ranks. He successfully used his popularity as a film
hero to build a large political base. In 1972, he left the DMK to form his own party the Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (ADMK). In 1977 he became the chief minister of Tamil Nadu – the first film actor in India to become the chief minister of a state. He remained as chief minister till his death in 1987. MGR was a member of the Congress Party till 1953, and he used to wear khādī. In 1953 MGR joined the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) attracted by founder C.N.Annadurai. He became a vocal
Tamil and Dravidian nationalist and prominent member of the DMK ("Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam" aka Dravidian Progressive Federation). He added glamour to the Dravidian movement which was sweeping Tamil Nadu. MGR became a member of the state Legislative Council in 1962. He was first elected to the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly in 1967. After the death of his mentor, Annadurai, MGR became the treasurer of DMK in 1969 after Muthuvel Karunanidhi became the chief minister. M.R. Radha and MGR had
worked in 25 films together. On 12 January 1967 M.R. Radha with a producer visited MGR to talk about a future project. During the conversation M.R. Radha stood up and shot MGR in his left ear twice and then pretended to shoot himself. MGR drove to the hospital by himself and spoke to the doctor with his own voice for the last time. After the operation his voice changed. Since he had been shot in his ear MGR lost hearing in his left ear and had ringing in the ear problems but never complained
until he had kidney problems in the early 1983. When Sinnappa Devar paid his first visit to see MGR at the hospital after the shooting incident he paid an advance for the next MGR's movie. So after getting released from the hospital and finishing Arasakattalai MGR acted in Devar's movie Vivasaayee against doctors' advice. When finishing the movie Kaavalkaaran MGR's speaking parts were reduced. This was the only movie MGR spoke with old and new voices between scenes: When MGR was acting in
Kaavalkaran in 1967 opposite J. Jayalalithaa the shooting happened. Petralthaan Pillaya was the last movie of MGR-MR Radha together. Shooting ended just few days before MGR was shot at. The bullet was permanently lodged in his neck and his voice damaged. Within hours of the shooting, some 50,000 fans had gathered at the hospital where MGR had been taken. People cried in the streets. For six weeks, he lay in the hospital as fans awaited each report of his health. He was visited by a steady
stream of commoners and luminaries of film industry, polity and bureaucracy. From his hospital bed, he conducted his campaign for Madras Legislative Assembly. He won twice the number of votes polled by his Congress rival and the largest vote polled by any candidate for the Assembly. In 1972, DMK leader Karunanidhi started to project his first son M.K. Muthu in a big way in film and politics. Understanding the tactics played by Karunanidhi to corner him, MGR started to claim that corruption
had grown in the party after the demise of Annadurai and in a public meeting asked for the financial details of the party to be publicised, which enraged the leadership of DMK. Consequently, MGR was expelled from the party as per Karunanidhi's plan. He forcefully floated a new party named Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (ADMK), later renamed All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), the only powerful opponent of the DMK. He mobilised between 1972 and 1977 to spread and preach his party
ambition with films like Netru Indru Naalai (1974), Idhayakani (1975), Indru Pol Endrum Vazhga (1977), etc. He became Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on 30 June 1977, remaining in office till his death in 1987. In 1979, members of his party Satyavani Muthu and Aravinda Bala Pajanor became the first non-Congress politicians from Tamil Nadu to be ministers in the Union Cabinet. The AIADMK won every state assembly election as long as MGR was alive. Although Anna Durai and Karunanidhi had acted in
stage plays in trivial roles, in their younger days, before becoming chief minister, MGR was the first popular film actor to be a Chief Minister in India. Though the Congress won by a small margin of votes with the DMK in the 1980 parliamentary elections, the AIADMK under MGR won the state elections the same year. This made the Congress to ally with the AIADMK in the 1984 elections. MGR ended his acting career in 1977. Once he became Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, he placed great emphasis on
social development, especially education. One of his most successful policies was the conversion of the "Midday Meal Scheme" introduced by the popular Congress Chief Minister and kingmaker K Kamaraj, which already was encouraging underprivileged children to attend school, into "MGR's Nutritious Meal Scheme" in the government-run and -aided schools in Tamil Nadu by adding saththurundai – a nutritious sugary flour dumpling. This scheme was at a cost of Rs. 1 billion and was imposed in 1982. A
little more than 120,000 children of the state were benefited. He also introduced Women's Special buses. He introduced a liquor ban in the state and preservation of old temples and historical monuments, ultimately increasing the state's tourist income. He set up a free school for the cinema technicians children in Kodambakkam called MGR Primary & Higher Secondary School which provided free mid-day meals in the 1950s. He led the ADMK to victory in the 1984 assembly elections despite not taking
part in the campaigning. At that time he was undergoing medical treatment in America and his images were broadcast in Tamil Nadu through cinema halls. This was an effective campaign tactic and ADMK won the elections claiming around 56% of assembly seats, indicating the depth of his popular support. He won his seat in a double landslide victory in 1984. He still holds the record of being the chief minister with the highest consistent longevity of more than a decade.