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MGR’s centenary: The man who dominated Tamil films for 3 decades

On MG Ramachandran’s 100th birth anniversary, HT recalls some of his best films which made him the most-loved film star in Tamil Nadu.

regional movies Updated: Jan 17, 2017 15:48 IST
Nivedita Mishra
Nivedita Mishra
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
MGR,MG Ramachandran,J Jalalalithaa
MG Ramchandran was born on January 17, 1917.(YouTube Grab)

From Rajinikanth to Kamal Haasan and Vijay to Ajith, Tamil Nadu has a fair share of male superstars in the tinsel town. But once upon a time, (from the late 1940s to the late ’70s), Tamil cinema was virtually synonymous with just once name: MG Ramachandran. The man who was initiated into theatre at a tender age of six made his film debut in 1936 in Sathi Leelavathi and went on to dominate the movie scene for nearly three decades.

MG Ramachandran was the Tamil Nadu chief minister for 10 years between 1977 and 1987. ( Virendra Prabhakar/HT Photo )

On his 100th birth anniversary, here’s a look at some of his most memorable performances.

Malaikkallan (1954)

A typical Robin Hood-styled story of a mysterious dacoit, who helps the poor in a fictitious hamlet Vijayapuram, had MRG playing to the gallery very well. Appearing both as dacoit and a businessman who must disappear from time to time, the film’s plot had enough drama to sustain audience interest. The film released in six languages and became a top grosser of the year (estimated at Rs 92.00 lakhs).

Cast: P Bhanumathi, Sriram
Producer: Pakshiraja Studios
Director: SM Sriramulu Naidu

Alibabavum 40 Thirudargalum (1955)

Based on the popular story Alibaba and the Forty Thieves from Arabian classic One Thousand and One Nights, this fantasy swashbuckler film, directed and produced by TR Sundaram, was the first Tamil colour film. This film would set a precedent for many buccaneer-style characters he would essay later in his career.

Co-star: Bhanumathi Ramakrishna
Producer: Modern Theatres
Director: TR Sundaram

Mahadhevi (1957)

Based on a novel Punya Prabhav by Marathi playwright RG Katkari, the film was an interesting cloak-and-dagger romance about the intrigues in a royal family. Somewhere midway through the film, MGR, for the first time, began wearing a wig. Needless to say, it was a big hit.

Co-star: Savithri
Producer: Sri Ganesh Movietone
Director: Sundar Rao Nadkarni

Aayirathil Oruvan (1965)

Inspired from the 1935 American film Captain Blood, Aayirathil Oruvan saw the MGR-Jayalalithaa combination for the first time. This ‘swashbuckler’ film, had MGR playing a golden-hearted doctor who helps the poor and the enslaved. Giving him company is a princess played by Jayalalithaa. It was such a phenomenal success that it is said that its director-producer BR Panthulu, who was in financial trouble then, became debt free.

Cast: J Jalayalithaa
Producer: Padmini Pictures
Director: BR Panthulu

Enga Veettu Pillai (1965)

A remake of hit Telugu film, Ramudu Bheemudu starring NT Rama Rao (and was later made in Hindi as Ram Aur Shyam with Dilip Kumar), the film saw MGR in a double role. It is the story of two twins, separated at birth, with one being a coward while the other, a courageous one. It was among the top grossers of that time.

Cast: B Saroja Devi
Producer: Vijaya Combines Productions
Director: Chanakya

Anbe Vaa (1966)

A Tamil romantic comedy, inspired by 1961 American film Come September, the film was a top grosser of the year. It happens to be the only film MGR did with AVM Productions. It is the story of a rich industrialist who visits his bungalow in Shimla only to find that his caretakers have left for Varanasi leaving the bungalow to the care of a family of three.

Cast: B Saroja Devi
Producer: AVM Productions
Director: AC Tirulokchandar

Arasa Kattalai (1967)

Yet another film with the traditional swagger, this one too was about a tyrant king and a ‘man of the people’ who stands up to his oppression. This was the last time Saroja Devi collaborated with MGR.

Cast: B Saroja Devi, J Jayalalithaa
Producer: Satyaraja Pictures
Director: MG Chakrapani

Adimai Penn (1969)

A sword-and-sandal film, Adimai Penn again had MGR playing a double role as brave and noble king and prince with Jayalalithaa playing the female lead. The film was a huge success and drew huge crowds to the theatres.

Co star: J Jayalalithaa
Producer: Emgeeyaar Pictures Ltd
Director: K Shankar

Rickshawkaran (1971)

The role won MGR a National Film Award for Best Actor. The top-grossing film of the year was remade in 1973 in Hindi as Rickshawala. The film’s plot revolves around murder of a rickshawpuller, witnessed by a fellow rickshawpuller (played by MGR), who, in the process of unraveling the mystery, stumbles upon a huge trafficking racket. How he goes about cleansing the system forms the rest of the story.

Co star: Manjula
Producer: Sathiya Movies
Director: M. Krishnan Nair

Ulagam Sutrum Valiban (1973)

One of MGR’s biggest hits, the film centres around an Indian scientist, who claims to have invented a way to store energy from lightning but refuses to divulge any information as he fears that the world is at the brink of a third world war and his discovery could be misused. The film depicts the challenges he faces and how he goes about winning approval and applause.

Cast: MN Nambiar, Manjula, Latha Sethupathi, Chandrakala
Producer: Emgeeyaar Pictures Ltd
Director: MG Ramachandran

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First Published: Jan 17, 2017 15:45 IST