Colombo, January 17 (The New Indian Express): The 100 th. birth anniversary of M.G.Ramachandran, who dominated the Tamil film world as well as Tamil Nadu politics like a colossus till his death in December 1987, was celebrated in the North Sri Lankan Tamil town of Jaffna on Tuesday with the Indian Consul General, A.Natarajan, as the Chief Guest.
The solemn function organized at the “MGR” statue by Suntharalingam, an associate of MGR’s from the time the actor-politician was shot at and injured by fellow actor and political rival M.R.Radha in 1967.
Influenced by MGR’s concern for the welfare of the poorest of the poor, Suntharalingam has been distributing money and clothes to the poor of Jaffna every year to mark his idol’s birthday. Sporting dark glasses like MGR, Suntharalingam is also a man of few words, who believes in doing rather than talking. He is popularly known as “Eelamu MGR” or MGR of Eelam.
Gift from Sri Lanka
Speaking on the occasion, Indian Consul General Natarajan described MGR as Sri Lanka’s gift to India because the screen and political idol was born in Kandy in Central Sri Lanka.
Referring to MGR’s concern for the poor, Natarajan said that this was reflected not only on the silver screen through the roles he played, but in real life too in his long career as a political leader and a popular Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. His “reel” and “real” life were the same, Natarajan said.
The Indian diplomat drew attention to the fact that MGR had shown a new way to popular film stars by entering politics and emerging as a popular leader. Ronald Reagan had become a political party leader and US President after MGR, Natarajan pointed out.
In India too, many actors became leaders subsequent to MGR, like N.T.Ramarao in Andhra Pradesh. Several stars became Members of Parliament.
Among other Jaffna dignitaries who attended the 100 th, anniversary function were P.Ayngaranesan, Northern Province Minister of Agriculture, and M.K.Shivajiligam, member of the Northern Provincial Council.
Ethnic Conflict Brought Lankan Tamils Close to MGR
MGR was always a matinee idol among Sri Lankan Tamils, but he came close to their heart only when he started supporting the Eelam Tamil movement in the early 1980s. Sri Lankan Tamils consider MGR as “more sincere” in his support for the cause of Tamil Eelam as compared to his Tamil Nadu political rival, M.Karunanidhi.
Though both Karunanidhi and MGR supported the Eelam movement, MGR went the extra mile and gave millions of rupees to the LTTE led by Velupillai Prabhakaran. MGR intuitively felt that the LTTE, led by Prabhakaran, would turn out to be more effective than the other Tamil militant groups which he shunned.
However, given the overwhelming power of the Indian Central government, MGR gave his assent to the India-Sri Lanka Accord in July 1987 though it negated an independent Eelam. Grateful for the assent, the Indian government led by Rajiv Gandhi gave MGR the “Bharat Ratna”, India’s highest civilian award, in 1988 after his death on December 24, 1987.
Despite MGR’s support for the unpopular Accord, Jaffna Tamils continued to adore MGR both as an actor and as a sincere political friend. The Tamil areas in the North Sri Lanka are dotted with MGR statues.
(The featured picture shows the Indian Consul General in Jaffna, A.Natarajan, speaking at the function to celebrate the birth centenary of M.G.Ramachandran in Jaffna)