PALAKKAD: As the birth centenary of the late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK founder M G Ramachandran- devotedly known as MGR- is set to be celebrated across the borders of Palakkad on January 17, the small tiled house from where the matinee idol began his stride to stardom will always be etched in the memory of the locals here.
MGR, sporting his vintage white fur cap and dark glasses, left his Midas Touch on celluloid as an actor, director and producer and became an enigma by winning the chief minister race from his hospital bed with much elan.
But now, the only remnants of the prolific history is the ramshackle Maruthur ‘tharavad’ (MGR’s ancestral house) in Vadavannur, which functions as an anganwadi. On the peeled-off compound wall of the well, the wordings ‘Sathya Vilasam’ is etched in Malayalam. Though pale, the name, which was given after MGR’s mother Sathyabhama, is visible even today. The relatives of MGR, who used to live there, later shifted to Palakkad, 12 kms away and rented it out to the local panchayat. Except for occasional visits by AIADMK functionaries, the building lies in the throes of neglect.
N Mayil Swamy, a local AIADMK leader, recalled, “MGR was born on January 17,1917 to Melekath Gopala Menon and Vadavannur Marathur Sathyabhama in Kandy in Sri Lanka. Gopala Menon who hailed from the nearby Nalleppilly village moved to Vadavannur after he retired from government service in Kandy and stayed in this house for some time. After his father’s death, Sathyabhama took MGR and his brother M G Chakrapani to his paternal uncle’s house at Kumbakonam. Both the brothers began their tryst with films while living in Kumbakonam.”
Arun Narayanan of the Palakkad team of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) said, “We plan to kick off a year- long village heritage celebrations in memory of MGR. The aim is to give a glimpse of his life and achievements to the next generation. We also plan to set up a museum/cultural centre in the village and to host an annual festival. It could be on the lines of the Central Government scheme ‘Hriday’, which promotes heritage-based development of villages as is done in European countries”.
As part of the programme, INTACH plans to conduct a function on Tuesday at the Achutha Menon Upper Primary School, Vadavannur, which will be attended by writers, officials of the district administration and the general public. A massive MGR mural has also been developed by local artists as part of the programme. Mani Ratnam’s magnum opus ‘Iruvar’, a fictionalised account of MGR’s life and times, will also be screened.
Vadavannur panchayat president Sairindri Mohandas said if there is a proposal from any organisation to conserve the ancestral property of MGR, they can approach the panchayat board, which will take a final call.