Wednesday, April 30, 2008


If the mark of a great city is the opportunities it provides to people coming into it from other regions, then Chennai does belong up there. While there is some mild jingoism about Tamil language, culture, heritage etc., I'm hard pressed to think of any state in India besides Tamilnadu that carries a refrain similar to 'வந்தோரை வாழவைக்கும் தமிழகம்' (roughly translated as 'the Tamizh land that fosters any who comes').

And MGR is one of those who was fostered very well. Of Keralite origin, born in Sri Lanka, his first role was in a movie directed by an American who knew no Tamil (Ellis R. Dungan); but then he went on to become a leading actor, on to be the state's Chief Minister and even 21 years after his death, remains a larger-than-life, influential figure in the politics of the state.

The plaque at the MGR memorial on the Marina seems too bland - does not quite capture the phenomenon that he was and the hysteria he inspired in the population of Tamil Nadu.

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