M.G Ramachandran was hardly a director's actor.When I say this I do not mean that this mass hero would not have cooperated with his directors.What on the other hand, I mean to say, is that it would have been very difficult to direct someone, whose image was always at its peak, on account of his own set theories of film making and his much cherished concept of what really a hero is and how he should be presented on screen.The three lettered hero was so charismatic that those who directed him came to be known as MGR directors and not as the directors of that hero.
One who had watched most of the movies of MGR,directed by three or four popular directors, could easily conclude that the films were of a set pattern with a prioritization of theme,story line, characterization lyrics and music composition that would not deviate from the MGR dictionary of film making.Every MGR fan knew pretty well, that any new release of their favourite hero would have speed,considerable action segment, mother sentiment,at least one solo song with socially enlightening messages, not less than three duet songs of which one would form a dream sequence, inspired by the imagination of the heroine.All these constituted the MGR package, but it was the level of energy transmitted by MGR to the audience that mattered.
The leading MGR directors were P.Neelakandan,M.A.Thirumugam,T.R.Ramanna T.R.Sundaram, Chanakya, and K.Shankar. Of these committed personalities,Neelakandan has directed a little less than twenty films of MGR followed by M.A.Thirumugam around fifteen movies. T.R.Ramanna has done seven movies followed by the other three taking a share of approximately three to five films each.But each of them created records in drawing crowds to the theatres and making hits of one hundred days and silver jubilees.Besides these men, the veteran duo Krishnan Panju, P.Madhavan, M.Krishnan,Prakash Rao, B.R.Pantulu C.V.Sridhar and A.P.Nagarajan have also worked with MGR as his directors for one or two movies each.
P. Neelakandan takes the credit of first directing the most popular film Thirudaadhe fFrom the MGR collections of this great maker, we have great hits like 'Chakravarthithirumagal' 'Kaavalkaaran' 'Kannan En Kadalan''Maatukkaara Velan','En Annan','Ninaithathai Mudipavan' 'Neethikku Thalaivanagu' and 'Netru Inru Naalai'.MGR has also played dual roles in some of these.While 'Kavalkaaran' was reputed for its suspense value,MGR's boxing style and the much valued romantic element besides the usual MGR thrust for rich music,'Kannan En Kadalan' was noted for its significant story value.All the other films in the list were fast moving entertainers.
M.A.Thirumugam,the standard Devar Films'director who made easy entertainers with in short schedules of production period, impressed us by his movies like 'Thaikkuppin Thaaram' 'Thai Sollai Thattadhe','Thayai Katha Thanayan' 'Vettaikkaran' 'Dharmam Thalaikakkum' Thanippiravi and 'Nalla Neram' .In all the Devar films, there would be an animal participant say,a dog or bull or elephant.Most of the films from the Devar films exhibited the spirit of adventure and unrelenting bravery that MGR was capable of essaying, in his inimitable style.The stunt scenes in Devar films were their trade marks too.
T.R.Ramanna deserves a special place for directing MGR and Sivaji Ganesan together, for their one only joint show in Koondukkili. Afterwards, from 'Gulebagavali',T.R.Ramanna proved to be a variety provider and a great maker of several action films, with MGR as the dauntless hero. Almost all his films like 'Pudhumai Pithan','Perya Idathu Pen',Parakkum Paavai' and'Panam Padaithavan' proved his variety throw in terms of different story line,scenic sequence and the final impact.There was an element of adventure coupled with shrewdness in display of heroism in the first two movies. 'Periya Idathu Pen' had a strong story line and was emotion packed.' Parakkum paavai' was a great thriller with a thread of suspense running through out, making the audience get seriously involved in the process. 'Panam Padaithavan' established the supremacy of traditional values, over money and the craze for modernity.His other film 'Paasam' presented MGR for the first time in a different character, facing love disappointment and a tragic end on seeing his mother being killed.All these films were successful at the box office and their musical component is an eternal treat.
Modern Theatres T.R.Sundaram has made four films ['Mandhirikumari' 'Sarvathikaari' ,Alibabavum Naarpathu Thirudargalum' and Bagdad Thirudan] and all were grand shows, known for speed in narration, sustenance of tempo and substance full of entertainment.All these films effectively handled the action formula and Alibabavun Naarpathu Thirudargalum in particular, captured the imagination of everybody in a beautifully adventurous mode. Mandhirikumari could be called a trend setter in several respects, such as dialogues,delineation of characters,catchy out door shootings and captivating music.MGR's films with the Modern Studios on the whole, never failed to create an exotic feel through exquisite presentation of scenic sequences.
K.Shankar made block busters like 'Kdiyirundha Koil' 'Adimaipen' and 'Pallaandu Vazhga' though his other films like 'Panathottam',and 'Chandhrodhayam' were only moderately successful. Chanakya's 'Enga Veettu Pillai' was more than a silver Jubilee hit.It ran almost for a year.His other victory march was for Gemini Studio's 'OliVilakku' that was released soon after the first DMK government was formed However his later film 'Pudhiya Boomi' did not do well at the box office. P.Madhavan came out with his single MGR film 'Deivathai' produced by Sathya Movies and it proved his name as a seasoned director,renowned for high quality film making. Incidentally, this was the only movie of MGR, for which K.Balachander wrote the script.
Prakash Rao's 'Padahotti' made history as a mass entertainer with all songs making waves as sweet melodies .Jambulingam's 'Namnaadu' was appreciated by most people for its plot, characterization, music and the magnificent show of M.G.R. Maniyan's 'Idhyaya Veenai' and his other Udhayam productions' release 'Sirithu Vaazhavendum' [a remake of Hindi 'Zanjeer']were both great in theme and over all content. B.R.Pantulu's 'Ayirathil Oruvan' was a block buster of epic grandeur; but his other three films [Ragasia Police115, Naadodi and Thedivandha Mappillai] did not do very well.
C.V.Sridhar and A.P.Nagarajan who had never directed MGR movies during their hey days, ultimately got a chance to be his directors .Sridhar's 'Urimaikkural' was a tremendous success.His next film 'Meenava Nanban' yielded moderate results. A.P.Nagarajan's 'Navarathinam' was a dampener.MGR's 'Petralthan Pillaiya' was another creditable movie directed by Krishnan Panju and for the first time MGR appeared in a different character reflecting the plight of a man longing for a child.The story value of the film was a special attraction, in addition to MGR drawing the sympathy of the audience, because, he was always seen as an optimist and a source of positive energy.The other MGR movie directed by Krishnan Panju was 'Engal Thangam' which was also received well, for its story value and it was the only film that MGR acted with AVM Rajan and the last one he worked under the Mekala Pictures with Kalaignar M.Karunanidhi as the script writer.
The other two box office hits were, Sathya Movies''Idhyakkani' directed by A.Jaganathan and 'Richshakkaaran' filmed by Krishnan Nair.Among the old movies 'Malaikkallan' of Pakshiraja Sudios,directed by Sri Ramulu Naidu and Jupiter Pictures' Mahadevi' made by Sundarao Nadkarni were crowd pullers on account of their clean and high quality narration. To add to the long list of MGR directors,this mighty hero himself directed two of his successful films 'Nadodi Mannan' and 'Ulagam Sutrum Vaaliban'.Film personalities who knew MGR closely,used to say that he was a precise editor of films. But he had also proved that he could direct films with conviction.Perhaps it was his dynamism and versatility in film making, that made his directors look upon him for encouragement and support.So in a way, they can be rightly called,the MGR directors.