Tuesday, April 14, 2020

M.G.R's timing for changing his heroines


   It is a known fact that MGR,the triple initials,reached a cult status in Tamil cinema,more on account of the social ideologies and moral principles,that he perpetuated through his prioritised characters,than by varieties of roles that his contemporary Sivaji Ganesan stood for.Moreover, unlike Sivaji Ganesan whose straight entry was as a hero,MGR had to struggle a lot,to reach the hero status,only after doing secondary roles in nearly a dozen films with heroes like M.K.Radha P.U Chinnappa, M.K.Thiagaraja Bhagavadhar and a few others.Until the days of Rajakumari, Marudha Naattu Ilavarasi, Marmayogi and Mandhiri Kumari,he had to wait, because he stepped into film career nearly fifteen years prior to Sivaji Ganesan.
   MGR's earliest heroines were K.Malathi, Madhuridevi, B.S.Saroja, S.D.Subbulakshmi, V.N.Janaki and T.R.Rajakumari. It was V.N.Janaki who acted with him in more number of films during his early spell as single hero.Then came the other heroines Anjali Devi, G.Varalakshmi,S.Varalakshmi, E.V.Saroja,P.Bhanumathi and Padmini.Of these,his more frequent female pairs were, Bhanumathi and Padmini,because while the former was a professional singer,the latter was a classical dancer.Of all heroes it was MGR who could effectively read the pulse of the audience and anticipate their mood.He was also good at assessing the popular performers during different periods and accommodate them in his films,depending upon their suitability and compatibility,to his screen expectations.
   Like the themes and story lines of MGR films,which were structurally and ideologically well connected to his socio-political aspirations,his heroines were also participants in his celluloid programme,so as to fix themselves relevantly to his pet ideologies.Even his family dramas were made to rope in women participants,in a routine of cherishing noble emotions of womanhood and motherhood.As such, the scope for a demanding delivery of characters,was much less in M.G.R.films when compared to Sivaji Ganesan films.
   What was different between M.G.R and Sivaji Ganesan in their enrolment of heroines,was the number. Sivaji Ganesan would have acted with more than two dozen women in his entire film career.Whereas,in the case of MGR the number could be a little more than a dozen.The Chevalier's most frequent female pairs were Padmini,B.SarojadevK.R.Vijaya,and J.Jeya lalithaai,followed by Sowcar Janaki,P.Bhanumadhi,Devika and Vanisri.While all these women have also been paired with MGR,{Sowcar Janaki and Devika did one film each viz.Panam Padaithavan and Aanandha Jothi} almost fifty percent of films of this mass hero,were confined to the presence of B.Sarojadevi and J.Jeyalalitha.However Sivaji Ganesan's later pairs like Usha Nandini,Sri Priya,Sujatha,Ambika,Radha,Vadivukarasi and Radhika had no opportunity to act with MGR,
     MGR would do the right thing at the right time,to effect a change in terms of the cinematic value of his films,so that the audience would cherish their film watching experience of an MGR film,with the MGR image,rooted firmly to their conscious and sub conscious foundations.For instance,at a time when only black and white films were making their rounds in Southern India,it was MGR who came out with the first Tamil/South Indian colour film Alibabavum Narpadhu Thirudarkalum{made in Geva Colour} to draw the attention of the production houses,to compete with the commercial trend of Bollywood.
   Though MGR and Sivaji Ganesan were said to have equally ruled the Tamil film industry at one point of time,with their popularity and decision making possibilities,it was also viewed that MGR wielded more power,in deciding the scope and value of many artists,technicians as well as the transitional  patterns of film making,which consequentially increased the budget value of his films,with assured returns of  substantial profit.Hence, besides having a say on most matters of film making, he also had an instinctive forethought to change his heroines as and when necessary.When MGR had already done five films with P.Bhanumathi,and when B.Sarojadevi rose to fame through her remarkable performance in Kalyana Parisu,he rightly made her join his hand in Nadodi Mannan {in which MGR became a debut director too},because as per the story line,the character of P.Bhanumathi was to sacrifice its life, for the sake of the hero.The other interesting fact about Nadodi Mannan was its speciality in being the only Tamil film with a black and white first half and a Geva colour second half. 
    Similarly, after letting B.Sarojadevi to be his chosen female co star for nearly 15 films, he thought his films needed a change of heroine to pass on the freshness of his films to the audience.After watching J.Jeyalalitha's performance in Vennira Aadai,perhaps he would have thought that she would be the best bet for his future projects.Though Aayirathil Oruvan released in 1965,was the first film of Jeyalalitha with MGR,two years later in Arasa Kattalai directed by his brother M G Chakrabani,MGR repeated the same formula of B. Sarojadevi sacrificing her life for the hero,as P.Bhanumathi did in Nadodi Mannan.
    Incidentally,it should be mentioned here that he picked up both B.Sarojadevi and J.Jeyalalitha  only after their mighty show in the two great films of C.V.Sridhar, who had not till then directed any film of MGR.That  MGR gave Sridhar a new lease of life as film maker,when Urimai Kural became a block buster,is another matter.On the whole,B.Sarojadevi was his pair in about 26 films and J.Jeyalalitha in about 28 films.
  After enrolling Jeyalalitha in almost 25 films,MGR went in for a change of heroine in his home production {Sathya Movies}block buster film Rickshakaran,with Manjula as his new find.Later in the mega hit film Ulagam Sutrum Valiban {directed by himself} which had three heroines, MGR did not think of Jeyalalitha as one of them but chose Manjula, Chandrakala and Latha{who became his successful pair after Sarojadevi and Jeyalalitha}.
   Almost all the heroines of MGR films,were conventional additions,because in an MGR film, only those three letters and their charisma that mattered more than anything.MGR repeated the same hat trick with his heroines,after acting a score of films with J.Jeyalalitha to go in for newer faces like Manjula{in three films} and Latha {in about a dozen films}.There were of course other women like K.R.Vijaya, Lakshmi,Vanisri,Radha Salooja and Rathna who had acted in two or three films,in the midst of his regular and  immortal heroines,B.Sarojadevi and J.Jeyalalitha.The third position as the most preferred heroine of MGR would naturally go to Latha.
    M.G.R knew how to fix his mascot,in accordance with the changing times.Be it the replacement of comedians[Nagesh in the place of Chandrababu or Cho/Thengai Srinivasan instead of Nagesh}or singers{K.J.Yesudas and S.P.Balasubramaniyam in the place of T.M.S}or his heroines,his predictions about the success value of his films hardly went wrong .Nevertheless as far as his villains were concerned, after P.S.Veerappa,it was M.N.Nambiyar or S.A.Asokan {or both} who continued to travel with him on the screen,as his regular antagonists.For him, it was always the timing for a change that counted very significant and his perceptions with regard to the timing for change of heroines proved his ripeness and farsightedness,in determining the reach of his films with his innumerable fans and adorers.


  1. from Vn janaki only witnessed. Any way it's a "Treasure...." and should be kept for any future reference..Thank you Sr

  2. Oru thesis Pannalam. Avvalavu clear analysis.