Marudur Gopalan Ramachandran or MGR, AIADMK founder and thrice chief minister, dominated the stratosphere of Tamil Nadu for three decades. In this rich biography of the man often called vathiyar or teacher, ‘people’s darling’, ‘revolutionary actor’ and ‘revolutionary leader’, Kannan draws on the memoirs of MGR himself, Kalaignar Karunanidhi, Jayalalithaa and on interviews with MGR’s contemporaries in the cine and political field. Using these and other sources, he traces MGR’s early poverty-ridden years-- a class three drop-out--until he became a matinee idol. He looks at his life-long association with mentor Annadurai and other Dravidian cultural icons; and his tumultuous political friendship with Karunanidhi and with Jayalalithaa, cine heroine, and political protégé. The book dissects MGR’s years in power: his early administration; the legendary midday meal scheme launched in 1983 that fed lakhs of schoolchildren; well-intentioned farm subsidies and freebies that strained the exchequer; as well as the rampant corruption, the unabashed support to liquor barons and private medical and engineering colleges that sullied his later two terms. Honest and insightful, MGR provides a portrait of a warm, larger-than-life figure, whose legacy has left its indelible stamp on Tamil politics.
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About the Author: R. Kannan is currently with the Political and Mediation Group of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia. He has served with the United Nations since 1993 (except for a break in 1995-96), in three continents and in various capacities. Outside the UN he has practiced and taught law and translated and read the news for the All India Radio. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed MGR: A Life and Anna: The Life and Times of C.N. Annadurai (Penguin, 2010) both published by Penguin Random House. After completing his studies in Chennai, his birthplace, Kannan received an LLM in International Law from the University of Georgia, and a PhD in International Relations from the Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy..