In sickness and in health, a parallel in the journeys of MGR and Jayalalithaa

In sickness and in health, a parallel in the journeys of MGR and Jayalalithaa

When M.G. Ramachandran (MGR) was shot by fellow actor M.R. Radha on January 12, 1967, I was probably a few weeks old in my mother’s womb. MGR’s next near-brush with death was 32 years ago, and as an aware 17-year-old, I have distinct memories of it. MGR was admitted to the same Apollo Hospital where his protégé J. Jayalalithaa is now apparently battling for life. The parallels are stronger than mere calendrical coincidence.

MGR was then 68 – so far as birth records are reliable for a man who came from such humble beginnings as him, about the same age as Jayalalithaa is now. He had suffered a kidney failure, and was soon flown to Brooklyn Hospital, New York for treatment. In the wake of Indira Gandhi’s assassination on October 31, 1984, Rajiv Gandhi went in for snap polls a few months ahead of schedule. MGR’s All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam(AIADMK) was in alliance with the Congress.

Those were pre-satellite channel days, and the media had great prestige but could easily be thwarted by the government. During the long months of treatment, there was little real news of MGR’s condition but for the periodical press releases that H.V. Hande – now a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party, a physician himself and a minister in his cabinet – issued. The press releases carried little credibility, and in one of his famous wordplays, MGR’s erstwhile friend, sworn political enemy and many-time chief minister of Tamil Nadu, M. Karunanidhi, called it ‘Hande pulugu, anda pulugu, aakasa pulugu’. The line is untranslatable, but the rhyming reference is to ‘blatant lies of universal proportions’.Read more

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