MGR, remembering a legend

Chennai:  MGR fans will have a reason to visit Sowcarpet this Christmas eve. Courtesy, a lifelong fan. Black and white photographs of the actor and politician will be open for public viewing on Kasi Chetty street.

“This is the fourth year that I am putting up an exhibition of this nature. There will be 200 different pictures for viewing open to all from December 24 to December 31,” says Anand Kumar Bhowmick, a plastic merchant in the area. He adds, “I’ve been watching MGR films since I was an 11-year-old. Till date, I haven’t gone a single day without watching an MGR song in the morning and then another one before going to sleep at night.”

Sitting inside a tiny room inside Kumar’s store, that is cramped with close to 7,000 photographs of the legend, it is evident that what he has been saying isn’t an exaggeration.

Without warning, he breaks into a song. Naan ungal veetu pillai…..Idhu oorarindha unmai…. “When I was in the ninth standard, we attended a fast on the Marina beach led by my idol.” Apparently, the actor-cum-politician was so impressive that Anand chose to stay back even after all his classmates had left, and evening fell. That day, the idea came to him to start a collection of photos, documenting the life of MGR.

“The first photo I took home was a victory photo of MGR standing on Mount Road, after he became the CM in 1977.” Anand approached the photographers of a regional daily for the picture. He says, “Whenever there was a political meeting, I would attend it and get a photographer’s address, so that I could approach him later.” How much has he invested in his collection? Anand isn’t quite sure. “I have been keeping aside at least `2,000 a week, but in those days, one picture could range anywhere between `10 and `100.”

Some of these photos are rare and include ones that show MGR feeding his pet dog and unveiling the Nehru statue at the Kathipara Junction. “That (inauguration) picture was taken the last picture taken before he died,” Anand says, growing sad. He immediately lights up as he recalls fondly, “After my B Com, I took up a temporary job as a postman. The first place I went to was MGR Nagar!” He reminisces excitedly, “I ensured that I was posted there for two years. I would term it a highlight of my life.”

Will there be a puja in memory of MGR on December 24? Anand responds with a wide smile, “I have never put garlanded MGR’s picture on his death anniversary. To me, he is still alive on No 12, Kasi Chetty Street and in my heart.”

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