It was the same year, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) swept to the power in the state for the first time, dislodging the Congress.

Dravidian Chronicles MGRs first electoral victory was from a hospital bedWikipedia
news Dravidian Chronicles Wednesday, April 20, 2016 - 16:04

The News Minute brings you the Dravidian Chronicles, a collection of narratives on the margins of the 2016 election spotlight. Here we chronicle smaller, subtler shifts that catalyse and metamorphose the grand narratives of the electoral juggernaut.

A stiff white cast swathed around his neck and finding support on the shoulders of a bare-bodied, wide-eyed man sitting on a hospital bed, his hands folded together in prayer and in humble appeal. It was an image that moved the masses. Actor-turned-politician Marudhur Gopalan Ramachandran, affectionately known as MGR, won his first election in 1967 from a hospital bed in Madras. It was the same year, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) swept to the power in the state for the first time, dislodging the Congress.

Image courtesy link. 

It was January 1967, a month before Madras State, as it was known then, headed to the polls.  Actor MR Radha along with producer KK Vasu had gone over to MGR’s residence in Madras. There are several theories over what happens next. Actor and film historian Mohan Raman, who was 11-years-old at the time, remembers a blood-soaked Vasu turning up at his Llyods Road residence, just shortly after MGR had been shot. His father VP Raman, a public prosecutor at the time, had to excuse himself from the case to turn witness.  Raman says the “officially acceptable version” is that Vasu and Radha had gone over to MGR’s following the poor box office collection of their film ‘Petralthan Pillaiya.’ Radha, who had starred alongside MGR in the 1967 film, wanted fresh money to reboot the losses of ‘Petralthan Pillaiya’. Raman says, MGR had reportedly dilly-dallied over the money and Radha eventually ran out of patience.

In their court testimony, MGR and the lone witness Vasu, narrated what happened in the former’s drawing room that fateful evening. MGR was shot by MR Radha in his left ear, reports The Hindu. Radha, then, turned the revolver upon himself, first shooting himself in the right temple and then the neck. Radha, however, spun a different story in court. After a heated argument, the matinee idol shot Radha, writes The Hindu. The actor, who had played the role of villain in a number of films, snatched the gun from MGR, and as a reflex shot him in return.

Both MGR and Radha had also fallen out for political reasons, notes Mohan Raman. While MR Radha was close to Congress’ former Chief Minister K Kamaraj, MGR was firmly rooted in the DMK.  Both parties were in election campaign mode when the shooting took place. From his hospital bed, MGR campaigned for the St. Thomas Mount constituency in Madras. The DMK and the actor’s army of fans ensured that the iconic photograph of him recovering from his bullet wound was plastered across the state. In his first electoral triumph, MGR defeated his Congress rival by a margin of over 27,000 votes. His party, the DMK swept to power winning 137 seats, as the Congress ended its rule in Madras. 

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