I was six-years-old when I tagged along with my uncle and aunt to invite him for a family wedding. Right through the long drive from Mylapore to Ramavaram my uncle recounted all possible interactions our family has had with him and I kept filling in the gaps as I knew all those anecdotes by heart. The excitement as we neared his thottam (garden) was palpable. I was going to meet my ‘Madhuraiyai Meeta Sundara Pandiyan’ (his last film before he took oath as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu) It was a long walk from the car-park to the inside hallway. We waited amidst a group of select people.
A sudden bustle announced Chinnavar’s arrival (He was referred thus inside his compound). I remember a flash of light and it wasn’t the camera. It was a resplendent light and it came with a clearing of throat and “vanakkam”. The hall was covered in dark curtains, the door opened and shut as and when his staff appeared (or disappeared).
The golden light, it turned out, was actually a human being! And I distinctly recall how that ‘light’ looked ahead and smiled at the short little me, amidst all those tall heads. In between each of his pause or smile with my uncle, people kept falling at his feet periodically and he urgently shushed them to get up. This is how it must be in a king’s court?
A voice broke into my thoughts, “Go kid, fall at his feet…” I didn’t. I remember the huge long silence that followed before I was ‘told to’ do so again. I glared at this person (not my uncle and aunt) who was pushing me and I turned to look at him instead. I gathered courage and asked, “Can I please shake your hand?” He beckoned me to come closer, his right hand outstretched.
I touched his soft warm palm. I was a foot nearer and saw those features which had so charmed the silver screen in black and white first. His sharp nose, perfect white teeth, pink cheeks and lips, the dark glasses, fur cap, his white shirt and dhoti — this ‘image’ I saw on photos and in Doordharshan up until now was a real person.
The halo around him slowly gave way and now he asked me, “Child, do you know who I am?”
I found my feeble voice and said, “yes”…
“Yes?” He questioned and asked further, “So what is my name…?”
I said “You are… Madurai Veeran, Nadodi Mannan, Enga Veettu Pillai, Aayirathil Oruvan”…. (All his film names that gave him his many titles) He laughed aloud and looked into my curious baby eyes and asked
“Do you know my name?”
I nodded like all precocious kids do now in reality TV shows — “mmm…MGR”
“Ada”… he laughed aloud and asked for some fruits and chocolate to be given to me. It felt more like he just clapped his hands and lo! Behold, it all appeared then and there, like magic.
Source: The New Indian Express