MGR Remembered – Part 37

Testimony of M.G. Chakrapani and S. Asokan

by Sachi Sri Kantha, October 23, 2016

Part 36

Front Note by Sachi

Through the courtesy of Mr. R. Kannan, fellow MGR biographer and friend, early this month, I received a copy of the 263 page book authored by journalist Sudhangan, who had published a book with a title, ‘Suddachu – Suddachu’ [I’ve Shot! I’ve Shot!], uttered by accused M.R. Radha. This book was published in 2005. This book reached me at an opportune time, as I’m in the midst of covering this vital event in MGR’s life.

 

A Synopsis of Sudhangan’s Book

In 29 chapters, Sudhangan had attempted to cover the details of MGR assassination attempt case, and provides copious information on cross examination conducted by defense attorney N.T. Vanamamalai, from the court records. Among the witnesses called for this case, the book offer details provided by MGR, movie producer K.N. Vasu (the only eye witness of the January 12, 1967 incident), Muthu (M.R. Radha’s servant), Lakshmanan (head constable), M. Balashanmugam (a clerk at the police commissioner office) and movie producer Sandow M.M.A. Sinnappa Thevar. What I consider unsavory in this book, describing a real shooting incident that shook the political scene in Tamil Nadu nearly fifty years ago, is the introduction of a fictional character – newspaper reporter Nanda (aka, Nandakumar) by the author, to carry the story. In his front note, author had acknowledged that (1) He had introduced the fictional character Nanda to make the story telling somewhat thrilling. (2) He had only used the court records. However, some may doubt the authenticity of the characters with whom this fictional reporter Nanda comes into contact. Were characters such as Sabesan (the proprietor of the daily to whom Nanda reports), a nurse and a doctor at the Royapettah hospital real? As a prelude, five early chapters of the book also provide details about the stage background of M.R. Radha and his interactions with Dravidian party leaders E.V. Ramasamy Naicker, C.N. Annadurai as well as Congress Party leader K. Kamaraj and contemporary comedian actor N.S. Krishnan. Chapter 13 provides few details about the ‘cold war’ that prevailed between MGR and Radha, prior to the shooting.

MGR Assassination Attempt Case book cover

‘MGR Assassination Attempt Case’ book cover

As per the time frame for the MGR assassination attempt court case, preliminary hearings were held at Saithapet First Division Magistrate Court hearings for seven days, from May 22, 1967 to May 28, 1967. Prosecution concluded the sessions with only six witnesses, including that of MGR (1st prosecution witness), producer K. N. Vasu (2nd prosecution witness), M. Balashanmugam (a clerk at police commissioner office, 5th prosecution witness). Views of accused M.R. Radha was also heard. The gist of the decision made announced by magistrate S. Kuppusamy, stated, “Evidences from prosecution witnesses seems reliable that Radha had attempted to kill MGR and also kill himself. There are conflicting details in the views of accused Radha. As such, his statement was unreliable….At the Royapettah hospital, one bullet was retrieved from MGR’s body and two bullets were retrieved from Radha’s body. Weapon expert had expressed the opinion that all three bullets were shot from the same revolver.”

Subsequently the case was transferred to the Chingleput Sessions Court, and came for hearing under Justice P. Lakshmanan on June 15, 1967. It was postponed twice – first to June 27th, 1967 and then to August 1st, 1967. Hearings were held on August 2nd, 3rd, and subsequent days. August 9th, 10th, 11th. A total of 52 witnesses (among whom 50 were prosecution witnesses) were heard. Final verdict was delivered on November 4th 1967.

Before the commencement of the court case, in February 1967, Tamil Nadu’s political landscape had changed unexpectedly. DMK party and its coalition partners (Swatantra Party led by C. Rajagopalachari, Communist Party of India/Marxist, Praja Socialist Party, Indian Union Muslim League and Sanghata Socialist Party) won 179 constituencies cumulatively, to defeat the ruling Indian National Congress Party in the Madras State Council elections. DMK won 137 constituencies out of 174 contested. One among the 137 victors was MGR, who stood from Saint Thomas Mount (aka, Parangi Malai) electorate. He defeated his Congress Party opponent T.L. Raghupathi with a vote margin of 27,674.

Being hospitalized for gun-shot wounds, MGR couldn’t participate in the election campaign and canvas for votes on his behalf. DMK party’s tacticians made effective use of the colar region-bandaged, bare upper-bodied photo of MGR for soliciting votes in that election. Many political analysts had commented that the use of this unusual photo as an election poster worked magic in grabbing tremendous number of votes for DMK and its allies, among the illiterate movie-crazy fans in constituencies other than that of Saint Thomas Mount. The elections were held in February 5th, 18th and 21st, and the results were announced on February 23rd. Anna was sworn as the Chief Minister of the then Madras State on March 6th 1967.

DMK's 1967 election poster model

DMK’s 1967 election poster model

MGR was able to return to his house from the hospital, in mid-March (after 57 days of admission on January 12th). According to Sudhangan, MGR had to return to hospital again, after 12 days, for an operation to remove the bullet that remained in his neck. Dr. Satyanarayana was able to perform the operation successfully.

In this chapter, I provide evidences given by MGR’s elder brother M.G. Chakrapani and fellow actor S.A. Asokan (who had appeared in many MGR’s movies, as a villain and character actor). Both evidences are not covered in Sudhangan’s book.

 

Elder brother M.G. Chakrapani’s Evidence

I provide the cross examination details (as I could gather in Tamil), translated into English here.

“MGR is my younger brother. I reside at Lloyd’s road. My brother resides at his estate in Parangimalai. Around 6:00 pm, I was at Satyarajah Pictures [office]. Then, Krishna Aiyar, an employee in Satyarajah Pictures called me from Sathya Studios telling, ‘Some one had shot MGR. He is being taken to Royapettah hospital. Do you know?’ As I didn’t hear this, I left for the Royapettah hospital in my car. I visited the room where MGR was placed in a bed. As there were numerous folks surrounding him, I couldn’t see [MGR’s] entire body. I could see only his head. While I attempted to reach him, I failed. Then, a doctor came nearby. He told me, ‘Life is not in danger. He had been shot in the ear.’ He also grumbled, ‘If it’s crowded like this, should we look after the victim first, or should be control the crowd first?’ Then, the surrounding crowd was cleared, and I also had to leave. I saw Samy, the manager of MGR Pictures. He asked, ‘What had happened Sir? I repeated what the doctors had told me, and told him ‘They are not even allowing me.’ While we were talking like this, MGR’s car arrived. Those who came in it were, Vasu and Ratnam, an attendant at MGR Gardens. Vasu came near me, and asked, ‘How is the Younger One [i.e., MGR] now?  I repeated what I heard from the doctor. Instantly, he retorted, ‘Sinner M.R. Radha shot MGR, and then he shot himself twice. I had come with the gun he used’. Then, he showed me a parcel which held the gun. There I saw the revolver. He shot with this gun.’ I was at a loss. I also didn’t know what to do with that gun.

“Then, after thinking that someone who is knows the law will help, I left to consult with attorney V.P. Raman. Samy, Vasu an Ratnam accompanied me. At his house, I was told that V/P. Raman had gone to Delhi. Krishnasamy, a junior attorney who was at the house inquired. He suggested to handover the gun at the nearest police station. So, we went to Royapettah police station and handed the gun there….

On answering the defense attorney Vanamalai’s questions, M.G. Chakrapani replied as follows:

Attorney: Are you an actor?

Chakrapani: Yes.

Attorney: Have you acted in many movies together with your younger brother?

Chakrapani: I’ve acted in a few movies.

Attorney: Who is Ramamurthi? What is he doing?

M.G. Chakrapani with his wife MeenakshiChakrapani: My eldest son. He is the managing director at MGR Pictures.

Attorney: Does MGR has popularity in the movie world?

Chakrapani: Yes, I’ve heard. I think he has.

Attorney: Is there profit to MGR Pictures, from him?

Chakrapani: We buy the movies he had acted for release in Chennai region.

Attorney: Does he get a share from that profit?

Chakrapani: Of course, he gets.

Attorney: Do you purchase movies in which MGR has not acted?

Chakrapani: We have purchased two movies produced by Velumani and Thevar. In these, MGR didn’t act.

Attorney: As far as you, how many movies had been released?

Chakrapani: I cannot remember.

Attorney: Is MGR an honorary editor to ‘Sama Neethi’ newspaper?

Chakrapani: Yes.

Attorney: Are you a shareholder in Satya Studio?

Chakrapani: Yes.

Attorney: Who are the directors?

Chakrapani: MGR, V.N. Janaki, Kunjappa are the directors.

Attorney: Who is Kunjappa?

Chakrapani: a sibling of my wife.

Attorney: Do you release the movies produced by MGR Pictures?

Chakrapani: They had produced only one movie ‘Nadodi Mannan’, as of now. Due to its popularity, we released it.

Attorney: Did you release a Hindi movie ‘Hame Bhi Jeene Do’?

Chakrapani: It’s not an independent movie. It’s the Hindi-dubbed version of ‘Nadodi Mannan’.

Attorney: Was it produced for the Hindi fans in North India?

Chakrapani: Yes.

Attorney: When you were a director at the MGR Pictures, have you released 18 movies?

Chakrapani: Cannot remember.

Attorney: One physician talked with you at the Royapettah hospital.

Chakrapani: I talked to one. I wasn’t sure that he is a physician.

Attorney: Do you know clearly whether he was a physician or not?

Chakrapani: I think he was a physician.

Attorney: Did you ask anyone, about his identity?

Chakrapani: Didn’t ask.

Attorney: Did you see him prior to him?

Chakrapani: No.

Attorney: Were any others there?

Chakrapani: There were many who were dressed as doctors.

Attorney: Where did you see him?

Chakrapani: In the room, where MGR was placed in sleep.

Attorney: In which room, MGR was placed?

Chakrapani: I don’t know.

Attorney: When you visited the Royapettah hospital, how much time you spent there?

Chakrapani: Two minutes.

Attorney: When did you get the phone that MGR was being taken to the General Hospital?

Chakrapani: 9.30 pm.

Attorney: Did you go there immediately?

Chakrapani: I went there at 10:00 pm.

Attorney: To the police, did you say that you went home after you left the police station?

Chakrapani: I did say.

Attorney: Did you tell the police that you went to Royapettah hospital (after you left the police station) and then moved from there to the General hospital?

Chakrapani: No.

Attorney: When did you return home from the police station?

Chakrapani: 7:15 pm. I returned home directly.

Attorney: Were you at home from 7.30 pm to 10:00 pm?

Chakrapani: Yes.

Attorney: During that time, did you meet anyone?

Chakrapani: There were many who came. I cannot remember individuals.

Attorney: Did you see director Panju.

Chakrapani: No.

Attorney: Did you see Mrs. Janaki [Ramachandran] before you went to the General hospital?

Chakrapani: No.

Attorney: Did you talk to her anything, by phone?

Chakrapani: No.

Attorney: Did she phone you?

Chakrapani: No.

Attorney: Did you visit MGR Gardens?

Chakrapani: No.

Attorney: Did you see any persons staying at the MGR Gardens?

Chakrapani: No.

Attorney: On that particular day, did you see anyone else?

Chakrapani: I met Appu at the General hospital.

Attorney: Other than Ratinam, did you meet anyone in hospital who were staying at MGR’s house?

Chakrapani: Cannot remember.

Attorney: Can you answer the question, after remembering a little?

Chakrapani: Cannot answer.

Attorney: Did anyone pass information about Mrs. Janaki and others who have been staying in that house to you?

Chakrapani: No.

Attorney: When did you see Appu?

Chakrapani: at 9:30 pm.

Attorney: Did anyone command that you should make a phone call MGR Gardens?

Chakrapani: No.

Attorney: Do you know, how did Appu at the hospital?

Chakrapani: don’t know.

Attorney: Do you know, from where Appu came there?

Chakrapani: don’t know.

Attorney: Have you seen driver Ramasamy wherever?

Chakrapani: No. I’ve not seen.

Attorney: Did you inquire from Vasu, about Mrs. Janaki?

Chakrapani: No.

Attorney: Didn’t you think that Janaki should be informed about MGR’s health status.

Chakrapani: No.

Attorney: You didn’t think that [health] Appu should be informed this development.

Chakrapani: No.

Attorney: When you received the message about shooting, was Kunjappan nearby?

Chakrapani: No.”

 

MGR with comedian C.K.Nagesh (to his right) and actor S.A. Asokan (to his left)Actor S.A. Asokan’s Evidence

Sudhangan’s book also had omitted the evidence given by villain and character actor S.A. Asokan. In providing his background, Asokan had stated, “I have been an actor in dramas and cinema. I know MGR and M.R. Radha for the past 7 or 8 years. In the movie, ‘Petral thaan Pillaiya’ movie produced by Muthukumaran Pictures, I acted with MGR, M.R. Radha, B. Saroja Devi and M.N. Nambiar. Following this movie, in the Anna Production’s movie ‘Bhavani’, I acted with M.R. Radha. Two days before the shooting incident, I was at Parani Studio in Kodambakkam. M.R. Radha was also there on that day. During shooting, we were allowed two hours rest for meals. During this two hour rest, M.R. Radha was in the big make-up room of the studio. I was at the small make-up room and had my meals. Following that, I moved to the big make-up room and M.R. Radha was smoking a cigarette while seated in an easy chair. After seeing me, he told me, “Asokan, in two days there will be a revolution. Therefore, I want to complete my role in this movie either today or tomorrow.” After mentioning this, he was involved in thinking something. Related to his utterance, I didn’t ask anything to him. Then, I moved to the shooting [room]. ‘Bhavani’ movie was directed by Ramanna. Only after the shooting incident at MGR’s house, I guessed that, what M.R. Radha was referring to as ‘a revolution’ was probably related to this incident. Police inquired me at Parani Studio on January 19, 1967.

When cross examined by defense attorney Vanamamalai, Asokan answered as follows:

Attorney: On January 10, 1967, after talking with you, did M.R. Radha participate in the shooting?

Asokan: Yes, he acted.

Attorney: On that day, how many hours shooting was done?

Asokan: I was there for one hour and had left. So, I don’t know the total duration of shooting.

Attorney: Was there shooting on January 11, 1967?

Asokan: I didn’t participate on that day. So, I don’t know.

Attorney: Do you know that M.R. Radha had completed his share for the ‘Bhavani’ movie before January 12th?

Asokan: I don’t know.

Attorney: Did you know that when M.R. Radha was talking to you on January 10th, how much time is needed for him to complete his share?

Asokan: I don’t know.

Attorney: Director Ramanna should know how much shooting was over, and how long it would need for Radha to complete his share of the movie?

Asokan: Yes. He knew.

Attorney: Who scripted the ‘Bhavani’ movie?

Asokan: K.S. Gopalakrishnan.

Attorney: On January 10th; after the break in shooting, do you know who would have to act with M.R. Radha?

Asokan: I don’t know.

Attorney: On that day, you cannot mention at least one name of actor and actress who had to act with M.R. Radha. Isn’t it?

Asokan: Yes. I don’t remember.

Attorney: On 10th, did M.R. Radha act in the morning?

Asokan: Yes, he acted.

Attorney: You also acted in the morning on that day?

Asokan: Yes, I acted.

Attorney: On that day, after the break, you didn’t act, isn’t it?

Asokan: Yes, I didn’t act.

Attorney: During the production period of ‘Bhavani’ movie, were you acting in other movies as well?

Asokan: Yes. I was acting in AVN’s ‘Athey Kangal’, ‘Andru Kanda Muham’, ‘Jodhi Purakkal’ and some other movies which were yet to be named.

Attorney: On 10th, were there shooting for other movies?

Asokan: No.

Attorney: At the make-up room, were there make-up men?

Asokan: Yes, during the make-up time.

Attorney: To help in make-up, there would be ‘boys’ in the room as well, isn’t it?

Asokan: Yes, they would be there.

Attorney: Did M.R. Radha receive his meal from home?

Asokan: I don’t know.

Attorney: Do you know, that whether he ate on that day?

Asokan: I don’t know.

Attorney: What’s the distance between the big make-up room and small make-up room?

Asokan: about 15 feet.

Attorney: When M.R. Radha was speaking with you, were there anyone in the small make-up room?

Asokan: I don’t know.

Attorney: On that day, were there any one in the shooting set?

Asokan: There were no actors or actresses. Director Ramanna and a few others were there.

Attorney: ‘Bhavani’ movie had been released, isn’t it?

Asokan: Yes.

Attorney: On which date, it was released?

Asokan: August 5th.

Attorney: When was the shooting over for that movie?

Asokan: 15 days before it’s release.

Attorney: In the released ‘Bhavani’ movie, M.R. Radha didn’t act, isn’t it?

Asokan: Yes.

Attorney: I assert that as M.R. Radha’s scenes were not completed, he is not featured in that movie.

Asokan: I don’t know.

Attorney: Didn’t Nagesh took over the role, acted by M.R. Radha?

Asokan: Yes.

Attorney: I assert that when M.R. Radha was talking to you on January 10th, his role in the movie was incomplete.

Asokan: I don’t know.

Attorney: I assert that before January 12th, they couldn’t have completed the shooting of Radha’s role.

Asokan: I don’t know.

Attorney: You said that, on that day, M.R. Radha was speaking to you about a forthcoming revolution. Does he speak like this regularly?

Asokan: Yes. Usually, he speaks like that.

Attorney: Other than that day, do you remember Radha speaking like that on other days too?

Asokan: I don’t remember.

Attorney: Did you tell to others, about what Radha told you, other than the occasion when police questioned you?

Asokan: No.

Attorney: Did you visit the hospital to see MGR, after the incident?

Asokan: Yes, I went to see him.

Attorney: Was M.G. Chakrapani there on that day?

Asokan: I don’t know.

Attorney: After that, when did you see MGR again?

Asokan: I remember I saw him on 15th or 16th [January].

Attorney: Was M.G. Chakrapani there?

Asokan: I didn’t see.

Attorney: Did you see director Panju there?

Asokan: As it was crowded, I couldn’t take note of who were there.

Attorney: After the incident, did you talk to director Ramanna or anyone else about M.R. Radha leaving his role in the ‘Bhavani’ movie?

Asokan: No.

Attorney: I assert that on January 10th, M.R. Radha didn’t talk anything with you.

Asokan: I reject this.

Attorney: Induced by M.G. Chakrapani and others, I assert that you are giving false evidence.

Asokan: I also reject this.

Many consider that Asokan’s evidence in the case was vital to prove that Radha’s assassination attempt on January 12th, 1967 was a premediated one, and not an act carried out at the spur of the moment during an argument. That, two days prior to the shooting Radha had talked about his plan and had carried a revolver to MGR’s house, when he visited with producer K.N. Vasu.

 

Cited Sources

Malaimalar com. Transcipts of the MGR shooting case, published between May 31, 2012 and June 15, 2012, in Tamil. ( http://cinema.malaimalar.com)

Special Correspondent: Vanamamalai dead. The Hindu (Chennai), May 29, 2006.

Sudhangan: M.G.R. Kolai Muyarchi Vazhakku: Suttachu Suttachu, Kizhakku Pathippagam, Chennai, 2005, 263 pp.

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