MGR Remembered – Part 38

Testimony of producer K.N. Vasu

by Sachi Sri Kantha, April 25, 2017

Part 37

Front Note:

I apologize to the readers, for the six month interruption, in continuing this series. Main reason was semi-retirement related loss of my own office room, and its after-effects.  Second reason was the assumption of an editor-in-chief position of a science ejournal sponsored by the institution to which I’m affiliated.  Third reason was to reflect on what I’ve covered so far in 37 chapters of MGR’s life (1917-1967) as a stage and movie actor to gain a better perspective to advance for the next 20 years (1967-1987) of MGR’s political career.

In February 2016, I posted the first 32 chapters ‘Minimum Guarantee Ramachandran: A Life in Cinema and Politics’ in the social network site for scientists – ResearchGate site. [https://www.researchgate.net/publication/292502450_Minimum_Guarantee_Ramachandran_A_Life_in_Cinema_and_Politics ]

As of now, it had gathered 1,362 ‘Reads’, which include downloading of all or some sections of this book. This becomes my only contribution to MGR’s birth centenary, which is celebrated this year.  Currently, I need some more time to review the remaining 20 years of MGR’s eventful life.  Indira Gandhi (1917-1984), with whom MGR interacted since 1972 until her death in 1984 as a political friend and foe, also shares the birth centenary with MGR.

MGR and Indira Gandhi

Testimony of producer K.N. Vasu

In the previous chapter, I had criticized the unsavory attempt of writer Sudhangan (who had authored the 2005 book on MGR shooting incident), in introducing a fictional news reporter character Nanda to carry the story. Subsequently, while reading an assembled collection of articles published on M.R. Radha by Manaa (pen name for S.D. Lakshmanan), I came to know that there in fact was a reporter, with a name ‘Vivekan’ (probably, a pen name), who had described about what he did on January 12, 1967 Thursday. His report had appeared in the Kumudam weekly magazine on January 26, 1967. From this fact, I can exclude writer Sudhangan as the alter-ego of his fictional reporter, because in his preface to the book, he had stated that he was a third grade student in 1967 (being, born in 1958).

K.N. Vasu was the producer of the problematic ‘Petralthan Pillaiya?’ movie, which precipitated the shooting incident. His testimony in the MGR shooting case was of vital importance, for the reason that he was the ONLY eyewitness of this shooting incident. As such, defense counsel (N.T. Vanamamalai) appearing for M.R. Radha, attempted his best to prove that Vasu was an unreliable witness, and had somewhat of a dubious past as a ‘freedom fighter’ and bigamist. In his testimony, Vasu had acknowledged a marital arrangement with movie star K.L.V. Vasantha (1923-2008). In fact, Vasantha had starred in one of MGR’s early movies Salivahanan (1945), which featured MGR as a villain! The details, I provide below are abridged translations (chapters 16 and 17, providing summaries of cross examinations on May 26 and 27, 1967) from Sudhangan’s book. In answering the questions to public prosecutor P.R. Gokulakrishnan,

Vasu offered the following details about his background.

“My native place is Puthukoddai. Twenty years ago, I arrived in Chennai. I belong to the Congress Party. When Nehru and Sathyamoorthi came to Puthukoddai, I was arrested for garlanding them, and placed in prison. I had also participated in the campaign against foreign clothes and Salt Satyagraha in Karaikudi. As my wife K.L.V. Vasantha was acting in cinema, I came to Chennai. After that, I attempted to produce many movies. Then, I was affluent. When I faced financial problem, directors Krishnan and Panju cared to help me and bought a story from Bombay and advised that they will direct the movie, but MGR should act in it. In 1963, I visited MGR with directors Krishnan-Panju at the Velan Studio and received his consent. For financing the movie, I met Radha, whom I’ve known for long time. We (Directors Krishnan-Panju and myself) established ‘Muthukumaran Pictures’ in 1963. Radha handed a check for Rs. 50,000 from Muktha Finance Corporation, as well as another Rs 50,000, totaling Rs. 100,000 to me. We had the Pooja (prayer) ceremony in June 1964 and began shooting that day itself. Petralthan Pillaiya movie was released on December 3, 1966. Cast included, MGR, M.R. Radha, T.S. Balaiah, Thangavelu, Asokan, Nambiar and many others. I was the producer. Burrowed amount from Radha was returned with interest as Rs 140,000 on December 14, 1966 and I have a Radha-signed acknowledgment receipt for this. Radha was not paid for acting in this movie. He had acted as a ‘Guest’ actor….”

M.R. Radha and MGR in a movie scene

Defense Counsel Vanamamalai’s questions to Vasu were challenging to unsettle the trustworthiness of the eye witness. Few questions asked provide interesting numbers about the finances and movie distribution pattern prevailing for releasing a movie starring MGR in 1966. I provide chosen excerpts of questions and answers, which relates to (1) movie making and financial arrangements made by a not so well established producer, (2) producer Vasu’s career background prior to 1966, and (3) events which followed the shooting on January 12, 1967.

Q (Vanamamalai): Have you produced any other movie, except ‘Petralthan Pillaiya?’

A (Vasu): No.

Q: Where did your first wedding took place?

A: Cannot remember.

Q: Did it take place in Thiruvapur?

A: I don’t know.

Q: Do you remember that there is a village by that name?

A: Yes, I know.

K.L.V. Vasantha in a 1947 movie

Q: Did you marry a woman belonging to your caste?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you remember her name, or not?

A: Thulasi.

Q: Currently, where that woman lives?

A: in Tiruvapur.

Q: How many years ago, that wedding took place?

A: Cannot remember.

Q: Was it before you married K.L.V. Vasantha?

A: I don’t remember because it happened when I was young.

Q: Have you been living with that woman?

A: Yes.

Q: Have you worked at a shop called Mothilal Emporium?

A: Mothilal Emporium is my own shop.

Q: Is it still functioning?

A: It has been closed.

Q: When was it closed?

A: I cannot remember.

Q: When you arrived in Chennai, was that shop functioning?

A: Yes.

Q: Did you have any links to that shop?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you have any written proof that you were the owner of that shop?

A: No.

Q: Other than owning a shop and producing a movie, have you done any other work?

A: I cannot understand what you mean by ‘work’.

Q: Have you worked to earn an income?

A: I haven’t worked anywhere. At Puthukoddai, I had a company Thondaiman Textiles. It is still in existence.

Q: Have a woman named Vallikannu lived with you?

A: Before her cinema acting career, K.L.V. Vasantha’s name is Vallikannu.

Q: What is her native place?

A: Kunrakudi, which is adjacent to Karaikudi.

Q: When did your relationship with that lady began? In which year?

A: I cannot remember.

Q: For how long, you have not been living together?

A: I cannot remember.

Q: After you separated from her, have you received any information from her?

A: No.

Q: Did you have a divorce with her?

A: We didn’t have a divorce. We simply separated.

Q: Was there a wedding? How did it happen?

A: There was. How it happened, I don’t remember.

Q: How much Vasantha was paid to act in a movie?

A: We have received Rs 5,000, Rs 10,000.

Q: We know that in those days, the rate was around Rs 700 or 800.

A: For Vasantha, we have received Rs 31,000.

Q: Did you purchase Vasantha Mahal bungalow?

A: Yes.

Q: Did you have a Cadillac car?

A: There were many cars. I cannot remember whether we had a Cadillac.

Q: Do you have a car now? What brand is it?

A: I don’t have a car in my name. There is a Dodge car in the name of Muthukumaran Pictures company.

Q: Is it an old car?

A: It is an old one.

Q: Do you know J.R.S. Swaminathan?

A: I know one J.R.S.Pictures Swaminathan.

Q: Was there a contract(s) between him and you?

A: We had a contract between Muthukumaran Pictures and J.R.S. Pictures. They had received the distribution contract for releasing ‘Petralthan Pillaiya?’ movie in North Arcot and outh Arcot districts.

Q: When was that contract made?

A: We had Pooja (Prayer) function for the movie in June 1964.

Q: What is this Pooja function?

A: On an auspicious day, we have a Pooja in front of the God and shooting will begin on an auspicious time. Beginning of shooting is referred to as Pooja function.

Q: What was the contract? What is the monetary worth of the contract?

A: It’s between Rs 150,000 and 200,000.

Q: Can it be more than Rs.200,000?

A: It can be.

Q: Did they offer an advance?

A: Yes.

Q: How much?

A: I cannot remember.

Q: After that, how much did they give?

A: I cannot remember.

Q: Do you remember, totally how many times?

A: Could be two or three times.

Q: What was the amount?

A: I cannot remember.

Q: Did you make contract for distribution right with any other individuals?

A: We had contracts with ten individuals totally, with one per each district.

Q: Did you receive advance from all?

A: Advances were received for distribution rights for Salem, Mysore, Tiruchi, Thanjavur, Madurai, Ramanathapuram, North Arcot, South Arcot, Singapore, Malaysia.

Q: Totally, how much did you receive?

A: I cannot remember.

Q: When did you receive?

A: After June 1964.

Q: Was the last advance received before June 1965?

A: I cannot remember. We did receive all amount before the movie was released in December 1966.

Q: Did the distribution contractors for Tirunelvely give money?

A: After that only, we offered the distribution rights to Tirunelvely district.

Q: Did MGR Pictures gave you money?

A: No.

Q: Do they have to give you money?

A: As distributor of the movie, they have to.

Q: Did you receive any money from them?

A: Accountant only knows it.

Q: Has ten years passed since the last movie of your wife Vasantha was released?

A: It cannot be ten years. I cannot remember exactly.

Q: Does she act in important roles?

A: She does act in important roles.

Q: Any movies which she had acted like that?

A: Gemini’s ‘Gnanasoundari’, ‘Mohanasundaram’.

Q: You mentioned that you went to jail. In which year?

A: I cannot remember.

Q: Is your name listed in the ‘Freedom Fighters’ list?

A: I don’t know.

Q: Were you produced in front of a Court?

A: I cannot remember.

Q: How many times, you had gone to prison?

A: Four or five times.

Q: Among these, at least can you remember and tell definitely in which year you went?

A: I don’t remember.

Q: Do you remember, who arrested you at least, even once?

A: No.

Q: When you were arrested, can you tell the names of others who were arrested with you?

A: Unnikrishnan and Kanapathy from Karaikudi.

Q: Are they still alive?

A: I have heard that Kanapathy had died. I guess, Unnikrishnan is still alive.

Q: Do you have a receipt to show that you were a member of Congress [Party]?

A: I might have paid annual dues. Only during the last 6-7 years I haven’t paid. One can be a Congress person even without paying the four annas.

Q: Can you be a Congress person, even without paying the dues?

A: I don’t know.

Q: Can you definitely tell when was the last time you paid the dues to whom, and in which village?

A: I cannot remember.

Q: In producing the ‘Petralthan Pillaiya?’, did you get profit or loss?

A: Profit indeed. Now, I cannot say, how much. I have to look into the accounts.

Q: Earlier, you mentioned that Panju bought the story. What is it?

A: I don’t know that.

Q: Has ‘Petralthan Pillaiya?’ been produced in Hindi?

A: No.

Q: Do you know, who was the original story writer?

A: I don’t know.

Q: Did you give money? To whom?

A: I gave money to Panju.

Q: Did you ask Panju, who was the original story writer? From whom, did you bought the story?

A: I didn’t ask.

Q: You had full confidence in Panju. So, you didn’t ask, isn’t it?

A: I know, money was given. I didn’t see it. I trusted that money should have been given, as per agreement.

Q: On the day of the incident [after being shot], you had mentioned that MGR came to the verandah and went in a car. From which direction, the car arrived?

A: Car was parked on the west side.

Q: Where was the car in which you went was parked?

A: On the left side to reception hall, at a distance of 20 – 25 feet. I didn’t know where my driver was then. When I came out, my driver was standing at a distance of about 40 feet. Perumal is my driver’s name.

Q: Before you entered the car, did you call Perumal by name?

A: No. I didn’t make an effort to invite the driver.

Q: After MGR left in the car, when did you see him after that?

A: On the 100th day felicitation to the movie. Before that, I didn’t make an effort.

Q: After the shooting incident, when was the last time you saw Radha?

A: Only yesterday, at the Court.

Q: Did you make an effort to see MGR, before the 100th day felicitation event?

A: No.

Q: Did you have a thought that you have to see him?

A: No.

Q: Did you make an effort to see Radha, before you saw him at the Court?

A: No.

Q: On which car you went, after you took the revolver?

A: Fiat car.

Q: Who was the driver?

A: I think, it was Kathiresan..

Q: How many drivers MGR had?

A: I know Kathiresan and Manickam. I don’t know how many others are working. I don’t know which sort of work Rathinam does.

Q’ On the day of the incident, you had mentioned that Radha shot himself. Did you think that his life was in danger then?

A: At that time, I didn’t think so.

Q: While Radha was walking, was blood dripping from his body?

A: I didn’t see.

Q: Did you think that you have to take him to the hospital?

A: No.

Q: While you picked up the gun from Radha, what was your thought then?

A: We ran to check what happened to MGR.

Q: Were you under the impression that you have to keep that revolver in your home?

A: No. I wanted to keep it safe.

Q: When you gave the gun to Rathinam and told ‘Please keep it safely’, did you think that he is the one who should keep it forever?

A: No.

Q: What did you think that it should be transferred to someone else from Rathinam?

A: I didn’t think anything.

Q: You have gone to prison many times. Didn’t you think about police. Do you know there is a penalty, if someone shoots another person?

A: I know well.

Q: Do you know that, if that sort of incident happens, police will take action and the accused will be punished?

A: I know.

Q: Do you know that police have to be informed?

A: I know.

Q: When did you learn first, about the health situation MGR was facing after the shooting?

A: I learnt from the newspaper accounts.

Q: You had mentioned that when Radha is standing, MGR will not sit. On what basis, you mentioned that?

A: For the respect and age, Radha commanded, no one will sit while he was standing.

Q: My question relates to only MGR’s action and not to others. Have you seen previously that while Radha was standing, MGR will not sit?

A: I have seen many times.

Q: Before the shooting incident, have you seen that MGR will not sit while Radha was standing?

A: I had seen many times during the shooting [of the movie].

Q: When was the last time, you had seen that?

A: I cannot remember exactly.

Q: Was it, 10 or 12 days before?

A: I don’t know clearly.

Q: Before the shooting incident and 10 or 12 days before, how many times Radha and MGR would have met?

A: I cannot remember.

Q: You had mentioned that you stood between Radha and MGR. Where were you standing, related to Radha’s position?

A: I can tell the direction, if photo is shown.

Q: I’ll not show the photo. Give me the direction.

A: I was looking down, west of Radha.

Q: What was the distance between you and Radha then?

A: Three or four inches.

Q: While you were in between, where did MGR stood? In which direction?

A: On to the left, facing East. West to me.

Q: What was the distance between you and MGR?

A: Less than roughly nine inches.

Q: Radha shoot MGR once or many times? Did you hear ‘dub’ once or ‘dub-dub’ more?

A: I heard ‘dub’ only once at first. As for MGR, only one ‘dub’ was heard.

Q: You mention that you were in between Radha and MGR. On which side were you?

A: I was covering his [MGR’s] left side. I don’t know, how much I covered him.

Q: Did you realize then that you were facing a very difficult situation then?

A: I was told that he [Radha] will give advance and I took him to see MGR. Then, he had shot MGR and also shot himself twice. So, I would have been in that situation. He had cheated me, and he had done this deed, forgetting that he had taken a very dear friend, and done this shooting…

Q: Did you realize that you may be suspected?

A: I didn’t think so. Why should I think like that?

Q: You have to answer only the questions asked. You cannot question back. I assert that you were frightened, and because of the influence of M.G. Chakrapani and others, you are not telling the truth.

A: No and never.

Q: I assert that you have hidden the truth.

A: I tell that you are telling a lie.

Q: You had mentioned that Radha had left. That thought came to you, while you were traveling in the Fiat car.

A: I had captured the revolver from him. I felt that satisfied with this action, so that he will not shoot others.

Q: You were satisfied that the danger of Radha shooting others had vanished because of your action.

A: Mrs. Janaki [MGR’s wife] was crying in the verandha. I captured [the gun] with the thought that she shouldn’t be shot.

 

Under the Influence of Liquor

After he had served the prison sentence, and attempting to reestablish his life, in 1972 M.R. Radha had acknowledged two facts to script writer Arurdass that on January 12, 1967 when he visited MGR’s house. First, he did carry the revolver. Secondly he was under the influence of liquor. And the second fact was the prime cause of shooting attempt. In Radha’s words, as recorded Arurdass,

“After the beginning of this ‘Petralthan Pillaiya’ movie, he [MGR] had been avoiding me. I also heard that he had been blocking my opportunities in other movies where he and I have been booked. Even, Thevar [Sandow M.M.A. Sinnappa Thevar] had been discouraging me. I wanted to talk all these things with him That’s why I took Vasu to the Thottam [MGR’s house]. He was also keen on beginning the next movie.”

To the question by Arurdass, ‘Then why did you take the revolver?’, Radha had responded, “That was the mistake done. I took it to frighten him. Even Vasu didn’t know that I took the revolver. If I wanted to shoot him, why should I go to his Thottam to shoot him? And why should I shoot him with dud bullets in his ear? When I aimed the gun, he got frightened. He shouted ‘Anne!’ and grabbed and twisted my hand. I was scared that whether the bullet will be released; so, I held the revolver firmly. We were struggling with each other – he holding my hand, and I holding his hand. Accidentally, my finger touched the trigger and the bullet went off. Then, Vasu jumped to pick up the gun from my hand. Before that, I raised the revolver above and in that struggle the next bullet struck [my] head. Why you ask it? Everything went upset.”

To a follow up question by Arurdass, ‘Why did you shoot yourself?’, Radha had answered, “Me! Did I shoot myself? No. In the struggle with Vasu, it accidentally happened. I couldn’t understand a thing. The reason is, when I went there, I was under the influence of liquor. In that blurred situation, I didn’t know what happened. But, I had a doubt that Ramachandran might have been ‘out’. Later only I realized that he had survived. I also had survived. Within few minutes, everything happened like a cinema scene. When I went to meet him, I was under the influence of liquor. Otherwise, it couldn’t have happened.”

When Arurdass retorted, ‘Did you tell this in the Court?’, Radha had replied, “I did tell…Who listened to it? No one took it seriously, believing, it as the setup of Vanamamalai [defense attorney].”

What I find somewhat puzzling is that neither the victim (MGR) nor the only eyewitness producer (Vasu) had brought this vital fact that the accused Radha was under the influence of liquor, when they were cross examined by Vanamamalai. Or, in the court transcript details later presented by reporters, even Vanamamalai had failed to ask any question on the sobriety of Radha when he aimed the gun at MGR.

 

Cited Sources

Arurdoss: Kottaiyum Kodambakkamum!, 2nd ed., Vikatan Pirasuram, Chennai, 2006, pp. 128-137.

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

Manaa: M.R. Radha: Kaalaththin Kalaignan, 2nd ed., Uyirmmai Pathippagam, Chennai, 2012, pp. 44-52.

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.

No Responses to “MGR Remembered – Part 38”

  1. Arul

    Congratulations Dr. Sachi on your new position and thanks for the detailed narration of the key event in MGR’s life which decided the course of Tamil Nadu for the next 50 years.

    Reply
  2. G. Chandrasekar

    Wishing you all the very best on resuming MGR remembered. You are doing a wonderful tribute to one of the greatest leaders of Tamilnadu,. Sad part of it is that the younger generation are not aware of a true legend completely. However, the myths about him do still continue to exist. I am sure that your detailed study and extensive writing would definitely clear all misinterpretations and misrepresentations. Good luck.

    Reply
  3. Suresh Pandian Elumalai

    Very good one. Its done so delicately and makes the reader feel that they live in past.

    Hope to hear more stuff about his political career and ambitions.

    Reply
  4. vinod.s

    MY SINCERE THANKS TO THE AUTHOR SSK SIR
    I READ ALL YOUR ARTICLES. INFORMATIVE DOCUMENTS ABOUT MGR.
    THANKS A LOT.
    VINOD.S

    Reply

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