by Sachi Sri Kantha, July 18, 2016
Front Note by Sachi
Uploading of the complete text of the first 32 chapters of series in the Research Gate site (https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Sachi_Sri_Kantha) last February, under the title ‘Minimum Guarantee Ramachandran: A Life in Cinema and Politics’ has garnered 452 reads up to now. I appreciate the interest shown by fans of MGR in India and elsewhere for their encouraging support. As I have assumed duties as the Editor in Chief of Reviews in Agricultural Science (RAS) e-journal, since last April, in addition to my teaching duties, there has been an understandable lull in the continuation of this series. But I do assure that I plan to continue this series, until further notice.
Transcripts of MGR assassination attempt Trial
After the hearing of the assassination trial at Saithapettai Sessions Court, by Magistrate S. Kuppuswami, it was forwarded to the Chengalpattu (formerly Chingleput) High Court. The case was heard by Justice Lakshmanan. The prosecution attorney was P.R. Gokulakrishnan. Accused M.R. Radha was represented by N.D. Vanamamalai (1922-2006), a ranking criminal attorney of his era.
MGR was called as the third prosecution witness. The first prosecution witness was draughtsman Umapathi, who had drawn the shooting incident location. The second prosecution witness was photographer Ranganathan. When MGR appeared in the witness box, Justice Lakshmanan had suggested that if the witness felt tired, he is permitted to sit and answer the questions. To this courtesy, MGR had asserted that he had opted to stand. Cross examination of MGR lasted for six days!
I provide the cross examination details (as I could gather in Tamil) in full for the following reasons: (1) These details provide vital information about MGR’s career in cinema and politics, up to 1966. Simple paraphrasing cannot do justice. (2) Reading the verbal pyrotechnics between the ranking defense counsel and MGR we can sense the court room tension. (3) As many had learnt in their interactions with MGR, he would never allow anyone to steal a scene from him, even when cameras were not rolling. (4) Mention is made on some specfics of MGR’s movies such as Ayirathil Oruvan, En Kadamai, Anbe Vaa, Nadodi Mannan, and Thirudathe. (5) MGR also answers about his family details with wife V.N. Janaki, elder brother M.G. Chakrapani, adopted son Appu, his assets, his knowledge about guns, and his professional relationships with C.N. Annadurai (Anna), M. Karunanidhi, K. Kamaraj, M.R. Radha (his mentor cum purported assassin), movie producer K.K. Vasu, and contemporary actor Sivaji Ganesan.
Cross Examination of MGR by Defense Counsel Vanamamalai
This cross examination lasted for three days. I continue with the verbatim English translation of the transcripts of this cross examination.
Question (by Counsel): After you had resigned the M.L.C. position, did S.S. Rajendran issued a critical report?
Answer (by MGR): A report did appear under Rajendran’s name.
Q: Did any of your party members criticized you?
A: The General Secretary (of the Party) didn’t criticize me. The Central Committee (of the Party) also didn’t criticize me.
Q: For the shooting of ‘Ayirathil Oruvan’ movie, did you visit Goa?
A: I did go to Karwar, adjacent to Goa.
Q: How many days did you stay there?
A: One month.
Q: Did love scenes shot there?
A: Fight scenes and ship transportation scenes were shot.
Q: Weren’t there any love scenes at Karwar? [Laughter at Court!]
A: Do you mean ‘song sequences’, when you mention love scenes?
Attorney for the Defense: Just a glamor scene.
Atorney for the Prosecution: Will you define the love scene?
Attorney for the Defense: We don’t know what is a love scene? But, he knows. Didn’t shooting was done for the song ‘Naanamo’ there? [Laughter at Court!]
A (by MGR): Yes.
Q: Did Anna announce that on 1965 January 26, there will be an anti-Hindi agitation, and the Constitution will be burnt?
Q: Did DMK decide that the anti-Hindi agitation will be held all over Tamil Nadu?
Q: As you didn’t participate in the anti-Hindi agitation, and went to Goa (for shooting), did your party men criticize you?
A: I don’t know.
Q: Can it be said that the box office failure of your movie ‘En Kadamai’is due to the antagonism shown by your party cadres?
A: No. That’s not the reason for the failure of that movie.
Q: Do you know that there was an agitation for changing the name ‘Dalmiapuram’ to ‘Kallakudi’?
Q: At that time, were you a member of your party?
A: At that time, I was not a member, but was a sympathizer of the party.
Justice (to the Defense Counsel): You have been asking questions like this. Are these relevant for this assassination attempt case?
Defense Counsel: The prosecution counsel opened this case with the comment that this case has links to politics. Thus, to prove that this case doesn’t not have any links to politics, I have to ask such questions.
Justice: I do agree. You can continue the cross examination.
MGR (to the Justice): I would appreciate if you consider my explanation too. I did attend and spoke at the party conference held in Lalgudi. At that conference, Mr. Sivaji Ganesan who was then a member of the DMK before me spoke as follows: ‘If Anna ordered, I will abandon all the movie shootings and jump into the agitation.’ In answering this comment, Anna spoke, ‘Actors should do propaganda for the party, offer financial assistance to the families of the party volunteers who participate in agitation and land in jail. Thus, actors should not participate in the agitation.’
Defense Counsel: In the Lower Court hearing, you did not mention about this Lalgudi Conference. Isn’t it?
MGR: Then, the prosecution counsel generally asked ‘Why I didn’t participate in the party agitation?’ I also answered generally. Now, a question is being asked, ‘Why I didn’t take part in Kallakudi Agitation?’ Thus, I have to give this answer.
Q: Are you aware of the ‘Nonsense’ agitation?
A: Yes. As Nehru had criticized the actions of Periyar as ‘nonsense’, that agitation was held to oppose Nehru’s views.
Q: Do you know that, your party cadres participated at that agitation as well?
A: Yes. They participated and protested showing black flags.
Q: Did you participate in that? Or at least did you think of participating in it?
A: I didn’t participate in it. I didn’t even think of participating in it.
Q: Was Karunanidhi involved in cinema field, before he became a minister?
Q: He is addressed as ‘Kalaignar’ [Artist] by all, isn’t it?
A: Yes. All do address him as ‘Kalaignar’.
Q: Is the title ‘Kalaignar’ suitable for him? Or, is it an inappropriate one?
A: He is suitable for the ‘Kalaignar’ title.
Q: If it is asserted that Karunanidhi is a pioneer of actors, is it right or wrong?
A: I don’t have capability to answer this.
Q: Has he acted in movies?
A: No. He had acted in propaganda plays.
Q: If Karunanidhi had wished, he could have become a well-known actor, isn’t it?
A: I don’t know.
Q: Even though he had the means to make money via movies, he was focused on supporting his party and concentrated on it, isn’t it?
A: I don’t know.
Q: Is Anna good actor? Hasn’t he acted in plays like ‘Chandrodayam’?
A: Yes, he had acted.
Q: Does he act well?
A: I had seen his acting. For me, it was impressive. I don’t know opinions of others.
Justice: Some do like one’s acting. But others don’t.
Q: Anna had written scripts for movies, isn’t it?
Q: Then, he left the field and continue to work full time in politics, isn’t it?
A: I don’t know whether he left cinema altogether or continue to write scripts for cinema. You have to ask him that. This is because, I had read that he is writing script.
Q: If I say that for many years he had left script writing for cinema and sacrificed a lot of his income, to be involved in politics, is it correct or incorrect?
A: This question is difficult for me to answer. I cannot say that my favorite (Uyirum UdaLum ‘life and body’) Anna had left cinema. At the same time, I cannot assert that he had sacrificed his income. From my answer, they are attempting to discredit my leader.
Q: My question is to defend the interests of those whom I represent. It is not my intention to discredit anyone. Did Anna leave cinema, or not?
A: Cinema is also a component of politics. But, I don’t know whether he had left cinema.
Q: You say that you were given exceptions for why you didn’t participate in the party agitations. I say that the reason you mention for not participating in the party agitations are not true.
A: I object your reason.
Q: Showing a photo to MGR: Is this photo in which you are garlanding Kamaraj is yours?
Q: At that time, what was the position he was holding?
A: He was then the Chief Minister [of the State of Madras]
Q: Do you garland him during his birthday felicitation?
A: I don’t remember.
Q: Look at this. You had garlanded Kamaraj, when he was the leader of All India Congress Party. You had garlanded him during his birthday felicitation.
A: Yes, I did it.
Q: Did you participate in his 1963 birthday felicitation?
A: I did participate in that meeting. When I spoke at that function, there were reports that I had said, Kamaraj ‘is my leader’.
Q: Have you spoken anywhere or at any time about Kamaraj in a disrespective manner?
A: I had never criticized him personally.
Q: Do you respect Kamaraj?
Q: Do you know that Kamaraj house was attacked in Delhi by rioters last year?
A: I know.
Q: Have you criticized that violent act?
A: I did write in the ‘Sama Neethi’ paper in which I’m the special editor that action is condemnable.
Q: Do you know that the gun which was used to shoot you had gone to police hands, before they inquired you?
A: Can’t remember.
Q: Did your elder brother Chakrapani say that the gun was handed to police?
A: Yes. After I was discharged from the hospital, he did say that one day.
Q: Can you tell, when was it?
A: He said that, after he went to Tirupathi and tonsured his head. He might have told me, 5 days after I was discharged from the hospital.
Q: Did Chakrapani arranged with Vasu to say false evidence?
A: Why we had to hide the truth? Radha did shoot me.
Justice: This is not true, says the Defense Counsel.
A: No one has attempted to hide any type of truth.
Q: I say that Chakrapani arranged to give false evidence. You are also giving false evidence. Can you reject this?
A: Yes. I reject it.
Q: In the past three years, you have never agreed to act in a movie for a sum less than 50,000 rupees, isn’t it?
A: To act in the ‘Anbe Vaa’ movie, I had received 150,000 rupees. This movie was made within the past three years.
Q: What are your assets? Are they worth 100 million rupees?
A: Not really 100 million rupees. But, may be 20 million rupees.
Q: What can you say about your combined assets?
A: I cannot answer now. Very soon, we are planning to divide our assets.
Q: Whether you will divide your assets or not, it is your wish. I’m not asking this for income tax details. [Laughter in Court] I’m interested in knowing whether Chakrapani made use of funds to prepare witnesses favorable to your case.
A: No! No! No!
Q: Do you know whether Radha was alive or dead when he was brought to Royapettah hospital?
A: I don’t know. But, I did see him falling down.
Q: Were you scared that after Radha was brought to Royapettah hospital, that he will accuse you?
A: I was not scared at all, because I’m innocent.
Q: Where do they teach the dialogue, which are used in cinema shooting?
A: Either at the ‘Make Up’ room or in the Set.
Q: In the scenes in which you have to speak long dialogues, they complete them quickly, isn’t it?
A: What does that mean?
Q: Sivaji Ganesan and you can speak long dialogues quickly due to the talent, isn’t it?
A: I’m not given long dialogues to speak. Even if such scenes do occur in crying scenes, we usually split the ‘takes’ and then join them.
Q: Have you heard of American actor Paul Muni?
A: Yes, heard about him.
Q: Do you know that Anna had mentioned once that in acting, Radha could better Paul Muni.
A: I don’t know.
Q: Isn’t Pammal Sambantha Mudaliyar is called the Father of [‘modern Tamil’] theater?
Q: Do you know that he had praised Radha as the one who had defined drama?
A: I have heard about it.
Q: Isn’t Dr. M. Varatharasan one among the elite writers in Tamil Nadu?
Q: Didn’t he praise Radha as, ‘Radha’s acting reflects life, and the beauty of life. This one cannot forget’?
A: Yes. Even, I had praised his acting.
Q: You had praised him. Kalivanar N.S. Krishnan and T.K. Shanmugam also have praised him, isn’t it?
Q: Do you think, he is an excellent actor?
A: Yes. He was one who led my path in acting.
Q: Now, if he comes out (of jail), movie producers are waiting to ‘book’ him, isn’t it?
A: Yes. If he returns, to celebrate his acting, even I’m willing to make use of his talent.
Q: Radha is considered as one of the best actors in Tamil movies, isn’t it?
Q: You and he had acted together in around 20 movies, isn’t it?
A: I guess so. It may be, even more.
Q: In your movies, you do play the roles of Good Samaritan, isn’t it?
A: What does that mean?
Q: For example, in the ‘Nadodi Mannan’ movie, you had acted in a character which helps the downtrodden folks. Akin to that, even in other movies, you had taken similar roles, isn’t it?
A: I do act in roles to promote good character traits. Even if a role is constructed that exhibits unfavorable character traits, such a role is designed to repent for the committed sin.
Q: Even in this case, I assert that it is designed that you are decorated with good character traits and he (Radha) was assigned the role of bad character, to be realistic.
Q: Have you ever spoken ill about M.R. Radha?
A: Not even once.
Q: Have you ever attempted to do anything bad to him, or have you done anything bad to him?
A: I have never done anything bad to him, and even never thought about doing bad to him.
Q: Anna has a close relationship with M.R. Radha, isn’t it?
A: Yes, they were close.
Q: Your estate property, and Radha’s estate property are adjacent to each other?
Q: You had never restricted his entry into your house, isn’t it?
A: No, I have never restricted his entry. He could enter anytime.
Q: Have you ever invited Radha for meals, and had he come to your house?
A: One day, he and actor Thangavelu did visit our house with ‘make up’ and had meals. That day, we had dried fish curry. It is his favorite dish. That day, he did come after knowing we were serving dried fish curry. I didn’t invite him. [At this instance, MGR looked at Radha, and said, ‘He also knows this’ and smiled. Radha also smiled.]
Q: Do you know the father’s name of your adopted child Appu?
A: I don’t know. Appu’s father had died while serving the military. He also had no mother.
Q: You have adopted him since he was 2 -3 years old, isn’t it?
A: I have adopted him since he was 4-5 years old.
Q: When Appu entered your household, have you married V.N. Janaki or not?
A: I had married.
Q: Appu goes out on errands to purchase items for your household, isn’t it?
A: Sometimes Appu goes. Other times, Ratnam serves.
Q: Until you came to Royapettah hospital from your house, you didn’t tell the police that Appu was with you, isn’t it?
Q: You had said, ‘Someone had taken me in car’ to the police?
A: Yes. As I had pain then, I had shortened my answer.
Q: Like Mrs. Kalyani (wife of actor K.R. Ramasamy) who visits your house, your wife V.N. Janaki also visits Mrs. Kalyani’s house, isn’t it?
A: Yes, she does go.
Q: She also visits other houses?
A: Yes, she visits.
Q: I assert that on that day of assassination attempt, Mrs. Kalyani and V.N. Janaki were not at your house?
A: I object this.
Q: Does M.R. Radha wear shawl (salvai) regularly?
A: He wears that only occasionally.
Q: [Defense Attorney, showing a Radha shawl] Is the color of this shawl, body color or cow manure color?
A: For me, it appears like body color.
Q: On that day, you failed to notice his shawl properly. I suggest that he didn’t wear a shawl.
A: This is wrong. When he was coughing, I did notice his shawl.
Q: You could have told the police that you didn’t tell the details because you had hiccup.
A: They didn’t ask, so I didn’t tell.
Q: You say that M.R. Radha was standing with a gun, until there was shooting. What were doing then?
A: Until I got hit, I was seated and was talking.
Q: Did you get up, after completing the sentence, ‘What elder (Anne!) You had done like this?, or you got up simultaneously while you were saying those words?
A: I got up simultaneously, while I was saying those words.
Q: Did you feel that Radha had shot you, before you got up?
Q: Did Radha fall, while he was on the verge of shooting himself?
A: Yes, he did fall.
Q: While he was falling, what were you doing then?
A: I was standing, while holding my hand in a chair.
Q: Were you standing like that, while Radha was falling?
Q: Once you realize that Radha had shot you, did you sense that he may shoot you again?
A: I thought like that, and because of that, I got up.
Q: If there was a further attempt at shooting, did you think that you should hide behind a chair or you should grab the gun from his hand?
A: If Vasu didn’t interfere, I’d have attempted to grab the gun from his hand.
Q: After you realized that Radha had shot you, were you angry at his behavior?
A: Not anger, I was disappointed. My feeling was to protect myself.
Q: Do you have knowledge about gun?
Q: You were able to identify [the gun] only after the prosecution counsel showed it to the Court and its license.
A: We can identify only after seeing them, isn’t it?
Q: Isn’t your gun is Webley & Scott 0.32 caliber pistol?
A: I don’t know.
Q: Radha’s gun is identical to yours, isn’t it?
A: I had to first see it.
Defense Counsel handed Radha’s gun to MGR and asked,
Q: Isn’t this also Webley & Scott type?
Q: [Handing both MGR’s gun and Radha’s gun to MGR] both are of same ‘make’ isn’t it?
A: [MGR checked both guns for a while] Yes, both are the same ‘make’.
Justice also checked both guns. How many bullets can be used?
Q: How many bullets can be placed in your gun?
A: 6 bullets
Q: [Handing Radha’s gun to MGR] Can you tell, how many bullets can be used in this?
A: I can tell, only after ‘opening’ the gun.
Q: Please do so.
A: I don’t know how to ‘open’ it.
Q: Haven’t you have handled guns in so many movies? You cannot open it! OK, I’ll open it for you. [and handed the gun to MGR]
A: After checking it, 6 bullets can be placed here.
Q: Did you sense that Radha may shoot Vasu?
A: I didn’t think about others. I didn’t also think what Radha would do after that.
Q: Did you state in this Court that Radha was circling the chair in front of you, and approached you?
A: [to the Justice] MGR indicated the places in the photo, where Radha was moving around.
Q: At the Saithapet Court, you didn’t indicate the locations where Radha walked.
A: I was not asked. So, I didn’t say.
Q: When police officers were inquiring, you didn’t mention this, isn’t it?
A: Police officers didn’t ask. So, I didn’t say.
Q: I assert that after listening to the testimony of M.R. Radha in the Lower Court, you are stating this now, to fit accordingly.
Q: You state this, because if you say like this, then your testimony will be believed, isn’t it?
A: I cannot accept it.
Q: The number of bullets which can be bought is mentioned in the license, isn’t it?
Q: Apart from this, have you ever bought bullets additionally?
A: I don’t buy like that.
Q: How long have you practiced gun shooting?
A: Only after 2 or 3 years after purchase of the gun, I learnt shooting practice.
Q: During practice, do you use ‘live’ bullets?
Q: Do you use ‘live’ bullets for any other purpose?
A: What do you mean?
Q: Do you use them for any other purpose other than shooting practice?
A: I use it only for shooting practice, and not for other purposes. Only one exception. In ‘Thirudathe’ movie, I used a live bullet to brake glass.
Q: At what distance?
A: In about 5 feet distance.
Q: In movies, how many times have you used ‘live’ bullets?
A: As the first take was inappropriate, I had to use it for the second time. I did use two ‘live’ bullets.
Q: On that day of shooting [at your house], did you have ‘live’ bullets?
A: I might have had.
Q: I assert that, when Vasu called [you], Radha was not near him. What do you say?
A: How do I know whether Radha was near Vasu? How could I see that?
Q: You were stating that there was discussion with a Coimbatore (Kovai) Party. I assert that there was no talk like that.
A: Wrong. There indeed was a discussion.
Q: Before the incident, did someone tell you that Radha was talking about you ‘like this’ or ‘like that’?
A: Cannot remember.
Q: On the day of the incident, did you ask Radha, ‘Why you had given reports to the papers that I (MGR) am plotting to kill Kamaraj’?
Q: Did you ask Radha, that ‘You will shoot me after the release of the reports’?
A: I didn’t ask.
Q: Did you say ‘I will also react. I’ll shoot too’?
A: I didn’t say. This incidence never occurred.
Q: After listening to your ‘I’ll shoot’ talk, didn’t Radha say, ‘I came here because Vasu asked. Your talk is vulgar.’?
Q: I assert that he moved here and there, without knowing that you had a gun in your hand?
A: This is not true.
Q: Did you ask Radha angrily, ‘What would you do after shooting?’
A: No. This is a total lie. Just I tell this, you shouldn’t believe that I’m disregarding you personally.
Q [Defense Counsel] No, we don’t take anything personally. When you said, ‘What would you do after shooting?’, didn’t he say, ‘One day, humans have to die. Why not shoot’?
Q: I assert that, after he said that, you had shot him. When he looked at you, he saw the gun in your hand, isn’t it?
Q: Did Radha grabbed the gun from you?
Q: During that struggle, I assert that his blood spilled in your shirt.
A: Not true.
Q: As blood got spilled in your shirt, it was taken to dry cleaning, I assert.
A: Not true.
Q: I assert that only after Radha grabbed the gun from you, you were shot.
A: This is not true. I was the one who was shot first.
Q: I assert that Radha who had fallen from a gunshot wound, was shot again.
A: I don’t know. At that time, I was not there.
Q: I assert that you are hiding the truth and by twisting facts, you offer false evidence.
A: This is incorrect. I have been telling the truth.
Malaimalar com. Transcipts of the MGR shooting case, published between May 31, 2012 and June 15, 2012, in Tamil. ( http://cinema.malaimalar.com)
- Srivatsan: Radha pleaded innocence; was found guilty. The Hindu (Chennai), Dec. 24, 2012.
Special Correspondent: Vanamamalai dead. The Hindu (Chennai), May 29, 2006.
It is amazing to read the way MGR handles the intense questions of the defense attorney.
Even in that health condition, his determination to stand through the session is a testament to his willpower.