Why MGR’s fans see(k) a god in him?
On Jan.17 2007, many streets of the areas where the urban poor live in Chennai (Tamil Nadu) wore a solemn look with fans-turned-worshippers thronging the garlanded pictures of MG Ramachandran at street corners. Songs from his films were aired through public address system till sunset. MGR’s fans ceased to be fans once again and became worshippers of a god that was the creation of their subaltern cinema conciousness.
To them, MG Ramachandran, who died in 1987, lives on not as a larger than life filmic super star of the past, but as a god who deserves to be worshipped.
In many other parts of Tamil Nadu, the day also saw posters announcing the release of MGR films, special prayer sessions in temples and numerous other attempts on the part of his fans to seek a god in their super star.
Even when he was alive, there were numerous reports of his fans lighting lamps and offering prayers before the screens where his filmic images rolled.
Tamil cinema stands out from other cinemas in India due to the peculiar trajectories of relationships its stars forge with their audience. Since 1940s, Tamil cinema’s star system, coupled with the adulatory cultural milieu of Tamil film fans, has repeatedly spawned contexts for audience to transform their favourite stars as super stars and their super stars as gods.
Why MGR’s fans see(k) a god in him? There can be several interesting attempts to provide answers to this question. One plausible reason is to see MGR as the only actor who succeeded in the act of transcending the real through the medium of cinema. In his case, the cinema-audience interface became more than extraordinary, incredible and rather divine, at least going by the steadfast veneration of his worshippers 20 years after his death and more than four decades after his super star days.