Marudur Gopalan Ramachandran, or MGR-founder of the AIADMK founder and three-time chief minister, Bharat Ratna recipient-dominated Tamil Nadu's stratosphere for four decades. In this richly detailed biography of the man often called vathiyar or teacher, R. Kannan traces MGR's life from his early poverty-ridden years-a Class Three dropout-to his rise as a matinee idol, before becoming a politician of repute. He examines MGR's lifelong association with mentor Annadurai and other Dravidian cultural icons, and his tumultuous political friendship with Kalaignar Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa, his cine heroine and political protégé. The book dissects MGR's years in power: His early administration, the legendary midday meal scheme launched in 1982 that fed 92 lakh schoolchildren, his well-intentioned farm subsidies and freebies that strained the exchequer, his largesse to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, as well as his unabashed sponsorship of liquor barons and private medical and engineering colleges that aided the transformation of the state, but also fuelled corruption. Honest and insightful, MGR provides a portrait of a warm larger-than-life figure, whose legacy has left an indelible stamp on Dravidian politics.
R. Kannan considers himself as a child of the Dravidian movement and has long been a commentator on Dravidian politics. His book Anna: The Life and Times of C.N. Annadurai received critical acclaim. Raised and educated in Chennai, Kannan completed his LLM from the University of Georgia and his PhD in International Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. He has served in various capacities with the United Nations in two continents for nearly a quarter of a century. He presently heads the Basra office of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq. Kannan is married and has two children.