1) "Perunthalaivar" Kamarajar
Kamarajar was known as a kingmaker in Indian politics. He was instrumental in bringing to power two Prime ministers , Lal Bhadur Shasthri in 1964 and Indira Gandhi in 1966. He was born to Kumarasamy and Sivakami Ammal at Virudhunagar in Tamil Nadu. His was from a poor family and retained a spartan life style and bachelorhood throughout his lifetime. Despite dropping out of school in the seventh grade he rose to political prominence joining the struggle for Indian independence at the age of sixteen.
Kamarajar became Chief Minister of Madras Presidency in 1954. As Chief Minister, he initiated massive reforms in the educational and the social sectors of the state. He introduced the Mid-day meal scheme in Tamil Nadu, which was later popularised by MGR and this scheme is being considered by the Government of India to be introduced in all public schools in the country. It was his government, which built most of the existing dams in Tamil Nadu.
He is known for his honesty, intergrity and simplicity. He denied any special treatments extended to him or his mother just because he was the chief minister. It is also said that he lived in a rented house and had a possession of only 120 rupees and 6 dhothis when he died, a hard gesture from a Chief Minister in Indian history.
2) "Puratchi Thalaivar" M. G. Ramachandran
The height of emotional response that 'MGR' could evoke was evident when in 1987 during a critical illness, 22 people committed suicide in the hope their deaths would save him! Stories of poor people selling their blood in order to get money to see his films on first release are legendary!
Born Marudur Gopalamenon Ramachandran in Kandy, Sri Lanka, his family moved to Tamil Nadu where they lived in poverty. When he was 6, he joined a theatre group - the Madurai Original Boys. Here he picked up acting, dancing and swordplay. MGR made his screen debut in Ellis R. Duncan's Sati Leelavathi (1936) but his first major breakthrough came much, much later with Rajakumari (1947).
MGR's 1950s screen persona in adventure films constructed an image of political as well as physical invincibility. Often the themes of his films were derived from heroic ballads which are part of the oral tradition of rural Tamil Nadu. For example - Madurai Veeran (1956), one of his most popular films, is based on the legend of Madurai Veeran, a popular deity of Southern Tamil Nadu. His legend has been the subject of various ballads and plays and this was the second filmed version of the story.
In the 1960s MGR turned to more 'realistic' fantasies mostly in a contemporary setting often playing someone from the oppressed class - a peasant, taxi driver or fisherman. For millions of fans, his image as the knight in shining armour, saving damsels in distress and being totally dutiful towards his mother was in fact a reality. Mother tongue, motherland and motherhood were what he based his popularity on. To quote M.S.S. Pandian in The Image Trap: M.G. Ramachandran in Film and Politics...
"The social universe of the MGR is a universe of asymmetrical power.......The conflict between the upper caste/ class oppressors and MGR as a subaltern, and its resolution forms the core of the film. MGR, in the course of the conflict, appropriates several signs or symbols of authority or power from those who dominate."
MGR used food, colour patterns (black and red, symbols of the DMK) and masquerades (often through double roles of oppressor and oppressed) to construct this universe. In Engal Thangam (1970) for example, MGR playing a truck driver Thangam, fights, sings, cares for the poor and preaches against smoking and drinking. The DMK colours - black and red are frequently featured in the clothes he wears. He even appears as himself in the opening scene at a Small Savings Function. Thangam is in the audience and even refers to him as 'vathiyar' (teacher), the reverent title by which he was known to his fans!
MGR had joined the DMK party in 1953 and remained its member till 1972. This included a brief stint in the Madras Legislative Council from 1962 - 64, being a member of the Legislative Assembly (1967) when the party won the state elections and the DMK Treasurer (1970).
He fell out with the DMK chief Karunanidhi and used the DMK's propaganda idiom against the DMK itself in Nam Naadu (1969). In 1972 he set up the rival Anna - DMK party claiming allegiance to the DMK's founder, the late Annadurai.
In 1977, his party renamed the AIADMK won the state elections in alliance with Indira Gandhi's Congress party. MGR became Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and was re-elected for three consecutive terms. As Chief Minister, he organized a totalitarian crackdown on all political dissent while introducing populist schemes such as the Chief Minister's Nutritious Meal Programme.
Having survived a bullet wound when he was shot at by fellow actor M.R. Radha in 1967 (which affected his speech), he achieved demi-god status following a paralytic stroke in 1984 which he survived for three years. When he died in 1987, his funeral procession was attended by over 2 million people!
3) "Arignar" Anna
Conjeevaram Natarajan Annadurai, often referred to as Arignar Anna, was the 16th Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Born in Kancheepuram in a middle class family, he studied at Pachiyappa's high school and Pachiyappa's college, Chennai. His mother tongue was Tamil. He was an ardent champion of the cause of Tamil. He became a follower of Periyar (whom I never liked ;) ) and joined the Justice Party. In 1949, he left Periyar and started a new party, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). Anna a gifted orator and a writer par excellence was able to sway the Tamil masses with his logical arguements for social equality, violence free society, universal affinity. In his famous convocation address at Annamalai University he claimed to work towards establishment of a society where life lengthens, fear dies, joy deepens and man regains his dignity. He scripted many Tamil films and used art forms to educate Tamil people against castism. In 1957, he became the Leader of the opposition in the State Assembly. In 1967, he became the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu by wrongly portraying Karmaveerar Kamaraj. For that Tamilnadu is cursed and yet to recover from that. For centuries Tamil Nadu was called as Chera Chozha and Pandya Nadu. Tamils for long had been demanding the renaming of Madras State as Tamil Nadu. Anna accomplished that historical task.He conducted the World Tamil Conference. His short rule was brought to an end when he died of throat cancer in 1969. Millions mourned his death and it created a world record when a sea of humanity surged to pay respects to the noble human of Tamil soil.