Minister in the PM’s Department takes a break from the Bersih controversy to attend a special ceremony in Taiping.TAIPING: The event must have been a welcome relief for Gerakan president Koh Tsu Koon who together with his other BN colleagues have been preoccupied in recent days with spitting vitriol at the July 9 Bersih rally.
Koh took a break from his criticism of the July 9 rally when he attended a special ceremony to unveil a bronze statute of the late South Indian matinee idol and ex-chief minister of Tamil Nadu MGR in Taiping on Saturday.
Koh, the Unity and Performance Minister in the PM’s Department, recently told organisers of the Bersih rally to resolve election issues through peaceful dialogues and not by taking to the streets.
But that must have been furthest from his mind on Saturday. A big fan of the former Tamil Nadu chief minister, Koh unveiled the 5ft 4 inch tall statue (the height of MGR) weighing about 200 kilos in Ulu Sepatang, about 10km from Taiping.
With the unveiling, Taiping has now the distinction of being the third city in the world to have a bronze statue of the late MGR, after India and Sri Lanka.
The credit for this goes to 60-year-old R Damodaram who achieved a life-long dream of having MGR’s statue at the Ayynar Temple grounds in Ulu Sepatang.
Damodaram, born in Donavar estate near Sungai Siput, was captivated by the image of MGR helping the poor and decided to do something to make his idol a part of his life since the age of 10.
Damodaram, whose father was an estate labourer, had to drop out of school after completing his primary education because his parents could not afford to help further his education.
However, this self-made businessman rose to be the Eagle Hurst MIC branch chief and having tasted poverty decided to help the poor and needy like his mentor-hero MGR.
Ten years ago, he formed the MGR Welfare Organisation to help the poor and needy and talented poor students to complete their education.
In 1992, he visited the widow of MGR, V N Janaki and received her encouragement to carry on with his mission of making MGR a living legend in the minds of Malaysians.
MGR a philanthropist
On Saturday, he fulfilled his childhood dream. Damodaram hosted the MGR statue officiating ceremony cum culture show titled “Manithanum Theivamahalam” (Even man can become God) at the Taiping Town Hall.
Tamil movie actor Sathiaraj who is also a big fan of MGR, yesteryear actor Asokan’s son Vincent Dass and comedian Mailsamy and Ethiyakanni monthly magazine editor S Vijayan were at the function.
According to Damodaram, Koh who is also a big fan of MGR and Vijayan was instrumental in bringing MGR’s personal items like his famous sunglasses for the function.
It took 10 men to carry the MGR statue from the hall to the temple gardens where it will be installed for visitors to see.
MGR (full name Maruthur Gopalan Ramachandran) was born on Jan 17, 1917 in Nawalapitiya in the then British Ceylon.
To overcome poverty, he joined a drama troupe to support his family. Influenced by Gandhian ideals, MGR joined the Indian National Congress and later became member of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).
In 1972, he left DMK to form his own party Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (ADMK). Five years later, he became the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu making him the first film actor in India to become the chief minister of a state.
He died on Dec 24, 1987 in Chennai and was married thrice – to Thangamani, Sathanandavathi (both died during his time) and VN Janaki (died in 1996).
In Tamil Nadu, he had a reputation as a philanthropist and was idolised by his followers as Puratchi Thalaivar (revolutionary leader). MGR was posthumously honoured with India’s highest civilian award the “Barat Ratna.”