“മുഖാമുഖം”

Meeting of two legends – MGR and Mammootty 
MGR, (Marudhur Gopalan Ramachandran; 17 January 1917 – 24 December 1987) is a popularly known South Indian film actor / politician. In 1977 he became the chief minister of Tamil Nadu – the first film actor in India to become the chief minister of a state. He remained as chief minister till his death in 1987. MGR is an inevitable icon in Tamil culture and even now his presence can be felt in the cultural, political and social life of contemporary Tamil lifestyle. Mammootty ( Muhammad Kutty Ismail Paniparambil; born 7 September 1951 ) is an Indian film actor / producer who has mainly worked in South Indian movies. During a career spanning more than three decades, he has acted in more than 360 films. Beside than his prestigious Padma Shri Award, he got five state awards, three National film awards for best actor. He was also honored a Doctor of Letters by the University of Kerala in January 2010 and by the University of Calicut in December 2010.
MGR and Mammootty / Photograph (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Silver gelatin print / 1980s

MGR and Mammootty / Photograph (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Silver gelatin print / 1980s


This image of MGR and Mammootty was taken by me during MGR’s visit to inaugurate the silver jubilee celebrations of C.T.T.U. (Cochin Thuraimuga Thozhilali Union). The trade union was very popular in Mattancherry. Mammootty’s father-in-law was one of the key leading official of that independent Trade union. I am a big fan of MGR. This was the first time I am meeting MGR. He came from Madras (Chennai) to Cochin (old airport). Most of the journalists and photographers took images of his arrival and went ahead to do other chores. I was an independent photographer during that time and I took this opportunity to be with MGR and stood there watching this legend. Soon after his arrival, the organizers took him to a guesthouse in Wellington. I went along with MGR to the guest house. On the way to the guest house he waved to the Tamil workers who had gathered in front of their settlement which was in front of the airport. I was the only person around, who could communicate with him in Tamil, eventhough it was broken. So, he started asking many questions in his husky voice. Whatever I understood, I responded. He was a soft attentive man… After few hours of acquaintance, I politely and ambitiously asked him whether he could remove his white fur keepa and his sun glasses… I was curious to capture his curly hairs and eyes… Most of his political pictures are with these iconic symbols. My dream was to photograph the artist in him… he laughed… and after a brief silence, he said, “come to Chennai”. I never went to Chennai and never met this legend again.

MGR / Photograph (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Silver gelatin print / 1980s

MGR / Photograph (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Silver gelatin print / 1980s

Mammootty / Photograph (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Silver gelatin prints / 1980s

Mammootty / Photograph (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Silver gelatin print / 1980s

This meeting must have happened during the 80s. First time I met Mammootty when he got married to Sulfat who is from my neighbourhood. Since then I meet him in the juice shops, market, etc., He used to hang around in his moped. During that time he was not famous as a film actor. He had acted in two or three movies in uncredited roles. Mammooty showed interest to act in theaters. My father’s brother and his friends were running a theater rehearsal camp. Mammootty was part of this play performing in a small role as the revolutionary child of a Muslim landlord. My father’s brother Ismail was the Muslim landlord, the main character of the drama. Sri NK Latheef was the author of the drama and it was directed by OS. Hameed. The rehearsals were conducted in my house terrace. Later we had gone to perform in a nearby remote island called ‘vallar paadam’. I was the asked to be the photographer for this performance as well as, I was the ‘prompter’ for the drama. After this performance, Mammootty started acting in the film, Vilkkanundu Swapnangal, directed by Azad, written by M. T. Vasudevan Nair, and starring Sukumaran in the lead role. His first full length character was in the 1980 film Mela which was written and directed by K. G. George. It is during this time, when Mammootty was becoming popular, this particular meeting between MGR and Mammootty happens diring C.T.T.U Silver Jubilee Celebrations. I never met Mammootty again. Mammootty is a great lover of photography and he likes himself being photographed. Most of these negatives of Mamootty, including his wedding negatives, the drama performance negatives were burnt in a fire incidence.
27th October 2014
Abul Kalam Azad
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