Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa was both loved and hated. She was known to be a tough, enigmatic, strong, bold and a larger than life personality – but this is just one side of her. The other side of Jayalalithaa can be seen in the 1999 interview with Simi Garewal. The interview in many ways humanises the enigma called ‘Amma’. In this interview she opens up her heart and talks about how she has never wept and lost her temper in public. She talks about how she started in politics as a very shy girl who hated limelight. “I am a behind the scenes person,” she tells Garewal in the interview. She talks about how she was brought up in a very traditional and a typical orthodox way.
Garewal managed to make Jaya talk about her childhood – which she spent pining for her mother, who was an actress and was always away on shoots. She recalls having a crush on cricketer Nari Contractor and film star Shammi Kapoor, whom she never met. After some gentle prodding from Garewal, ‘Amma’ sang lines from her favourite song – Aaja Sanam Madhur Chandni Mein Hum, in a very hesitant and and a nervous manner.
Jaya did 28 films with MGR. In the interview, she described him as her mother, father, friend and philosopher. “Did you fall in love with him?” Garewal asked. Jayalaithaa laughed quietly and responded saying: “He was a charming man. Anyone who met him, loved him.” She said she had never experienced unconditional love. She thought it was fluff from books and movies, not from real life. Her political career was never easy, especially because of her being a woman. “Politics can do without women. And they tried really hard to make it happen without women,” she told Garewal.
Amma died today but she will always be remembered as a tough lady standing tall in a man’s world!