For several decades now, the journey and evolution of Tamil Nadu's most powerful politicians have been closely tied to its mainstream cinema - a unique facet that cannot be easily understood by the rest of India.
As you are reading this, you would have already heard the news that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has passed away at 11.30 PM – a news that has plunged the nation in deep grief.
But where did J Jayalalithaa begin? What is her story? How did she grow up?
What were her dreams? And how far did she travel from those dreams to reach the position she attained in the hearts of the people – as Tamil Nadu’s most loved AMMA.
Lets find out:
For several decades now, the journey and evolution of Tamil Nadu’s most powerful politicians have been closely tied to its mainstream cinema – a unique facet that cannot be easily understood by the rest of India.
When you think of J Jayalalithaa, you know that she is a powerful leader and the people of Tamil Nadu are known to almost worship her as their ‘Puratchi Thalaivi Amma’. Very little has been understood about her personal life before she joined the world of politics – what was her family background like and what situations prompted her to actively join Tamil Nadu politics at a time when it was a male-dominated environment?
Here are some amazing facts to know about Jayalalithaa’s early years:
From Bharatanatyam to the World of Cinema
Jayalalithaa was trained as a Bharatanatyam dancer and she became one of the finest as she had been mentored by KJ Sarasa, one of the finest dance ‘Gurus’ at the time. Several difficult situations emerged in young Jayalalithaa’s life that forced her to enter the world of cinema. Few would know that her first film was an adults-only movie which had an ‘A’ certificate!
It has been widely reported that Jayalalithaa wanted to be a lawyer while she was growing up. She was not keen to act in movies but her mother Sandhya – also an actress – had forced her into the industry when the family went through troubled times.
Some of her school mates testify to her being a prolific reader. Actress Sheela, who was one of the leading stars of Malayalam cinema industry, stated in one of her interviews about ‘Jaya’ – her best friend in class who would not join them during playtime but would rather spend time reading political memoirs and devour autobiographies at a young age! It seems that Jayalalithaa was more interested in public speaking, writing short stories and poems than acting.
The late veteran actress, Sukumariamma wrote in her official biography in Malayalam that she had known and interacted closely with Jayalalithaa when she first came into the film industry.
According to Sukumariamma, Jayalalithaa displayed some unique traits right from the start which distinguished her from other young actresses of that era who had to struggle in a highly male-dominated film industry.
Though a newcomer to the Tamil Nadu film industry, Sukumariamma cites that Jayalalithaa had a special chair on which she sat during shoots and would not allow anyone to place a chair next to her unless she allowed it. Between shots, she would read books and no one was allowed to disturb her till the next take.
From Cinema to Politics: An Incredible Tale of Grit & Struggle
The iconic MGR became Jayalalithaa’s political ‘mentor’ but her struggle to establish herself in a male-dominated political environment continued. The tides often turned against her with even close aides of MGR sparing no efforts to create doubt in the mind of their leader about Jaya. However, MGR was seen promoting his political heir Jayalalithaa through rallies and public appearances – it added to their mass appeal that they had worked together in several Tamil films as hero and heroine.
Following MGR’s death, political analysts may have written her off but she proved everyone wrong and how! When she was pushed out of MGR’s funeral carriage by his wife Janaki’s nephew and later insulted by their family members, she vowed a political comeback that no one would have taken seriously.
And the rest, as they say, is history – she established herself as a leader of the masses more powerfully and strongly in the hearts of people than even MGR had done and became ‘Puratchi Thalaivi Amma’ to her people.