Jayalalithaa: Journey From An Actress To Amma

With the demise of Jayalalithaa Jayaraman, not just Tamil Nadu, but the whole nation has lost a good politician and a great human being. She breathed last on 11.30 pm on Monday at Apollo Hospital in Chennai. She was kept on ventilator due to cardiac arrest on Sunday.

From a simple girl to Tamil film industry’s superstar; a singer and a politician who ruled hearts, Jayalalithaa’s life was full of so many stories and turns that one can make a movie on this. Her life was a fascinating journey of a woman who came into the limelight just because of her hero, went through so many hard phases, remained lonely all her life and still ruled her territory with an iron fist leaving an everlasting impression on the nation.

Jayalalithaa was born to Jayaram and Vedavalli in 1948 at Melukote in Mandya district in Mysore (now Karnataka). Her childhood was also full of difficulties due to early death of his father who was lawyer. Her mother had to take up clerical jobs to raise two years old Jayalalithaa. Later, her mother moved to Madras to stay with her sister. This is when Jayalalithaa entered cinema with the screen name Sandhya. She started her film career as a child artist in 1961 with an English film ‘Epistle’ and a Kannada film ‘Sri Shaila Mahathme’.


She was a brilliant student and stood first in 10th exams all across Tamil Nadu. After completing her basic education from Bishop Cotton Girl’s School, she took admission in Stella Maris college, Chennai to complete her higher education. She was expert at various languages like English, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Hindi and Telugu. Along with this, she was also a trained classical dancer and this is what helped her get major role in the movie.


Beginning of Career as an actress:

During one of her dance performances at stage, Shivaji Ganeson observed her and thought of casting her as an actress. Her first movie as  a lead actress was ‘Chinnada Gombe’ in Kannada language. In her career as an actress, she worked in 140 movies in six languages. Out of 125 films in which she played lead role, 119 were box office hits, which made her one of the highest paid actresses of her time in Tamil cinema.

Though her film career had ended in the mid 1970s, she had become a prolific actress till then. She gave spectacular hits with MG Ramachandran (MGR) whom she also followed in politics. They both together gave many blockbusters and became the first choice of directors and producers.


She also won the National Film Award in Tamil in 1973 for her movie ‘Pattikada Pattanama.’ She brought a revolutionary change in the Tamil film industry as looking at her success, roles started to be built around her, which was an unusual thing in the male-dominated Tamil film industry.


Downfall as an actress and beginning of a difficult phase

Like every success story, Amma’s life also went through many hardships. She was shown the way out from the film industry by younger and more voluptuous actresses. Even her entry in the politics was very difficult. She had to go through so many traumas and criticism, before becoming Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. A woman in a male dominated politics of Tamil Nadu was dismissed by critics as just an actress.

Alike films, credit of her success in politics also goes to her guide MGR. He brought her into politics in late 1980s. She joined AIADMK in 1982 as party’s candidate. In 1984, she was appointed in a Rajya Sabha member from Tamil Nadu, which she successfully maintained till 1989.


Becoming chief minister

After death of MGR in 1987, she had to face a lot of problems. The party divided in two groups: one supporting Jayalalithaa and the other one supporting MGR’s widow. Once she was insulted in the assembly. She was first hit on the head and then two people torn her saree as well. This is when she took an oath to come back to the assembly only after becoming a CM which she did in 1991. She was six times CM of Tamil Nadu.


Corruption charges

Jayalalithaa faced corruption charges throughout her career in politics. During 1991-96 she was convicted of misusing her office for obtaining around Rs. 65 crore. She again faced charges after lavish wedding of his foster son. The wedding was recorded in Guinness Book of World Records for the largest feast. The wedding included a list of whopping 150,000 guests. Income tax raids were conducted on Amma after the ceremony that cost around Rs. 10 crore.


Brand Amma

She successfully built brand Amma by launching all her welfare programs for the poor under the umbrella of brand name Amma such as Amma canteens, Amma drinking water, Amma pharmacies, Amma vegetables etc. She also started schools admissions for trangender’s education and introduced ‘Cradle Baby Scheme’ for mass adoption campaign of abandoned kids.


The lady had an iron hand which was clearly visible in her strong and dictatorial governing style.