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A Jayalalitha most of us do not know

The Amma’s story is nothing if it is not sensational, dramatic and breathtaking


Sushobhit Saktawat

There is only one “Thalaiva” and his name is Rajnikanth. And there will always be only one “Thalaivi” too, and she is Jayalalithaa.

It’s as simple as this in the realm of popular Tamil folklores. There is no space for any other, since there cannot be. There can be no other Rajnikanth and there can be no other Jayalalithaa. They are unique, irreplaceable, unprecedented, one and only, exclusive. They are the one, who are not part of any paradigm, but instead they create their own set of history and phenomenon and legends.

Jayalalithaa. The iron-lady with many names besides her own. People affectionately call her “Amma”. For the members of her party AIADMK, she is “Puratchi Thalaivi”, the supreme leader. She also has a pseudonym called “Thai”, by which she used to write articles for a Tamil weekly. They also call her Selvi J. Jayalalitha, or Kumari Jayalalitha or Jaya or simply Jayalalitha. Jayalalitha herself don’t call her by one name alone. Her new name happens to be Jayalalithaa, with an additional “a” in the spelling, for numerological reasons. But nobody except her knows for sure, how many aspects of personality, she has, and what she truly is, apart from being the supreme deity of her countless followers.

In a nation, where women find it hard to find their feet in any walk of public life, Jayalalitha ended up having two incredibly successful careers, which is no less than a miracle for an Indian woman. She was a film star and a top notch star at that. Then she entered into politics and became number one leader of the Tamilnadu. She just doesn’t like to be number two, and many firsts decorate her illustrious CV : First woman to become a chief minister of Tamilnadu, first woman to become leader of opposition in Lok Sabha, first woman to have 11 hit films in one calendar year (1966), first woman to have over 100 silever jubilee films, first woman to become chief minister six times, and rather infamously first incumbent chief minister in India to be disqualified from holding office due to conviction in a disproportionate assets case. In cinema, she formed a formidable pair with the likes of NTR, MGR, Jaishankar and took the Southern silver screen by storm. In politics, she brought down he Union Government on her own in 1998 by withdrawing support from the popular Atal Behari Vajpayi government, an incident which made her immensely unpopular. But the Jayalalitha story is nothing if it is not sensational, dramatic and breathtaking.

And this story had begun very early. At the age of 3, she was learning Bharatnatyam. A child prodigy in every sense, she had topped in state in Matriculate exam. At 15, she was already doing films. The irony is that she could not watch her own debut film as it was given an “adults only” certificate and she was not an adult herself by then. Meeting with Marudhur Gopalan Ramachandran, popularly known as MGR, changed her life forever. She not only formed a dazzling screen pair with him in Tamil cinema, but he was also the man who is said to have brought her into the politics, though Jayalalitha denies it. A voracious reader, she carries books with her, wherever she goes. Not to mention, her massive wardrobe collection of Kanjiwaram saris and gold jewelries and fancy footwear, that also travel with her and keep making news. She is a writer too and have written one novel in Tamil, among countless articles by the pseudonym of “Thai”. With over 100 silver jubilee films in Tamil and Telugu, she goes down as one of the brightest stars of Indian cinema.

Former President Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalaam had once said that “There might be two truths and both can contradict each other.” This aptly fits for Jayalalitha. After all these years of public life, she he is still an enigma, a multi-layered phenomenon. It’s no wonder that today after the sad and heartbreaking news of her sudden demise, all of Tamilnadu has come to a virtual standstill. An endless mourning has gripped its soul. This only can happen with a legend, and who can be a legend if Jayalalitha is not one.

A “Thalaivi”, indeed. She was, she forever will be.

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