Reluctant leader

Print edition : January 06, 2017

JAYALALITHAA, who had acted in 127 films, including 28 with M.G. Ramachandran and 17 with Sivaji Ganesan, did not come into politics of her own volition. She was a brilliant student in the Sacred Heart High School, Church Park, Chennai, topping the class in every examination and she was given the “Best outgoing student of the year” award. While one account says that she wanted to become a doctor, another has it that she wanted to become a lawyer. But her mother, Sandhya, who was a film actor herself, brought her into the world of cinema, although reluctantly. Director Vedantam Raghaviah was directing a Kannada film Nanna Karthavya, in which Sandhya was essaying an important role. The director was keen that Jayalalithaa should play the role of a young, virgin widow in that film. Sandhya turned down the offer but the director was persistent. That was how Jayalalithaa came into the film world.

She entered politics fortuitously. She had fallen out with MGR in 1973, but it was he who brought her into politics. In the early 1980s, she was leading a quiet life, reading books and writing for Tamil magazines. MGR, who was Chief Minister then, organised the World Tamil Conference in Madurai in 1981. Jayalalithaa choreographed and acted in a dance-drama titled “Cauvery Thantha Kalaiselvi” (The artistic daughter bequeathed by the Cauvery). The friendship between MGR and Jayalalithaa revived when he formally brought her into politics on June 4, 1982. On that day, she became a member of the AIADMK. P.U. Shanmugam was the party general secretary. She was made party propaganda secretary. It was then that she addressed a party conference in Cuddalore, where M. Natarajan was the public relations officer (PRO) of the government. He was married to V.K. Sasikala. A common friend introduced the couple to Jayalalithaa. Jayalalithaa started visiting a video cassette shop in Chennai, run by Sasikala, to buy cassettes. She gave Sasikala opportunities to videograph the AIADMK rallies she addressed in various places. Since Jayalalithaa was fluent in English, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam and Telugu, MGR nominated her to the Rajya Sabha in 1984. She was its member until 1989.

She told N. Ram, formerly Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu group of publications, and now Chairman of Kasturi and Sons Limited, in a private conversation in 2009: “I hate cinema but my mother forced me into films. I hate politics but MGR forced me into politics. Still I hate politics” ( The Hindu, December 6, 2016).

T.S. Subramanian

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