Jayalalithaa Jayaram, more popularly known as Puratchi Thalaivi (The Revolutionary Leader) Jayalalithaa to her followers, is the present Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and probably one of the most dynamic politicians in the history of Indian politics. But even before she became the one to decide the future of Tamil Nadu, Jayalalithaa or more commonly called Jaya, had entered the film industry in her early days. Her acting career was studded with a set of 140 films all across the Tamil, Telugu and Kannada film industry. The second woman chief minister of Tamil Nadu, Jayalalithaa first made her mark in politics by becoming the Member of the Rajya Sabha for the first time from 1984 to 1989. The General Secretary of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party, Jayalalithaa, declared herself as the political heir to M G Ramachandran, another actor turned politician, who was also a decisive factor in Tamil Nadu politics.
Little would have the parents of Jayalalithaa, Jayaram and Vedavalli, guessed that their daughter, who took birth on 24 February 1948, at Melukote in Mysore, would rule a whole state one day. Jayalalithaa’s mother was also an actress during her time and she appeared in the name of Sandhya. Lovingly called Komalavalli or Ammu by her mother, Jaya lost her father when she was just two years old after which the family moved to Bengaluru. It was here where Jaya made her first footsteps to a school. Later on, she completed her Matriculation at the Sacred Heart Matriculation School in Chennai. Her small Tamil Iyengar family consisted of brother Jayakumar, who died in the late nineties.
Jayalalithaa was a very bright student from the start. In fact, she was encouraged with government scholarship but owing to family issues she joined the film industry.
Fluent in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Hindi and English, Jayalalithaa began her acting career when she was just fifteen, on persuasion from her mother. Her first Indian film was the Kannada film Shri Shaila Mahatme, in which she worked as a child artist. This film was released in 1961. Though she began as a child artist, she soon started gaining acting prowess and started doing lead roles in the three major industries of the south. She was popularly known as Kalai Selvi for her acting skills. She had worked with M G Ramachandran, who later turned out to be her mentor, in over 28 movies, and some of the hits that they produced are Adimai Pen, Kudiyiruntha Koil, Kavalkaran, Nam Naadu, etc. She even tried her hand at Bollywood, making her debut through Izzat, pairing opposite Dharmendra. Jayalalithaa even won a couple of awards for her acting prowess.
Jayalalithaa was an avid reader during her youth. In fact, it is believed that books were her company during breaks in shooting.
Following her entry into politics, it was in 1991 that Jayalalithaa first took the seat as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu; the victory being ridden on a wave of sympathy following Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination as her party had formed a coalition with the Congress party. The Jaya-led party however, had to face anti-incumbency following several corruption charges on the then chief minister in the year 1996. She served her second term as chief minister from the year 2001 with the third term starting ten years later in 2011. It was during this term as CM when she became the first Indian chief minister to be disqualified from her post and the state assembly for her role in a disproportionate assets case that was filed way back in 1996. However, she was acquitted of all charges by the Karnataka High Court in the case and returned to power again in 2015, as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu for a record fifth time.
The relationship that Jayalalithaa shared with her intimate companion Sasikala Natarajan will go down in the pages of history as the most enigmatic one.
An astute administrator, Jayalalithaa continues to be the favourite “
Amma” of Tamil Nadu, especially for those who treat her like a demigod.