A legacy has come to an end. A person loved by all, an artist adored by many, & a politician revered by the masses – Jayalalitha had many facets to herself each of which succeeded in winning the hearts of people. The very fact that she rose to the helm of the traditionally patriarchal South Indian politics is testimony enough of her grit & public acceptance.
Childhood & Personal Life
She was born on the 24th of February, 1948, in Mandya, near Mysuru. Tragedy struck early as she lost her father when she just two years old. She was fondly called Ammu by her mother. She attained her education in Bengaluru & later in Chennai.
Her talents & abilities were many, one of which was multilingualism – she was fluent in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, & English. She also trained in classical music, western classical piano, & various forms of classical dances such as Mohiniattam, Manipuri, Kathak, & Bharatanatyam.
She became an actress at the age of just 15 when she got prominent roles in Kannada movies. She even acted in an English movie titled Epistle when she was just 13.
She was an accomplished dancer, artist, & performer, & had acted in over 140 films. Her screen name was ‘Jayalalitha’ with an extra ‘a’ added in the end for numerological reasons. Iruvar, a movie made in 1997, was based on Jayalalitha’s life. Aishwarya Rai had played Jayalalitha’s role in the movie.
“I think she was a complete actor – glamorous, beautiful, & up to date with fashion. She had lead roles but still was a heroine of the masses,” actor & politician Khushbu Sundar once said about her.
It is said that MG Ramachandran (MGR) who was her co-star later turned politician was responsible for her entry into politics. In 1983 MGR made Jayalalitha the chief of AIADMK. After MGR’s death Jayalalitha took his place.
It was in 1991 that Jayalalitha became the chief minister for the first time. Even after a loss in the 1996 elections, she fought back to power in the 2001 polls. She was the chief minister of Tamil Nadu from 1991-1996, 2001-2006, & 2011-2016.
61-year old Rani who is a house help & member of AIADMK, says this about Jayalalitha: “I had joined the party when MGR was at the helm, but it was Amma who showed me how far a woman can go if she sets her mind to it.” Every day for the past 2 months Rani sat outside the Apollo Hospital when she wasn’t sleeping or working. People called her Amma as they regarded her as a mother-figure, someone they looked up to during both their good & bad times.
Jayalalitha truly touched the hearts of the common man in her state even though the later phase of her political career was riddled with corruption scandals. She also was one of those rare likeable politicians & had good terms with almost all her political opponents. The void that has been created with her death is one that the state of Tamil Nadu will find very hard to fill.