By Siva Sivapragasam
She was once the glamour queen of Tamil cinema and later became four times Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, the largest state in India. As a film heroine, her films were instant-hits since she teamed up with the swashbuckling hero MGR who was worshipped by millions of Tamil film-goers.
Sixty-eight year old Jayalalithaa Jayaram, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu passed away after a cardiac arrest at the Apollo Hospital in Chennai where she was under treatment for more than two months. Her death came when only two weeks ago the doctors and the party had announced that her condition had improved and she was being shifted from the ICU to a normal room with emergency medical equipment.
Tamil Nadu with a population of fifty-million is the citadel of Tamil culture with it’s ancient temples and famous Kanchipuram silks.The temples in Thanjavur, Madurai and Rameshwaram, the port city on the Southern tip of India, stand majestically supreme as monuments of Tamil culture. Jayalalithaa Jayaram was the Chief Minister of this culturally famous state.
Jayalalithaa who was once the glamour queen of the Tamil cinema world came into politics after the death of her mentor M.G. Ramachandran, who was the popular hero of the Tamil screen world. Jayalalithaa was revered by the people of Tamil Nadu as “Amma” and a reincarnation of the Hindu Goddess Amman or the powerful deity Shakthi. No doubt Jayalalithaa’s personal charisma and her “Mother” image contributed heavily towards the AIADMK party victory at elections.
Jayalalithaa was born to Jayaram, a lawyer and Vedavalli who later took the screen name Sandhya. Her father Jayaram never worked and it is said that he squandered most of the family wealth and died young leaving behind the widowed mother, daughter and a son. Vedavalli moved to Chennai, took to film-acting and admitted Jayalalithaa at the prestigious Church Park Presbyterian Convent for schooling. Jayalalithaa was a clever student who excelled in her studies but later joined her mother to take up film roles.
On hearing about Jayalalithaa’s death, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted “Deeply saddened by the passing away of Selvi Jayalalithaa. She has left a huge void in Indian politics”. Jayalalithaa’s role in politics and her position was somewhat controversial. She has been tried in courts for alleged misuse of power, corruption and amassing wealth. Her extravagance in spending was also criticized. However, her remedial measures to alleviate poverty in Tamil Nadu is something no one can deny. Her recent measures to open restaurants to serve meals at affordable rates, cheaper bus fares and lower rates for movie goers were all favourably welcomed.
Jayalalithaa was characteristically a person who never minced words and was forthright in her remarks. At an interview with a senior BBC correspondent sometime back, the reporter remarked at the end that it was a pleasure having an interview with her. The Church Park convent educated lady retorted in flawless English and polished accent “As far as I am concerned, it was not a pleasant interview”.