Jayalalithaa – The journey from Ammu to Amma


Jayalalithaaa was born on 24 February 1948, at Melukote, in Pandavapura taluka, Mandya district, then in Mysore State. Born in a Tamil Iyengar Brahmin family to Jayaram and Vedavalli, Jayalalithaa showed all the attributes of a highly intelligent girl right from a very young age. Her upper cast lineage, helped her attain the confidence and superiority complex that defined her very own existence later in her life.


Her father Jayakumar by profession was a lawyer but never practised law and was a spendthrift.  He died when Jaya was only two years old. Jaya was named Komalavalli at birth which was her grandmother’s name. She was given the name Jayalalithaa at the age of one. It was derived from the name of two houses her parents lived – Jaya Vilas and Lalitha Vilas. Jayalalithaa’s pet name is Ammu, a name fondly called by her close friends and associates from the film field even today.


Jayalalithaa with Kamaraj and mother Sandhya

In 1950, a local court in Mysore directed Jayalalithaa’s mother Sandhya to share the property owned by her husband Jayaram with his first wife Jayamma and also asked to pay her an alimony of Rs 8000. Jayaram owned two houses in the city, one in Saraaswathipuram and other in Lakshmipuram. But Sandhya denied them their share and migrated to Chennai to join her younger sister Ambuja who had already been active in the film field. Vedavalli initially worked in a company and later started acting in movies with a screen name Sandhya. During this time Jayalalithaa stayed with her mother’s sister Padmavalli and maternal grandparents to continue with her education.


Jayalalithaa’s siblings


Jayalalithaa’s sister shailaja and step brother Vasudevan

Jayalalithaa’s father Jayaram had two wives, Jayamma and Sandhya.  With Jayamma he had a son named Vasudevan.   Jayalalithaaa has two siblings Shailaja and Jayakumar.  Shailaja lives in Bengaluru.  Jayakumar, his wife Vijayalakshmi daughter Deepa and son Deepak lived in T.Nagar Chennai. Jayakumar died in an accident in 1995.


Step brother Vasudevan

The 80-year-old Vasudevan is living alone in the village of Sri Rangarajapura, 40 km from T. Narasipur taluk of Mysore district on a meagre Rs 400 monthly pension given by the Karnataka government. Jayalalithaa never entertained a good relationship with siblings Vasudevan and Shailaja. When they went public with their relationship, Jayalalithaaa filed a defamation case against them in a Madras sessions court.


Jayalalithaa’s paternal grandfather N. Rangachar was a Mysore Palace doctor during the reign of Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV. When Jayalalithaa was booked for disproportionate wealth case, Vasudevan claimed that some of the jewels confiscated from Ms Jayalalithaaa were those gifted by Krishnaraja Wadiyar at the time of  his mother’s wedding.

Jayalalithaa never maintained a good relationship with brother Jayakumar too. Jayalalithaa visited the family when Jayakumar died in an accident in 1995 but refused to meet his family since then. The last time Deepa and Deepak met their aunt was at a function in 2002. Times of India reported in 2014 that Deepa and her husband Madhavan waited outside Jaya’s Veda Nilayam when Jayalalithaa returned home after her arrest in disproportionate wealth case for hours but was not given permission to meet her.

Jayalalithaa’s Movie Career –  a Brief intro

After the marriage of her aunt Padmavalli, Jayalalithaa moved to Madras in 1958. . She studied at Sacred Heart Matriculation School in Chennai. She was a rank holder in 10th Standard Common Exam in Tamil Nadu.


At the age of 14, in 1961, Jayalalithaaa acted in the Kannada-language movie, Sri Shaila Mahathme , which had Rajkumar and Krishna Kumari in lead roles. In the same year, Jayalalithaa also acted in an English Movie, The Epistle, directed by Shankar Giri, Son of former president of India V.V.Giri.


In 1965 she acted in a Kannada movie opposite Kalyankumar ,  Chinnada Gombe, which became a super hit. With this film Jayalalithaa became famous as an actress. She discontinued her studies from there on at the insistence of her mother.

Jayalalithaaa’s debut in Tamil cinema was the leading role in Vennira Aadai (1965), directed by C. V. Sridhar. ‘Vennira Aadai’ was given A certification. There were scenes of Jayalalithaa bathing and dancing in the movie. It was a success and ran 100 days in theatres.


B.R.Panthulu was directing a movie with MGR and was looking for a new face. Panthulu suggested Jayalalithaa. MGR’s wife Janaki after watching Jayalalithaa’s movies insisted on taking Jayalalithaa. Janaki at that time had no clue that she was making the biggest mistake of her life. That was Jaya’s first film with MGR and second Tamil Movie. MGR was 48 years old and Jayalalithaa was sweet seventeen. But that was an association, Jayalalithaa was going to benefit enormously. The film ‘Aayirathil Oruvanor’ was a Super hit. The pair acted in 28 movies together and most were commercially successful. Jayalalithaa was the first heroine to appear in skirts in Tamil films. .  Her last movie with MGR was Pattikaattu Ponnaiya in 1973.


She made her debut in Telugu films as lead actress in Manushulu Mamathalu opposite Akkineni Nageshwara Rao.


She also acted in one Hindi film called Izzat, with Dharmendra as her male co-star in 1968. She won Filmfare award for best actress for her acting in  1973 film, Pattikada Pattanama,  opposite Sivaji Ganesan. Her debut in Malayalam movie was   Jesus in 1973 .

Jayalalithaa’s political career

In Tamil Nadu it is often considered as a matter of prestige for men to have more than one wife or mistresses. MGR was no exception. The thrice married movie star turned politician, was infatuated towards Jayalalithaa who was 30 years his junior. Jayalalithaa was MGR’s love of a lifetime.


Jayalalithaa with Shobhan Babu

In the 70’s Jayalalithaa estranged from MGR and became romantically involved with Telugu actor Shobhan Babu. Babu was popularly called “Andhra Andagadu” meaning, “most handsome person in Andhra Pradesh”. Babu was already a married man when Jayalalithaa met him.  Jayalalithaa wanted to marry Sobhan Babu, but Babu refused to divorce his wife. That was the time, MGR was looking for a charismatic figure to reinvigorate his party and Jayalalithaa fitted the bill perfectly. MGR invited Jayalalithaa to join AIADMK.


Jayalalithaa with Karunanidhi

In 1982 Jayalalithaa joined AIADMK.  In 1983, she became propaganda secretary and contested Tiruchendur Assembly constituency.

In 1984, MGR was hospitalised in United States after a stroke. Jayalalithaa was a Rajya sabha MP and decided that she should take over the reins. She approached then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to appoint her as the Chief Minister. But as she did not enjoy much support inside the AIADMK apparatus, her plans did not go as per plan.


MGR with Janaki and Jayalalithaa

Returning after treatment, MGR stripped her of the deputy leadership of the Parliamentary Party. Her ambitious moves to establish herself in the party annoyed MGR. In 1986, MGR asked her to stop functioning as propaganda secretary of the Party. In 1987, Jayalalithaa’s enemies within the party managed to convince MGR to expel her from the party. Legislative Assembly Members supporting Jayalalithaa convened a meeting to prevent her expulsion, which was mistook as a plan for breaking away from the party by MGR. To prevent such an event MGR reconciled with Jayalalithaa and invited her to speak at a public rally of AIADMK.


MGR died on 24 December 1987 at 3:30 am in his Ramavaram Gardens residence in Manapakkam. Jayalalithaa rushed to his Ramavaram Gardens residence but was denied entry. Jayalalita immediately went  to Rajaji Hall where the body was kept for public viewing.

She stood vigil near the body for the next two days. Only her close association with the dead leader could ensure her ascend to the throne of Chief minister of Tamil Nadu. She suffered insults and humiliation from her enemies within the party and from the supporters of MGR’s wife Janaki. They wanted her out but she stood her ground. Body was taken for cremation and was  placed in the gun carriage. Jayalalithaa was trying to place a wreath on the body and join the funeral procession. The soldiers on duty were helping her to get into the carriage. Few relatives of Janaki and AIADMK leaders assaulted her and pushed her out of the carriage. They called her a prostitute. Jayalalithaa decided not to attend the funeral and went back to her home. It was a fight for power between the wife and the mistress.

But this incident generated great sympathy for Jayalalithaa. Party cadres were aware that only a charismatic figure like Jayalalithaa could take the party to victory in an election. But the next elections were two years away. Ninety-seven MLAs of the AIADMK signed a memorandum supporting Janaki and handed it over to Governor, S.L. Khurana. As per the precedent the Governor invited Janaki to form the government. Janaki was sworn in as the chief minister on 7 January 1988.

She was required to prove her majority on the floor by 28 January. On that day, amid protest against the speaker’s unconstitutional open support for Janaki, pro Jayalalithaa MLA’s were beaten up by Janaki supporters. Police had to enter the Assembly and lathi charge MLA’s to maintain order.  Jayalalithaa issued a statement demanding immediate dismissal of Government. Governor sent a report to the Centre recommending the dismissal of Janaki Government and Centre accepted the recommendation. In the 1989 state elections, she contested and won from Bodinayakkanur seat and her party got 27 seats altogether. DMK came to power and Jayalalithaa became the opposition leader. The same year both the factions of AIADMK unified under the leadership of Jayalalithaa.

25 March 1989 - A Weeping Jayalalithaa showing to Newsmen the spot on the Head where the DMK Members alleged hit her in the Tamil Nadu Assembly.
25 March 1989 – A Weeping Jayalalithaa showing to Newsmen the spot on the Head where the DMK Members alleged hit her in the Tamil Nadu Assembly.

On 25th March 1989, Tamil Nadu assembly witnessed unprecedented scenes of violence and Jayalalithaa was brutally attacked and molested by DMK legislatures. During the assembly session Jayalalithaa kept on interrupting Karunanidhi’s budget speech repeating the word, “criminal” to describe him. Karunanidhi in return threw abusive remarks at her.  This resulted in a fight between the members of AIADMK and DMK . When Jayalalithaa tried to exit the assembly during the pandemonium DMK minister Durai Murugan attempted to disrobe her. She was also hit on the head. She cried foul infront of the media, swearing to step inside the assembly again only as a chief minister. This incident united the AIADMK supporters behind a cause – defeating the DMK govt and it created huge sympathy wave for Jayalalaitha among the general public.

In 1991 elections, soon after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, Jayalalithaa won 225 out of the 234 contested at the state legislative assembly and all 39 Loksabha seats.

First Term as Chief Minister

In 1991, 43-year-old Jayalalithaa was  sworn in as the first female and the youngest Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.  She is an able administrator and her Government introduced, Cradle Baby Scheme, which enabled the adoption of unwanted baby girls. Jayalalithaaa also introduced police stations operated solely by woman. All the shine of her administrative ability was taken away by high level corruption that marked her administration.

The notorious, Rupees 100 crore marriage of her ‘adopted son’,  Sudhakaran , a relative of Sasikala, was a showpiece for the money looted by Jayalalithaa and Sasikala. The marriage spectacle angered even the diehard supporters of Jayalalithaa. Sasikala and her family openly engaged in land grabbing and demanded bribe for governmental favours from the business community.

An extremely disappointed electorate delivered a befitting reply in 1996 elections. AIADMK won only 4 of the 168 seats they contested and Jayalalithaaa was defeated by the DMK candidate in Bargur Constituency. DMK swept back to power with a huge majority.

Karunanidhi Government filed several corruption cases against her. Jayalalithaa was arrested on 7th December 1996 and was remanded to 30-day judicial custody for receiving kickbacks in the Color TV scam. She was acquitted in the case on 30 May 2000 by the trial court and the High Court upheld the order of the lower court.

Second term as Chief Minister- 2001

Jayalalithaaa was barred from standing as a candidate in the 2001 elections because she had been found guilty of criminal offences, including allegedly obtaining property belonging to a state-operated agency called TANSI. 2001 elections saw AIADMK winning with a majority and Jayalalithaa was installed as a chief minister, though not an elected member. Her appointment was legally voided in September 2001 when the Supreme Court ruled that she could not hold it whilst convicted of criminal acts. Panneerselvam, a minister in her party, was subsequently installed as the Chief Minister, but Jayalalithaa managed the administration from behind the screen.

In March 2003, Madras High Court acquitted her of some charges. This enabled her to assume the position of Chief Minister. AIADMK lost the 2006 elections and DMK formed a minority government with the support of allies.

Third Term as Chief Minister –  2011

On 16th May 2011 Jayalalithaa sworn in for the third time as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. On 19th December 2011, Jayalalithaa expelled Sasikala and 13 others from AIADMK but by March 2012 Sasikala was back in the fold.

On 27 September 2014, Jayalalithaa was sentenced to four years in jail and fined Rs 100 crore by the Special Court in Bangalore, based on a case filed by Subramanian Swamy on 20th August 1996. Jayalalithaa was automatically disqualified from the post of Chief Minister. Once again Panneerselvam was installed as the puppet Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. On 11 May 2015, a special Bench of the Karnataka High Court set aside her conviction on appeal and acquitted her. This acquittal catapulted her back to the post of Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for the fifth time. She was sworn in as Chief Minster on 23 May 2015.

2016 State election gave another thumbing victory to both Jayalalithaa and AIADMK. She became the first Chief Minister in the last 32 years to win two consecutive elections.

The Arrogance of Jayalalithaa


Jayalalithaa allows only loyal courtiers around her, at times she loses the sense of perspective and considers herself as the invincible queen of Tamil Nadu. Even during her party’s inner circle meetings, while she remains seated on sofa, the rest have to stand with folded hands. Though such behaviour is condemnable especially in a democracy like India, there is some rationale behind her arrogance.

Though Jayalalithaa’s political ascend was quick, it was not an easy one. Tamil society is male dominated and a women especially from the film field’  are adored but often not respected. Female actresses are looked with contempt for lack of moral standing.  She was always a victim of sexism from her political opponents. She was even mobbed and molested by her own party supporters in her early days as a politician.

She was a glamorous heroine of South Indian Cinema, apart from the silver screen general public could only see her from far. But as a political leader,  she had to mingle with local leaders and the general public. Many wanted to make good the new found easy accessibility. Local  leaders of the party never let go an opportunity to sit close or touch her. Once a regional leader from Madura called her ‘Pazhakkula’ . He was reprimanded by MGR. There after MGR instructed that Jayalalithaa should be treated with reverence. This changed the situation and party cadres became excessively submissive to her.

Times of India reported an incident happened in 1998. After MGR’s death ADMK had split and both the factions were trying to take control of the party headquarters buildings. When Jayalalithaa joined the demonstrations, party supporters mobbed her. The police had to rescue her from her supporters. She was wearing pure white saree with thin borders then. The Saree and the blouse were full of grubby finger marks.

After MGR’s death, Jayalalithaa had to take control of the party and assert her superiority –  a position that will exuberate power and demand loyalty.  Her journey to become the authoritative leader of the party and the state had just begun. As she gained more and more confidence her arrogance grew with it.

Jayalalithaa and Sasikala


Sasikala was born in 1957 at Mannargudi in a moderately wealthy family and belonged to the influential Kallar community.

Before Sasikala met Jayalalithaa, Sasikala was living the life of an ordinary housewife trying hard to meet both ends. She was fond of movies and dreamt of living a high life. Her husband Natarajan was working for the Tamil Nadu Government as a public relations officer on a temporary basis. Sasikala was running a video renting business to make some extra cash, she also bought a video camera and started shooting for marriages in her locality. Natarajan was working closely with the then District Collector of Cuddalore V S Chandralekha, IAS who was very close to then Chief Minister M.G.Ramachandran.

Sasikala urged her husband to speak to the IAS officer, Chandralekha for shooting a video film of Jayalalithaaa. Then Jayalalithaa was rising star of AIADMK and was appointed as propaganda secretary of the party by MGR. Chandralekha introduced Sasikala to Jayalalithaaa and the two ladies struck an instant rapport. A friendship or whatever it is began from there.  Sasikala and her extended family are very powerful in Tamil Nadu today and owns many businesses.

In 2012, Jayalalithaa had a very public fall out from Sasikala.  Sasikala was ousted from Poes Garden and members of her close family were either arrested or forced to go into hiding. Several party workers known to be close to them were expelled. Sasikala was expelled from the primary membership of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam along with her husband M. Natarajan, and 12 of their close relatives. But within three months Jayalalithaa welcomed her back to Poes Garden.

That was not the first time Jayalalithaaa disowned Sasikala. In 1996 after the election loss, Jayalalithaa announced that she was disassociating with Sasikala. But when Sasikala was released from prison she returned to Poes Garden.

Jayalalithaa’s Vindictive streak

Jayalalithaa gained notoriety for her revengeful vindictive streak against her opponents during her tenure as chief minister of Tamil Nadu.

On 30 June 2001, Karunanidhi was arrested along with Murasoli Maran and T.R. Baalu . At 1:30 am, Jaya’s police broke open the doors of his residence and woke up Karunanidhi from sleep. In this well telecast event, Karunanidhi was pushed, beaten and lifted by police officers in the house. Jayalalithaa was believed have settling scores for the humiliation she faced as opposition leader under his chief ministership.

In 1992 acid was thrown on Chandralekha, an IAS officer, who was the Commissioner of Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation for her objection to the low price at which Jayalalithaa ordered a disinvestment at chemical giant SPIC.

A dispute Jayalalithaa had with Kancheepuram Madam, saw Holy seer Sri Jayendra Saraswathi arrested for false murder charges.

Will Continue ……….


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