Jayalalithaa Jayaraman (24 February 1948 – 5 December 2016) was an Indian actor and politician who served five terms as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, for over fourteen years between 1991 and 2016.
Jayalalitha Early Life
Jayalalitha was born on 24 February 1948, at Melukote, in Pandavapura taluka, Mandya district, then in Mysore State (now Karnataka) to Jayaram and Vedavalli in a Tamil Brahmin (Iyengar) family. Jayalalitha’s father, Jayaram, was a lawyer, but never worked and squandered most of the family money. He died when Jayalalitha was two years old. Jayalalithaa’s mother Vedavalli got relocated to Madras and stayed with her sister since 1952. Jayalalitha remained under care of her mother’s sister Padmavalli and with maternal grandparents from 1950 to 1958 in Mysore. While still in Bangalore, Jayalalithaa attended Bishop Cotton Girls’ School. After her aunt Padmavalli’s marriage in 1958, Jayalalitha moved to Chennai and began to live with her mother. She completed her childhood education at Sacred Heart Matriculation School (popularly known as Church Park Presentation Convent or Presentation Church Park Convent) in Chennai. She won Gold State Award for coming first in 10th standard in not just her school but also in Tamil Nadu. She appears not to have accepted the admission offered to her at Stella Maris College, Chennai. She was fluent in several languages, including Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Hindi, Malayalam and English.
Jayalalithaa journey to become Actress
In Chennai, Jayalalitha trained in classical music, western classical piano, and various forms of classical dance, including Bharatanatyam, Mohiniattam, Manipuri and Kathak. She learnt Bharatnatyam and dance forms under K.J.Sarasa. She became an accomplished dancer and gave her debut dance performance at the Rasika Ranjani Sabha in Mylapore in May 1960. The Chief Guest at the Arangetram was Shivaji Ganesan , who expressed wish that Jayalalitha becomes a film star in future.
Jayalalithaa’s debut in Tamil cinema was the leading role in Vennira Aadai (1965), directed by C. V. Sridhar. She made her debut in Telugu films as lead actress in Manushulu Mamathalu opposite Akkineni Nageshwara Rao. Her last Telugu release was also opposite Akkineni Nageswara Rao in the film Nayakudu Vinayakudu, which was released in 1980. She was the first heroine to appear in skirts in Tamil films. She acted in one Hindi film called Izzat, with Dharmendra as her male costar in 1968. She starred in 28 box-office hit films with M.G. Ramachandran between 1965 and 1973. The first with MGR was B.R. Panthalu’s Aayirathil Oruvan in 1965 and their last film together was Pattikaattu Ponnaiya in 1973.
She was a leading actress before her entry into politics and appeared in 140 films from 1961 to 1980 in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Hindi industries. She was considered a prolific and versatile actress having appeared in films of different genres and for performing wide variety of characters. She was also known for her dancing skills and was referred to as the queen of Tamil cinema.
From actor to politician
She was the general secretary of All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and was popularly referred as Amma, Puratchi Thalaivi, Thanga Gopuram, Thanga Chillai and Thanga Tharagai (Golden Maiden) by her followers. In 2001, an additional letter “a” was appended to the spelling of her name for reasons related to numerology.
As an actress, she frequently worked with another actor-turned-politician, M. G. Ramachandran (MGR). This led to wide speculation that Jayalalitha was introduced to politics by MGR.
Jayalalithaa claims that Ramachandran, who had been chief minister for the state since 1977, was instrumental in introducing her to politics. In 1982, she joined the AIADMK, which was founded by Ramachandran. Her maiden public speech, “Pennin Perumai” (“The Greatness of a Woman”), was delivered at the AIADMK’s political conference in the same year. In 1983, she became propaganda secretary for the party and was selected as its candidate in the by-election for the Tiruchendur Assembly constituency.
Ramachandran wanted her to be a member of the Rajya Sabha because of her fluency in English. Jayalalithaa was nominated and elected to that body in 1984 and retained her seat until 1989. Her success in her role as propaganda secretary caused resentment among high-ranking members of the party. By engineering a rift between her and Ramachandran, these members influenced Ramachandran to stop her writing about her personal life in a Tamil magazine. Despite these machinations, she remained admired by the rank and file of the party. Soon after the death of MGR, Jayalalitha proclaimed herself his political heir. She is the second female chief minister of Tamil Nadu after Janaki Ramachandran.
She was elected to the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly in 1989 as a representative of the Bodinayakkanur (State Assembly Constituency). This election saw the Jayalalithaa-led faction of the AIADMK win 27 seats and Jayalalithaa became the first woman to be elected Leader of the Opposition. In February 1989, the two factions of ADMK merged and they unanimously accepted Jayalalithaa as their leader and the “Two leaves” symbol of the party was restored. On 25 March 1989, quoted as one of the worst incidents to have happened in the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly, there was heavy violence inside the house among the ruling DMK party members and the opposition. Jayalilatha was brutally attacked and visibly molested by the ruling DMK members in front of the assembly speaker on the behest of Chief Minister Karunanidhi. Jayalalitha left the Assembly with her torn saree and this scene created huge sympathy for her and on the other hand people cursed the DMK leader and its member for meting out such ill-treatment on her. Jayalalitha drew a parallel with the shameful disrobing of Draupadi in the epic Mahabharata. At the peak of the situation, when Jayalalithaa was about to leave the house, which is seen by a section of the media as “not until I enter the house as a Chief Minister”.
Jayalalithaa became the first incumbent chief minister in India to be disqualified from holding office due to conviction in a disproportionate assets case on 27 September 2014. On 11 May 2015, the Karnataka High Court acquitted Jayalalithaa in the disproportionate assets case, and she resumed office as Chief Minister on 23 May. She was subsequently re-elected by the electorate of the Dr. Radhakrishnan Nagar constituency of North Chennai in a by-election held on 27 June 2015.
She was re-elected as Chief Minister on 19 May 2016 and took the oath as Chief Minister for the sixth time on 23 May 2016.
Jayalalitha last days
On 22 September 2016, Jayalalithaa was admitted to Apollo Hospitals, Greame’s Road, Chennai, for infection and acute dehydration. Over the next 74 days, she was treated by a team of specialist doctors from Apollo, AIIMS and from the UK. Her condition slowly improved. Her official duties were handed over to her aide O. Panneerselvam on 12 October. She was also said to be suffering from severe pulmonary infection and septicaemia, which were cured. During the course of treatment, her right arm was said to be swollen, as indicated by her inability to affix her signature on the November bye-election nomination papers for three of her party members who were standing for the elections.
On 4 December, specialist doctors at AIIMS declared her “fit” and ready to be shifted to her house in Poes Garden whenever ready, indicating that she was well, conscious and aware of events around her since her first signs of major improvement in November. The next day, however, she was re-admitted to the CCU after she suffered a cardiac arrest around 16:45. The hospital’s Executive Director Sangita Reddy said that she was in a critical state. The hospital also released a press statement saying that the chief minister’s condition was “very critical” and that she was on life support. AIADMK MLAs were summoned to the hospital to sign a declaration naming Panneerselvam as her successor. The hospital officially announced the death of the chief minister on 5 December 2016 at 11:30 PM
She died on 5 December 2016 after 75 days of illness and subsequent hospitalisation, where multiple attempts to resuscitate her after she suffered a cardiac arrest failed.