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India
06 Dec 2016

"Iron Woman" Jayalalithaa: From a Cine Superstar to Political Queen

Jayalalithaa's political graph was an improbable one; she proved what a woman is capable of doing in a patriarchal society.

She transformed from an actress to a superstar, a political novice to a protector and "Amma" mother-figure for millions; she always reinvented herself.

We will now see how Thalaivi became the political queen, known for her indomitable spirit, and a force to reckon with.

In context

Amma to millions: The life of Jayalalithaa

Introduction

About Jayalalithaa

Jayalalithaa Jayaraman, widely known as Amma and Puratchi Thalaivi (the rebel leader), was born on 24 February 1948 in Mysore.

Her father, Jayaraman, was a lawyer who passed away when she was two; her mother, Vedavalli (screen name Sandhya) then relocated to Madras and began working in movies.

Jayalalithaa was persuaded by her mother to work in the film industry because of poverty.

Film Career

The queen of the Southern Cinema

Jayalalithaa was trained in classical dance and music; she made her film debut in 1961.

She went on to become the queen of the Southern Cinema as she worked in 140 movies in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada languages.

By 1980, she had given 119 hit films out of the 125 she worked in till 1980.

She never worked in movies after entering politics in 1982.

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Political Career

Transformation from a superstar to powerful politician

Jayalalithaa delved into politics because of her association with Tamil superstar and AIADMK Founder, MG Ramachandran, who was also the CM.

A novice in politics, Jayalalithaa found her ground rather quickly.

She became a Rajya Sabha MP in 1985; following MGR's death in 1987, she evolved as a politician.

She reigned in a patriarchal society even when the odds were stacked heavily against her.

25 March 1989

TN Assembly's murky history: Jayalalithaa humiliated

DMK's CM Karunanidhi, who also held the Finance portfolio, was about to present the budget.

Opposition leader Jayalalithaa called him "criminal" for undemocratically filing a false case against one of her aides.

Karunanidhi hurled personal remarks incensing Jayalalithaa and violence erupted.

As she was about to leave the house, DMK Minister Durai Murugan tried to hit her but instead pulled and tore her saree.

Jayalalithaa fought for her space in a male-dominated political sphere

Vaasanthi, a writer and journalist, noted: "She (Jayalalithaa) was a woman scorned. She couldn't get over the sense of humiliation she suffered that day and the anger still burned inside her. She had to fight for her space in a male-dominated political sphere."

The revenge of Draupadi: Turning point for Jayalalithaa

The Revenge

The revenge of Draupadi: Turning point for Jayalalithaa

Jayalalithaa inherited MGR's political rivalry with Karunanidhi; a disheveled Jayalalithaa emerged from the scene and drew a parallel with Draupadi's disrobing.

She vowed to enter the Assembly after the DMK Government's dismissal.

Eight months later, AIADMK-Congress alliance swept the Lok Sabha polls.

Following a landslide victory for the AIADMK-Congress in assembly elections, Jayalalithaa became the first female and youngest Chief Minister in 1991.

Amma hospitalized

On 22 Sep'16, Jayalalithaa was admitted to Apollo Hospitals in Chennai for infection and acute dehydration. She was hospitalized for over 70 days; her condition gradually improved. On 4 Dec'16, she suffered a massive cardiac arrest after which her condition was critical.

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