Jayalalitha, to me.

A more fitting tribute could not have been given by her party-men, people of her state and citizens of the city she lived in and worked, most of her life. Sentiments were high, strong emotions made people throng the hospital, queue up the Rajaji hall where her body was kept for public viewing, as well as in the procession to join her film and political mentor, MGR in his memorial. Yet, the city did not see any unruly mob-behaviour, violence nor any damage of property or loss of lives. A great tribute to an over-powering leader, a woman at that. Madam Jayalalitha, three-time Chief Minister of the state.

Jaya or Amma as she was fondly known to the people in her state was a special personality, admired, loved, perhaps even hated, but could never be ignored. And this was even before she entered political life in the 80s, after quitting movies. In the late 60s and 70s she was the undisputed queen of South Indian cinema. She was a super star in what was a very man’s world in moviedom. I recall watching one of her film shootings, when I was as young as 6 years old. What struck me even then was that this gorgeous actor was unique and different. She would sit quietly by herself with a book in her hand, until called for the shot – and there, in front of the camera transform into this abundantly talented dancer and actor. Impeccable dialogue delivery, expressions, an on-screen charisma which turned into an off-screen enigma, remained so until today, when her soul departed!

In 1987, when MGR died, she was yet another person in the party, shrugged off, even treated badly when she tried to get near his body in the final procession. Ironically, today her own procession found millions of her fans and followers quietly moving on to bid the final good bye. Perhaps, Jaya/ Amma commands that respect even when lifeless.

People also remember the dark day in the State Assembly in 1989, when her womanhood was breached and she was physically assaulted by opposition party members. She vowed to come back into the assembly only as a CM- and she did! In 1991, she became the Chief Minister with a thumping majority. Every woman in the state must have smiled that day.

She was that woman that all women like to see in themselves- full of grit, courage and determination. She was too intelligent to be just that woman to go round trees in a hero-dominated movie world. And she never ever let herself be reduced to that.

She was too intelligent to just be a political leader following an ideology that she perhaps never related to completely. So, here she was heading a Dravidian party and ruled, governed by her own style and persona.

She may have lost elections due to corruption charges, entangled in court cases over disproportionate assets, had a mysterious friend coterie that was charged as ruling the state through her etc. But what people remember her for is defying the man-supremacy in the political male bastion in Tamil Nadu. And in style!

Jayalalitha belonged to no political dynasty. She fought her way through and in the majority of years in rule, she was known for her administrative capabilities, put the state strongly  in the sports and education map, reportedly made the state rise to become the lowest in crime, among the best in law and order.

Her last few years had blobs of accusation of inconsistent governance, red-tapism etc – but welfare measures for the common man made up for it – Amma canteen, Amma water, Amma pharmacies – yes, “Amma” labelled welfare initiatives that made her dear to the masses.

From “ammu’ (to all in theater and filmdom) to “amma”, this woman’s journey was spectacular. When MGR died, people suspected a political vacuum in the state. In few months, she rose to become, eventually, perhaps a more popular leader than the man himself. And today, we see a political vacuum that this “iron-lady” has left behind! Well, no one dares to even question that she ran the party and the state as a one-woman show. Perhaps, all the women (including me, who’s writing this!) feel satisfied that someone gave the men a real run for their money!

The people of the state have shown their love and respect for her – despite all her flaws that has been reported , perceived in her film and political life – through a send off that one has not witnessed like we saw today. A calm, quiet love for the fighter in her. In a woman!






One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Ganesh Subramanian on December 7, 2016 at 2:35 PM

    Very well written and enjoyed reading it. (except for the over dose on men!!)
    That’s J to all not just to you!!!


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