It’s hard to believe that Jayalalithaaji has gone so soon! She and I are of the same age. In fact, I started my career with her. I was supposed to do my first film, Vennire Adai in Tamil, in which she was the other heroine. It was a love triangle with Jayalalithaaji and I playing the hero’s two love interests. But then the director Sridhar removed me from the film after a few days of shooting.
I was only 15, and too young to understand the complexities of love and relationships. So, I don’t blame them for asking me to leave. The few days that I shot with Jayalalithaaji, though, I got to observe her very closely. I was very impressed by her grace, beauty and her dignity. She came to the sets with her mother, and so did I. She remained aloof all the time that I met her on the sets. She didn’t speak much to anyone!
I always wondered how the shy lady I met on the sets of my first film (which I never did) transformed into one of the most powerful women in India!
Jayalalithaaji was not just a politician, she was the messiah of the masses. Look at the way the masses of Tamil Nadu, especially women, are mourning for her. She gave hope to the poor even before she became the Chief Minister.
After she came to power, she didn’t forget her promise to help the poor. She provided free rice, televisions sets, computers, and even homes to the poor.
That’s why they loved her and called her Amma. It’s as if the state has lost its mother. That’s the place Jayalalithaaji made in the masses’ hearts. They loved and worshipped her like God. Speaking of the Gods, here is one of her lesser known achievements — she helped restore hundreds of temples in Tamil Nadu, which were on the verge of collapse.
To me, her biggest achievement was that she took on the male-dominated bastion of politics with such fearlessness and grace. They tried to humiliate and cow her down in every way possible. But Jayalalithaaji was unstoppable. With every attack on her integrity, she emerged stronger. It’s a pity that bad health and illness snatched her away from us so soon.
She had so much more to give. A truly inspiring woman for all of us. You are right when you say my career resembles hers. We both started in our mother tongue in Tamil cinema. We both went from acting to politics. Jayalalithaaji also danced on stage, like I did. She did filmi dance with dignity. We could say the same about her conduct in politics. There will never be another woman like her.
(As told to Subash K Jha)...