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In 1978, Jayalalithaa Wrote to Clarify the ‘Truth About Her Life’

Jayalalithaa, fondly known as Ammu, wanted to go back to being a school child if she had the chance to live again!

Updated
India
4 min read
In 1978, Jayalalithaa Wrote to Clarify the ‘Truth About Her Life’
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In 1978, Jayalalithaa Wrote to Clarify the ‘Truth About Her Life’

These are 30-year-old Jayalalithaa’s words from 1978 when she wrote in the Tamil-weekly magazine, Kumudham.

The chaos and challenges that political life would bring along were still years away. Her career had slowed down and she and her on-screen partner and mentor, MGR, were briefly estranged. Jayalalithaa became a recluse due to the constant rumours and gossip around her life.

But before retreating behind the strictly confidential walls of Poes Garden, 30-year-old Jayalalithaa attempted to ‘clarify the truth of her life.’
In 1978, Jayalalithaa Wrote to Clarify the ‘Truth About Her Life’
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Jayalalithaa Pined for Her Mother’s Attention

Jayalalithaa’s house was named after her mother, Vedhya and hence called Vedhya Nilayam. The house she is referring to is her residence in Poes Garden where Jayalalithaa’s body was taken after her death.

My mother helped decide the carpets, curtains and everything else in the house but she never used it, as she died before this house was built.
Late Jayalalithaa in Kumudham magazine in 1978

From the age of six to 10, Jayalalithaa was sent to live with her grandparents in Bengaluru. Her father had passed away when she was two years old, and her mother had to make ends meet by working as a supporting actress in Tamil movies. She worked long hours and would visit Ammu, as Jayalalithaa was fondly called, when she had the time.

Jayalalithaa and her mother, Vedhya, who later changed her name to Sandhya for movies.
Jayalalithaa and her mother, Vedhya, who later changed her name to Sandhya for movies.
(Photo: The Quint)

How she pined for her mother is visible through these words:

In 1978, Jayalalithaa Wrote to Clarify the ‘Truth About Her Life’

Jayalalithaa moved to Chennai with her mother at the age of 10 and joined Church Park school. While she was living with her mother, spending time with her was still a struggle.

When I was in school I wrote an essay and got the first prize for it. I wanted to show it to mother. I waited all night but she never came. Next day, I went to see her but she had already left. This happened for three days. I decided I had to meet her. I slept in the drawing room and at 12:30 pm mom came. When she saw me she was surprised and she woke me up and asked, “Why are you sleeping here?” I said, “What Ma, I wasn’t able to see you for three days and you didn’t come to see me.” I asked mom if I could read the essay out to her.
Jayalalithaa
The essay was titled: What Mummy Means To Me

Ammu Was the Smartest Kid in School

That is right.

Jayalalithaa got the best outgoing student award from Church Park school, Chennai in 1964. The award, which is a rolling trophy, continues to bear her name at school, and has come to be well-known because of her.

In 1978, Jayalalithaa Wrote to Clarify the ‘Truth About Her Life’
(Photo Courtesy: CPC School, Chennai)

Jayalalithaa writes that if she every got another chance to live she would want to live as a school kid.

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Gates to Being an Actress Opened When Jayalalithaa Was 12

Jayalalithaa had her stage performance (arangetram) when she was 12 years old, and since her mother was an actress she had managed to invite Shivaji Ganesan as the guest of honour.

Tamil actor Shivaji Ganesan, Jayalalithaa and her mother Sandhya at her arangetram when Jayalalithaa was 12 years old.
Tamil actor Shivaji Ganesan, Jayalalithaa and her mother Sandhya at her arangetram when Jayalalithaa was 12 years old.
(Photo: The Quint)

After the performance ended, Ganesan gave a speech, remembering which she wrote, “When Shivaji gave the speech he said this girl is really beautiful like a golden idol, and one day in the future she will come into the film industry and will get a great welcome.”

Everyone was delighted about the comment but not Jayalalithaa. She had seen her mother’s life and definitely didn’t want to be an actress.

In 1978, Jayalalithaa Wrote to Clarify the ‘Truth About Her Life’
(Photo Courtesy: CPC School, Chennai)

Ammu Obliged Mother's Wish of Being an Actress

Jayalalithaa only entered films because the family was in dire need of money. She recalls in her autobiographical columns that her family was wealthy but lost money along the way.

In 1978, Jayalalithaa Wrote to Clarify the ‘Truth About Her Life’

She says her paternal grandfather, Dr Rangachar, was a doctor at the Mysore Palace and was very honest and respected. After her grandfather died, the fortunes were in her father’s hands who didn’t know how to handle money.

In 1978, Jayalalithaa Wrote to Clarify the ‘Truth About Her Life’

She spent more than a decade as an actress but never aspired to be one. She bowed down to the job to help her family gain financial ground. Soon after, Jayalalithaa stopped writing stating that this might hurt people close to her, signalling towards a possible revival of her relationship with her mentor, MGR.

Never again did she get as candid as she did in her early years. She became fiercely protective about her personal life and retreated into the high white walls of Poes Garden. But did she foresee that one day Ammu would become Amma and play an indispensable role in shaping the politics of India and Tamil Nadu for more than three decades ?

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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