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Film Star, CM & Amma: The Many Lives of J Jayalalithaa in Pictures

As we mourn her passing, The Quint takes a look at some of the memorable moments of her life.

Updated
India
4 min read

Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa passed away at a private hospital in Chennai on Monday night. The AIADMK chief had suffered a cardiac arrest on Sunday.

From a young girl who loved to sing, she became a three-time chief minister of Tamil Nadu. Jayaraman Jayalalithaa’s journey was peppered with extraordinary moments, which were a testament of her determination and tenacity. As we mourn her passing, The Quint takes a look at some of the memorable moments of her life.

Tryst With the Silver Screen

Jayalalithaa was born to Jayaram and Vedavalli (Sandhya) in a Tamil Iyengar Brahmin family on 24 February 1948 at Melukote in Pandavapura taluka in Mandya district of Karnataka. Academically brilliant, she was forced into acting by her mother, Sandhya, who was an actress, well-known to MG Ramchandran, a man who would play an influential role in her journey to becoming the four-time chief minister of Tamil Nadu.

She started her acting career at the age of 15 and went on to act in over 140 films in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada.

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She emerged as a powerful actor in the Tamil film industry, winning the National Film Award in Tamil in 1973 for ‘Pattikada Pattanama. After a while, roles in Tamil films started to be written and built around her, a departure from the usual in the male-dominated Tamil film industry.

MG Ramachandran, The Man Who Introduced Her to Politics

Jayalalithaa joined AIADMK in 1982, which was founded by Marudhur Gopalan Ramachandran (MGR), who was the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister since 1977. In 1983, she was selected as the party’s candidate in the by-election for the Tiruchendur Assembly constituency. In 1984, she was appointed as a Rajya Sabha member from Tamil Nadu, a post she held on to till 1989.

A Budding Political Career, And a Funeral

In 1984, MGR was paralysed due to a stroke, which is when Jayalalithaa attempted to take over the party. She reasoned that MGR’s health would be a hindrance to the party’s functioning. She then successfully led AIADMK to victory in the 1984 General Elections.

The turning point in Jayalalithaa’s career came at MGR’s funeral. She was asked to leave the funeral procession, which caused a public stir. After MGR’s death in 1987, the AIADMK split into two factions: one supported his widow, Janaki Ramachandran, and the other favoured Jayalalithaa.

Becoming Chief Minister

She joined hands with the Congress in 1991, in the aftermath of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination and became the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. She first took oath as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on 24 June 1991 and completed her tenure till 12 May 1996.

Her second tenure was cut short due to corruption charges against her, and lasted from 14 May 2001 to 21 September 2001.

Her third term as Tamil Nadu began on 2 March 2002 and came to an end on 12 May 2006 and her fourth tenure was from 16 May 2011 to 27 September 2014. She again assumed office for the fifth time on 23 May 2015 and was the chief minister until her death.

Disproportionate Assets Scam

Jayalalithaa was dogged by corruption charges throughout her political career. She was convicted for misusing her office to obtain assets worth Rs 66.65 crores during 1991-96. The trial went on for 18 years and was transferred to Bangalore from Chennai. In the judgement pronounced on 27 September 2014, the Special Court convicted all four accused – namely Jayalalithaa, Sasikala Natarajan, Ilavarasi and VN Sudhakaran.

The judge also sentenced all to four years’ simple imprisonment. Jayalalithaa was fined Rs 100 crores. In May 2015, the verdict was overturned by the Karnataka High Court and acquitted Jayalalithaa and others of all charges. This paved the way for Jayalalithaa's return to power as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.

In May 2016, Chief Minister for the Last Time

No Chief Minister in Tamil Nadu has won a second term in over three decades. But in May 2016, J Jayalalitha managed that feat. Despite allegations of corruption and being jailed for 22 days, Jayalalithaa was sworn in as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for a second straight term.

(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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