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Watch Jayalalithaa Sing, Speak of Life and MGR in This Interview

In 1999, Simi Garewal got up close and personal with the enigma that is J Jayalalithaa.

Updated
Politics
2 min read
Watch Jayalalithaa Sing, Speak of Life and MGR in This Interview

Tamil Nadu CM, AIADMK boss and former film star J Jayalithaa passed away on Monday night at age 68.

In her “long, tempestuous life”, over two successful and exhausting careers – as an actress and as a politician – nothing came to Jayalalithaa easy.

The adjectives used to describe her weren’t always the kindest. Most men feared her. Many saw her as stoic, temperamental and difficult – perhaps an appearance she had kept up on her way to the top in an inherently male-dominated world.

Way back in 1999, Jayalalithaa opened up in an interview with Simi Garewal on her popular TV show Rendezvous with Simi Garewal. The interview in many ways humanised the enigma that was ‘Amma’.

Garewal managed to make Jaya talk about her childhood – which she spent pining for her mother, who was an actress and was always away on shoots.

Jaya was said to be a good student, but at the age of 16 she was forced to turn to films to support her family. “I hated it, but I was successful,” she told Garewal matter-of-factly.

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Describing her time in school, Jayalaithaa said those were the “happiest, most normal days” of her life. She recalled having a crush on cricketer Nari Contractor and film star Shammi Kapoor, whom she never met.

After some gentle prodding from Garewal, the AIADMK boss sang lines from her favourite song – Aaja sanam madhur chandni mein hum. She seemed hesitant and almost nervous singing it.

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Jaya did 28 films with MGR. In the interview, she described him as her “mother, father, friend and philosopher”.

“Did you fall in love with him?” Garewal asked. Jayalaithaa laughed quietly and responded saying: “He was a charming man. Anyone who met him, loved him.”

She said she had never experienced unconditional love. She thought it was fluff from books and movies, not from real life.

Her political career was never easy, especially because of her being a woman. “Politics can do without women. And they tried really hard to make it happen without women,” she told Garewal, with a hint of a smug smile.

Jayalalithaa was many things – an enigmatic figure, a larger-than-life personality, and Tamil Nadu’s beloved matriarch.

But in the almost hour-long interview with Garewal, one saw glimpses of both Jaya the high-school girl who had a crush on Shammi Kapoor and the grown adult woman who stood her ground in a man’s world.

(This story was originally published on 5 December 2016. It is being reposted to mark J Jayalalithaa’s birth anniversary)

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