Jaya's theatre and filmy career
Jaya's theatre and filmy career

A multifaceted actress
Jaya's theatre and filmy career

Jayalalithaa was trained in classical music, western classical piano, and various forms of classical dance, including Bharatanatyam, Mohiniattam, Manipuri and Kathak. She learnt Bharatnatyam and dance forms under K.J.Sarasa. She became an accomplished dancer and gave her debut dance performance  at the Rasika Ranjani Sabha in Mylapore in May 1960. The Chief Guest at the Arangetram was Shivaji Ganesan , who expressed his wish to see her as a film of the future. He was not disappointed. 

She played Krishna in a three-minute dance sequence held on stage in the Hindi film Manmauji (1962) and danced with Kumari Naaz who played Radha. Y G Parthasarathy ran the drama troupe United Amateur Artistes (UAA), which staged English and Tamil plays. Soon Jayalalithaa while a schoolgirl began acting in some plays of Parthasarathy along with her mother and aunt. She acted in small roles in plays such as Tea House of the August Moon and Undersecretary between 1960 and 1964.

Shankar Giri, the son of the former Indian President V V Giri, saw her small role in the English play Tea Houses of August Moon and was impressed. Shankar Giri approached her mother Sandhya and told he wanted to cast her daughter in an English film called The Epistle. Sandhya reluctantly agreed with the condition that shooting should be held only during weekends or school holidays.

Sandhya had acted in the 1964 Tamil film Karnan, produced and directed by Kannada film-maker B R Panthulu. Jayalalithaa accompanied her mother to a party related to the film and was spotted by Panthulu, who then decided to cast her opposite Kalyankumar in the Kannada movie Chinnada Gombe. He promised to finish all shooting within two months so that her education did not suffer. Since Jayalalithaa would be studying for her PUC in two months' time, Sandhya had declined the offer initially.

Sandhya agreed when that promise was made and Jayalalithaa started acting and she was paid Rs 3,000. Panthulu kept his promise and completed shooting in six weeks. Jayalalithaa had forgotten all about films after acting in her Kannada debut film and had gotten ready to attend classes at Stella Maris as she had an ambition to be a lawyer. But the Kannada debut film became a blockbuster in 1964 and she became a well-known face. 

Meanwhile, Jayalalithaa continued acting in Parthasarathy's plays. She played the leading role in plays such as Malathi, The Whole Truth, and the dance drama Kaveri Thanda Kalaiselvi between 1960 and 1966. She made her debut as the lead actress in Kannada films while still in school, at an age of 15, in Chinnada Gombe (1964). She also appeared in a dance sequence of a song named "Malligeya Hoovinantha" in the movie Amarashilpi Jakannachari (1964).

Jayalalithaa made her debut in Tamil theatre in April 1964, when she played a sales girl in the drama named Undersecretary. Parthasarthy and Sandhya were the lead characters, while Jayalalitha and Cho Ramaswamy were paired together and A. R. Srinivasan was also involved. The play was based on the lives of middle aged couple and Jayalaitha played the character of sales girl in the drama. Her performance caused Parthasarthy to make her lead heroine in a drama named Malathy.

Meanwhile, the films she had shot during her vacation in April–May 1964 - Chinnada Gombe and Manushulu Mamathalu - became blockbusters. By end of 1965 she had become popular among film producers and directors. She was approached by C. V. Sridhar for her Tamil film debut as well. Between 1964 and 1966 she did around 35 shows of drama named Malathy and later discontinued as she became very busy in films. It was during the year 1964, financial debts had increased of Sandhya and she suggested her daughter to make use of the increasing film offers coming her way.

Jayalalithaa's debut in Tamil cinema was the leading role in Vennira Aadai (1965), directed by C. V. Sridhar. She made her debut in Telugu films as lead actress in Manushulu Mamathalu opposite Akkineni Nageshwara Rao. Her last Telugu release was also opposite Akkineni Nageswara Rao in the film Nayakudu Vinayakudu, which was released in 1980. She was the first heroine to appear in skirts in Tamil films. She acted in one Hindi film called Izzat, with Dharmendra as her male co-star in 1968. She starred in 28 box-office hit films with MG Ramachandran between 1965 and 1973.

The first with MGR was B R Panthalu's Aayirathil Oruvan in 1965 and their last film together was Pattikaattu Ponnaiya in 1973. She had 11 successful releases in Tamil in 1966. In the opening credits of Arasa Katalai, for the first time her name was affixed with the phrase Kavarchi Kanni. In 1967 she bought her bungalow, Veda Nilayam, in Poes Gardens for 1.32 lakhs. Sandow M M A Chinnappa Thevar was on the lookout for a regular heroine for his production after he had fight with the actress Savithri after the release of Vetaikkaran, and he signed Jayalalithaa on in 1965.

She became a regular heroine for production house Devar films from 1966. Jaishankar was romantically paired with Jayalalithaa in eight Tamil films including Muthuchippi, Yaar Nee?, Nee (film), Vairam, Vandhale Magarasi, Bommalattam (1968 film) (1968), Raja Veetu Pillai and Avalukku Aayiram Kangal whereas the films Thanga Gopuram and Gowri Kalyanam had him play elder brother to her. 

Jayalalitha acted in twelve films as heroine opposite N T Rama Rao, in Telugu – Gopaludu Bhoopaludu(1967), Chikkadu Dorakadu (1967), Tikka Shankaraiah (1968), Niluvu Dopidi (1968), Baghdad Gaja Donga (1968), Kathanayakudu (1969 film) (1969), Kadaladu Vadaladu (1969), Gandikota Rahasyam (1969), Ali Baba 40 Dongalu (1970), Shri Krishna Vijayam (1970), Shri Krishna Satya (1971), Devudu Chesina Manushulu (1973). 

Jayalalithaa had 7 films with Akkineni Nageswara Rao in Telugu - Manashulu Mamatalu (1965), Aastiparulu (1966), Brahmachari (1968), Aadarsa Kutumbam (1969), Adrushtavanthalu (1969), Bharya Biddalu (1971), Nayakudu Vinayakudu (1980). She also made guest appearance in Navarthi (1966). In 1969, at a Tamil conference, she was given the tag of Kaviri Thandha Kalai Selvi. She had been given on-screen credit as Kalai Selvi in most of her Tamil films since 1967.

Her filmy records add that she acted with Ravichandran in 10 Tamil hit films including Gowri Kalyanam (1966), Kumari Penn (1966), Naan (1967), Magarasi (1967), Maadi Veettu Mappilai (1967), Panakkara Pillai (1968), Moondru Yezhuthu(1968), Andru Kanda Mugam (1968), Avalukku Aayiram Kangal and Baghdad Perazhagi (1974). In 1972,

Jayalalithaa acted opposite Sivaji Ganesan in Pattikada Pattanama, which went on to win the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil in 1973. It fetched her a Filmfare Award for Best Actress. Her performances in Chandhrodhayam, Adimai Penn, Engirundho Vandhaal fetched her Special Award from Filmfare and Tamil Nadu government in 1966,1969 and 1970. Her performance in Pattikada Pattanama, Suryagandhi were critically acclaimed and won her Filmfare Award for Best Actress in 1972 and 1973 respectively.

In 1973, she acted in the Telugu Sri Krishna Satya which won her Filmfare Award for Best Actress in Telugu. Her other films with Sivaji Ganesan include Galatta Kalyanam and Deiva Magan; the latter holds the distinction of being the first Tamil film to be submitted by India for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. 

Jayalalithaa was paired opposite Sivaji Ganesan in 17 films as his heroine and as his daughter in their first film named Motoram Sunderapillai. Jayalalitha had 6 films with R. Muthuraman as a romantic leading pair - Dhikku Theriyadha Kaattil, Thirumangalyam, Kanavan Manaivi, Avandhan Manidhan, Suryagandhi, Anbu Thangai whereas Muthuraman played supporting roles in Kannan En Kadhalan, Major Chandrakanth, Naan (1967 film), En Annan, Adi Parashakti, Thaer Thiruvizha, Dharmam Engey, Chitra Pournami and Oru Thaai Makkal.

She later appeared opposite Sivakumar in Kandan Karunai and Shri Krishna Leelai and Sivakumar played supporting roles in Shakti Leelai, Yarrukum Vetkam Ilali, Thirumangalyam, Annaivelakanni, Kavalkaran, Motoram Sunderapillai and Ganga Gowri.  She made her debut in Malayalam with Jesus(1973) and the film was huge hit. Her 100th film was Thirumangalyam released in 1974 directed by A.Vincent. Her last film in Tamil was the 1980 picture Nadhiyai Thedi Vandha Kadal but the last film she worked on, in which she played the lead heroine, was a Telugu film in 1980, named Nayakudu Vinayakudu, which became the highest grosser of the year in Telugu.

During the 1960s and 1970s, she starred opposite M G Ramachandran in a number of successful films, including Aayirathil Oruvan, Kavalkaran, Adimai Penn, Engal Thangam, Kudiyirundha Koyil, Ragasiya Police 115 and Nam Naadu. Cho Ramaswamy casted her in the lead role in his directorial venture Yarrukkum Vetkam Illai.

The heroes of her films never objected to the title of the film being conferred on the female lead played by Jayalalithaa. Adimai Penn, Kanni Thaai, and Kannan En Kadhalan had Ramachandran as the lead male hero but the story and the title was built around the character played by Jayalalithaa. 

Similarly, Engerindo Vandhaal, Sumathi En Sundari, and Anbai Thedi had Sivaji Ganeshan as the male lead but the title and the story was built around her character. She did many female-centric films where the story revolved on her character, such as Vennira Adai, Yaar Nee?, Kumari Penn, Nee, Gowri Kalyanam, Magaraasi, Muthu Chippi, Thanga Gopuram, Avalukku Ayiram Kangal, Annamitta Kai, Vandhaale Magaraasi, Suryagandhi, Thirumangalyam, Yarukkum Vetkam Illai, and Kanavan Manaivi.

Her successful Kannada films include Badukuva Daari (1966), Mavana Magalu (1965), Nanna Kartavya (1965), Chinnada Gombe (1964) and Mane Aliya (1964). Jayalalithaa holds the record for having been the Tamil actress with maximum silver jubilee hits in her career - 85 hits of 92 Tamil films as main female lead heroine and in addition she also has all 28 films in Telugu as silver jubilee hits. She was the highest paid Indian actress from 1965-1980. 

She made guest appearances in 9 films and 6 of her films were dubbed into Hindi. She had 119 box office hits between 1961 and 1980, of the total 125 films she did as the main female lead. Jayalalithaa made a brief appearance as a chief minister crusading for prohibition in 1992 Neenga Nalla Irukkanum.

Jayalalithaa won the Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Actress for Thanga Gopuram in 1971, Raman Thediya Seethai in 1972, Suryagandhi in 1973, Thirumangalyam in 1974, Yarukkum Vetkam Illai in 1975. Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Actress were not given in the years 1971 to 1976. However, in 1977, the awards for Best Actress and Best Actor were announced for the years 1971 to 1976 by way of honorary certificates by the government led by the then chief minister, Ramachandran.

She acted in mythological films like Kandan Karunai, Aadhi Parashakti, Shri Krishna Satya, Shri Krishna Vijayam, Shri Rama Katha, Shri Krishna Leelai, Shakti Leelai, Ganga Gowri, Annai Velankanni, and Jesus. Her period dramas include Ayirathil Oruvan, Neerum Neruppum, Mani Magudam, Adimai Penn, Ali Baba 40 Dongalu, Arasa Katalai, and Baghdad Perazhagi. She acquired the reputation of being a multi-faceted actor equally comfortable in fantasy and mythological genres as well as in modern social dramas. She and Saroja Devi were cited as the first female superstars of Tamil Cinema.