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Jaya was a terrifying force: Author Vasanthi

Jaya was a terrifying force: Author Vasanthi
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I was a journalist who would write scathing edits and was never afraid to be critical of people in power. But Jayalalithaa was such a terrifying force that I must admit that I was frightened to even visit Tamil Nadu,” admits Vasanthi, journalist and author of the book, ‘Amma: Jayalalithaa’s Journey from Movie Star to Political Queen’. 

Jaipur: “I was a journalist who would write scathing edits and was never afraid to be critical of people in power. But Jayalalithaa was such a terrifying force that I must admit that I was frightened to even visit Tamil Nadu,” admits Vasanthi, journalist and author of the book, ‘Amma: Jayalalithaa’s Journey from Movie Star to Political Queen’.

She was in conversation with Sudha Sadhanand from Westland, who read out a revealing letter that Vasanthi chose to include in her book at the 10th edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) which got kicked off here on Thursday.

The intimate letter from Jayalalithaa proclaims her love for the then Chief Minister MG Ramachandran and seeks his appointment. “The letter is real, and the cadre too knew of the relation. They gave her the respect that they usually give to the wife of their leader whom they referred to as Anna,” shared the author.

“MGR was a hero loved by all the women of Tamil Nadu. And when Jayalalithaa came into films, MGR was impressed with her looks and intelligence. She could speak such fluent English unlike others in South India at that time.”

The book that she published last year drew more attention after the death of the former chief minister of Tamil Nadu. This is not Vasanthi’s first book on the fiery leader of AIADMK.

Her earlier book on Jayalalithaa was on the verge of getting published by Penguin, when Outlook did a cover on the book. Jayalalithaa came to know of it, went to court and procured a permanent injunction against the publishing of the book.

It was much later that Juggernaut approached Vasanthi for a new book on the subject. “It was very difficult to write a book on her. She ran one of the most secretive ministries. After two years of research and writing, my book was not published. She created an atmosphere of fear.”

Demystifying the myth created around Jayalalithaa, Vasanthi reveals – She willed herself to excel in whatever she chose to be. She chose to be in politics when she was done with her acting career and needed something to carry on.

And she used her proximity to MGR to enter the party. When the party realised that she can mar the idealistic image of MGR, she was made to stay away, only to have her back later as the publicity incharge which she managed by speaking to MGR when they met in the US.

She had three things against her – being a woman in a male dominated political sphere of Tamil Nadu; an actress and a Brahmin (in a party that was primarily founded on anti-Brahminical philosophy). Yet when she came to power and men prostrated before her, she may have liked it.

Unlike her claim, she never prevented any one from prostrating before her. “She transformed herself to be able to dominate in the male world, much like creating an image of the benevolent Amma (mother) to the people of Tamil Nadu. Many of her decisions like the alliance with BJP were a part of personal vendetta against Karunanidhi.”

Explaining her closeness to Chinna amma – Sasikala, Vasanthi refuses to believe that a woman as intelligent as her could be manipulated by anyone. “She needed someone to look after her house and listen to her empathetically.

She was separated from MGR, wanted to marry Sobhan Babu which fell out, and she needed sympathy, which is when Sasikala entered her house. She knew all her secrets and financial dealing and also helped many to get party ticket, and these are the same party men who are supporting her now.”

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