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Close Encounter : At peace with Life

Close Encounter : At peace with Life
Highlights

Challa Jayalalitha was seen in supporting and comedy roles and vamp like characters throughout her career despite essaying the role of a heroine in a...

Challa Jayalalitha was seen in supporting and comedy roles and vamp like characters throughout her career despite essaying the role of a heroine in a couple of movies earlier on. The tall and beautiful actress in her make up for the television serial "Gorantha Deepam" says, she is finally playing a character that she likes and is close to her real life persona

Aruna Ravikumar

"Acting is pretending that you are someone else and at the same time selling yourself". Katherine Hepburn's words describing the profession are rarely understood by adoring fans who fail to distinguish between the actor and his role. In the make believe celluloid world "the reel is seen as real" and actors get identified and typecast by the roles they portray. Challa Jayalalitha the well known actress with 600 movies in Telugu, Malayalam, Tamil and Kannada is an example of this type casting.

She has been seen in supporting and comedy roles and vamp like characters throughout her career despite essaying the role of a heroine in a couple of movies earlier on. As she sits opposite me in a bright pink saree with a big gold border, anklets on her feet, traditional jewelry adorning her neck, and a vermilion mark on her forehead, the tall and beautiful actress in her make up for the serial "Gorantha Deepam" says, she is finally playing a character that she likes and is close to her real life persona. "Dancing has been my first love and passion. Leaving the stage and moving on to the transient tinsel world of films where I took what came my way and not what I wanted is also a choice carved out by destiny," she says as she recalls her journey to the world of films.

Hailing from a traditional Vaidiki Brahmin family from Guntur Jayalalitha's grandfather Challa Pichayya Sastry was a Sanskrit scholar who translated the "Gita Govindam and other works into Telugu. Her father Challa Brabhamanandam was a journalist who wrote by the name Sheelanand before shifting to Chennai with the ambition of making his youngest daughter a heroine in films. Jayalalitha and her sister Sri Lakshmi were classical dancers who gave performances and were known as "The Challa Sisters" before the family moved to Chennai in 1984. Learning dance initially from Chinta Radhakrishnamurthi, Jayalalitha was fortunate to have learnt from several other Gurus like Girija Natarajan, Vempati Chinna Satyam and Nataraja Ramakrishna.

She had performed in Shoba Naidu's ballets "Srinivas Kalyanam and "Krishna Parijaatham". Her initial Telugu films like "Ee Poraatam Maarpu Kosam" and other films never saw the light of the day and it was in Malayalam films that she got her first break. After a meaty role in Malayalam director IV Sasi's film "Uppu" (salt) she went on to act as the heroine in about ten of the twenty films that she acted in that language. Her films like "Sruthilayalu", "Indrudu Chandrudu", "April 1", "People's Encounter", the award winning film "Grahanam' and a handful of other roles are those that she cherishes among the hundreds of films that she acted in."

Everyone said I had very good looks and a great physique and that I should be bagging heroine's roles but unfortunately such offers never came my way. I took on the work that I got and looked at every assignment as professional one. I had my family to look after too," she says talking about the reason for venturing into negative roles, doing item numbers and comic films. Jayalalitha acted in a couple of mythological films like "Datta Darshanam" and "Ashta Lakshmi Vaibhavam' too in the same spirit. "I am a pure vegetarian and do not take any alcohol despite being part of the film fraternity. I am spiritual and believe in the power of the divine. I am an older sister to some, younger to some and a mother to others in the industry where I have affectionate bonds," she shares as she points out the difference between her on screen roles and her off screen personality.

Quiz her about her name being the same as the former actress and Tamilnadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha, she relates, "I was named Lalitha by my parents but changed it to Jayalalitha as I greatly admired Jayalalitha who was the heroine in the film, "Kathanayakudu". When I started featuring in vamp roles some of her followers came over and asked me to change my name but I refused. I told them that I would not do so as I took the name because of my great liking for her."

She has also acted in a number of successful serials like "Ammamma.com", "Aparanji' and the ongoing serial "Gorantha Deepam' which is getting her a lot of recognition and personal satisfaction. Commenting on her look, "I was thrilled to hear the response of the weavers who have said that they didn't know their sarees looked so beautiful until they saw me wearing them," she gushes. Since her financial responsibilities towards her brothers and sisters have been fulfilled Jayalalitha feels that she can now be choosy about offers and roles that give her a scope to act. Her own relationship with Malayalam director Vinod whom she married after being in love for seven years fizzled out within a year of marriage as things did not work out as planned.

Nineteen years later she sends money for his medical treatment every month as he is out of work with no savings whatsoever. She also sends gifts to his daughter from his second marriage as "Gifts from Saibaba". An ardent devotee of Shirdi Saibaba she says her life changed a great deal after she started reading his life history. "I have done the Paaraayanam (reading) 53 times and plan to complete the same 108 times" she adds. The earlier feeling of loneliness is now replaced by a quiet detachment and acceptance of things and spending money for good causes is giving her a deep sense of satisfaction and purpose in life. In addition to contributing towards the construction of a Saibaba temple in Nizampet, she has also set aside money for constructing a "Goshala" (place for cows) at Nellore in memory of her parents.

After shifting from Chennai to Hyderabad in 2003, her life has been busy with acting assignments and spiritual activities. She reads books and watches old black and white films during her free time which she says are most enjoyable and inspiring. A trip to the US last November where she gave dance performances in various places was also very memorable with people receiving her troupe with warmth and greatly appreciating her work. "I have no regrets and I am happy with whatever is destined for me" she confides with a smile. Happy in the present moment; she would like to go with the flow of life and wherever it takes her.

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