The trailer of AL Vijay's Thalaivi, based on the life of late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, was launched recently. Starring Kangana Ranaut in the lead, the trailer features well-known episodes from the actor-politician's life and offers no surprises to people from Tamil Nadu.
However, those outside the state, who are not very familiar with Jayalalithaa's rise in cinema and politics, have taken new interest in the late politician's story after the trailer was launched in multiple languages.
Here are the real life episodes from Jayalalithaa's life that have made it to the trailer:
1. Jayalalithaa as an Egyptian princess: Yes, that shot of Kangana and Arvind Swami (who plays MGR in Thalaivi) is from an actual film. The song 'Ninaithen Vandhai' had Jayalalithaa and MGR dressed in Egyptian costumes. The song is from Kaavalkaaran, an important film in MGR's career. It was the first film that was released after he was shot by fellow actor MR Radha, and his film career was considered to be over. This was in 1967 and the shooting resulted in not only MGR losing his hearing in his left ear but also significantly changing his voice. However, MGR insisted on dubbing for Kaavalkaaran himself. Despite his difficulties in pronunciation, the film became a blockbuster and his subsequent films too were major hits. The DMK, to which MGR belonged at the time, widely publicised photographs of MGR under treatment and the incident is said to have worked in the party's favour politically. Jayalalithaa was just 19 in this film while MGR was 50.
2. Jayalalithaa as MGR's political heir: The trailer shows MGR inducting Jayalalithaa into politics, asking her to join public life. The two superstars were in a well-known romantic relationship though MGR was married to Janaki (played by Madhoo in Thalaivi). In 1972, MGR was ousted from the DMK and he floated his own party, the ADMK (which became the AIADMK). Jayalalithaa joined the party officially in 1982 when MGR was the Chief Minister.
3. Jayalalithaa's foes within the party: The trailer also shows RM Veerappan (Samuthirakani) looking unhappy with Jayalalithaa's rise in the party. The two of them jostled for power in real life, and Kalimuthu, Veerappan's close associate, made several statements questioning MGR over the perceived favouritism shown to Jayalalithaa.
4. Jayalalithaa's rapport with Indira Gandhi: In 1985, Jayalalithaa was nominated to the Rajya Sabha. The move came from MGR who wanted someone in Delhi who could communicate well and mediate between him and the Union government. Jayalalithaa's seat number at the Rajya Sabha was 185 and her first speech is said to have impressed everyone, including Indira Gandhi. Later too, Indira Gandhi was appreciative of Jayalalithaa's fiery speeches delivered in impeccable English.
5. Jayalalithaa's prowess in English: A dialogue from the trailer has a politician remarking, "I didn't know south Indians can speak such good English", and to this, Jayalalithaa retorts, "I also didn't know north Indians can understand such good English." Although Jayalalithaa was not a graduate, her love for books is well-known. Jayalalithaa studied at the Bishop Cotton Girls' School in Bengaluru and later at Sacred Heart Matriculation School in Chennai. She won a gold medal for topping the 10th standard examination in the state and was even offered a government scholarship to continue her studies. While she enrolled at Stella Maris College, Chennai, she had to discontinue her education and take up acting due to financial pressures.
6. Assault at the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly: This shameful incident was one of the biggest turning points in Jayalalithaa's political career. On March 25, 1989, Jayalalithaa's saree was pulled and she was assaulted in the Assembly. The politician was the Leader of the Opposition at the time, the first woman to occupy the post. In a ruckus that broke out in the Assembly over how Jayalalithaa had been unfairly treated by the Speaker, she alleged that DMK Minister Durai Murugan tore her saree. A furious Jayalalithaa swore that she would only return to the Assembly as Chief Minister. She compared herself to Draupathi who was humiliated in a similar manner in the epic Mahabharata.
7. Jayalalithaa pushed during MGR's funeral: When MGR died in 1987, Jayalalithaa rushed to his residence. However, she was met with hostility and nobody would tell her where his body was kept. When she finally came to know that he was in Rajaji Hall, she rushed there and sat by his head, refusing to move from there, marking herself firmly as his political heir. Many women supporters of Janaki, MGR's wife, tried to remove her by stamping on her and even pinching her, but Jayalalithaa would not budge. When MGR's body was placed on the gun carriage, Jayalalithaa managed to get on it, but she was pushed out by Janaki's nephew Deepan. While Janaki became the Chief Minister for all of 24 days, she soon quit politics, recognising that Jayalalithaa had emerged as the leader of the AIADMK.
8. Jayalalithaa's car accident: In February 1990, Jayalalithaa was returning to Chennai from Pondicherry along with her close aide Sasikala when the car she was travelling in collided with a lorry in Meenambakkam. She was grievously injured and was admitted to Devaki Hospital in Mylapore. Rajiv Gandhi visited her at the hospital.
Watch: Visuals of Jayalalithaa in hospital after the car accident
9. Violence in Tamil Nadu over Jayalalithaa's conviction: The trailer shows riots taking place in the state. While it's unclear which particular incident this refers to, one can guess that this must be in the year 2000 when Jayalalithaa was convicted by a special court in the Kodaikanal Pleasant Stay Hotel case. Sporadic cases of violence were reported across the state, and in Dharmapuri, AIADMK cadre set fire to a bus that resulted in the deaths of three students. The incident remains a blackmark in Jayalalithaa's legacy.
10. Jayalalithaa's cape: In 1996, Jayalalithaa was accused of accumulating disproportionate assets and photos of her extravagant silk sarees and jewellery were widely circulated. Some said that her choice of wearing a cape, a long and loose garment over her saree, was triggered by a desire to refashion her image in the public. Others said she wore a bullet-proof vest under it, and still others claimed that she wore it to hide a skin disease. While Jayalalithaa never divulged the reason beyond saying she liked the style, she moved on to wearing a simple, plain saree in later years. The trailer also documents the change in Jayalalithaa's styling over the years.
Watch the trailer of Thalaivi below: