Three rare pictures of Jayalalithaa and the fascinating stories behind them

Having worked in over 140 movies, Jayalalithaa has rubbed shoulders with the likes of MGR, Sivaji Ganesan and Karunanidhi – all big names in the film world.
Three rare pictures of Jayalalithaa and the fascinating stories behind them
Three rare pictures of Jayalalithaa and the fascinating stories behind them
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Born in 1948, Jayalalithaa Jayaram’s pre-political life as a film actor is no secret.

Having worked in over 140 movies over the course of more than 30 years, the late Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Jayalalithaa, has rubbed shoulders with the likes of MGR, Sivaji Ganesan and Karunanidhi – all big names in their own right in the film world. 

We came across three rare photographs of Jayalalithaa: two from the extensive collection belonging to 88 year-old film historian and chronicler, Film News Anandan, based in Chennai, and another that was circulating on social media.

Here are the stories behind them.

1. Epistle

The only English movie in Jayalalithaa’s entire career, it was also the first film for which she began shooting. Called “Epistle”, the movie was produced by former Indian President VV Giri’s son Shankar Giri.

Though the movie released officially in 1966, it did not do well amongst the masses. The movie was then re-released by Giri after Jayalalithaa became popular. She had made a name for herself with films like “Chinnada Gombe” in Kannada and “Vennira Aadai” in Tamil.

"Ramana Reddy was her co-actor. I never really saw the film. But it didn’t do well even after Jayalalithaa became popular unlike her other movies", says Anandan.

2. Ganga Gowri

This picture of Jayalalithaa acting in the Tamil version of the Kannada movie “Ganga Gowri” released in 1973 has a long story behind it.

Jayalalithaa was from a Tamil Vaishnavite Brahmin Iyengar family belonging to Srirangam, Trichy, and was born in the Mandya district of Mysuru (now in Karnataka) in 1948. Participating in dance troupes from a young age, she was invited to be a part of a grand performance in Mysuru as part of the Dussehra exhibition in the 1970s. 

However, that year, amidst intra-state tensions over prolonged talks on conversion of the state’s name from Mysore to Karnataka, a number of well-wishers communicated to her that it would be better if she didn’t participate.

Jayalalithaa had earlier said in an interview she had given to Vikatan magazine that that though she had been born in Karnataka and was fluent in Kannada, she was very much a Tamilian.

This, however, did not go down well with Kannada activists of those times. The statement came at the heels of Vatal Nagaraj’s Kannada Chaluvali Vatal Paksha party condemning her for cancelling her dance performance in spite of being a Kannadiga girl.

Listening to the advice from well-wishers, Jayalalithaa backed out of the dance citing health reasons. It was a little while after this that the famous Kannada director, BR Panthulu, approached Jayalalithaa to be a part of the Tamil remake of his Kannada movie “Ganga Gowri”.

Back then, Tamil movies were shot only in Madras. Panthulu decided to shoot the movie in Mysuru, considering the reduced costs. However, what Jayalaltihaa did not realise was that both, the dates of the dance exhibition and that of the movie’s shooting, were around the same time, says Anandan.

Anandan, then a PRO, gathered together ten journalists to cover the shooting of “Ganga Gowri” and headed to Mysuru from Chennai. A day after they reached, and when the shooting was going on at Premier Studio, a group of Kannada activists barged into the Premier Studio in order to confront Jayalalithaa.

Around 100 members of Vatal Nagaraj's Kannada Chaluvali Vatal Paksha tried entering the studio, demanding an apology from her.

Even though the 12 feet high gates were locked, they managed to climb over and enter the premises of Premier Studio, says Anandan, who was an eye-witness to the incident.

"They were yelling all kinds of abusive chants and every one of them carried a weapon of some sort," he recalls. The producer, BR Panthulu, Jayalalithaa and the ten journalists from Madras were all inside a locked room on the second floor of the studio.

“We (all journalists) surrounded her in one corner of the room when the protestors entered,” Anandan says. When the activists started demanding that she apologise for her earlier statements on Kannadigas, Panthulu came forward and asked her to do so to end the tense situation.

“I am a Tamil girl, not a Kannada girl,” Jayalalithaa then said, loudly refusing to apologise even as protesters gathered around her.

The only reason nothing happened was because she responded in Tamil and the protestors did not realise what was happening, Anandan says in admiration of Jayalalithaa’s brave demeanour that day.

It was only when Director Swamy, who was from Karnataka, pointed out the shame that such an attack on a Tamilian in their state would bring forth, did the protesters finally decide to leave.

Jayalalithaa then left Mysuru, returned to Madras and thanked the journalists who had helped her that day. 

3. Jayalalithaa with Karunanidhi

This is a picture of Jayalalithaa and Karuanidhi that started doing the rounds on social media on the day Jayalalithaa was acquitted by the Karnataka High Court.

Where was this picture taken?

There have not been too many occasions when the arch rivals have posed for a picture together, even at a time that they were not political enemies.

We asked quite a few people about the picture.

The picture it seems was taken after Jayalalithaa first presented her dance-drama 'Kaveri Thantha Kalaichelvi' (The Artistic Daughter Bequeathed by the Cauvery). The show took place either in 1965 or 1967. 

It was a government function for which Jayalalithaa was invited to perform for remuneration. The dance-drama was a great success and she performed it again in 1981.

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