Remembering Amma! The interesting story of how Jayalalithaa became a film star

Jayalalithaa was known as the queen of Tamil Cinema. She had acted in more than 140 films and 85 of her Tamil films did silver jubilee at the Box Office.

She was one of the most loved politicians in our country. The late chief minister of Tamil Nadu, Jayalalithaa passed away on 6 December 2016. The former actress had suffered a cardiac arrest on Sunday evening and was kept on life support systems in Chennai’s Apollo hospital.

Not just one of the powerful women in India, Jayalalithaa also reigned the South Indian film industry for more than a decade. And her stint in the film industry started with quite an interesting story. The queen of Tamil cinema, as she is popularly known as, Amma had acted in over 140 films. She debuted as a child artist in 1961 and debuted later as an adult in a Kannada film — Sri Shaila Mahathme. However, her journey of being the ultimate evergreen queen of films down South is quite amazing.

The early stint

Luck played the game and brought Amma into the film industry. She had accompanied her actress mother Sandhya to a film’s set where the shooting of another film was also going on. Jayalalithaa was asked to fill in the shoes of a child artist who could not turn up for the film. And that made her don her first character of Goddess Parvathy in the film, produced by Neerlahalli Thalikerappa and directed by Aroor Pattabhi.

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She then played her second on screen character of Lord Krishna in Hindi film Man-Mauji in 1962. Post that, Jayalalithaa continued doing stage plays in English, Hindi, Tamil and Kannada till she was spotted by Shankar Giri who wanted to cast her in an English film called The Epistle. Her mother gave her consent and asked the production team to conduct shoots with her daughter only in the weekends.

The big shot to fame

Jayalalithaa went back to continue her studies and decided to be a lawyer but little did she know what future had in stores for her. Her Kannada movie, directed by Panthulu opposite Kalyankumar turned into a blockbuster and Jayalalithaa became an overnight star. She then continued doing plays and became a well-known name in the theatre circle.

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Later, Jayalalithaa debuted in Tamil cinema with Vennira Aadai (1965), directed by C. V. Sridhar and in Telugu cinema with Manushulu Mamathalu opposite Akkineni Nageshwara Rao. The actress along with actor Jaishankar made for a hit pair in Tamil cinema and went on to do eight films. After 1967, she was given the title of Kalai Selvi, meaning art of work, and was addressed with the same title in her Tamil films.

Amma also made for another hit pair with actor Ravichandran with whom she had acted in 10 Tamil films. She won her first Filmfare award for Best Actress in 1972 for her performance in National Award winning Tamil film Pattikada Pattanama. In the following year, the actress badded another Filmfare award for Best Actress for her performance in Telugu film Sri Krishna Satya.

She and actor Sivaji Ganesan made for another quite popular pairing in South cinema. The two went on to do 17 films together. Even her Malayalam debut film, Jesus (1973), turned into a big success and Jayalalithaa started reigning all the four film industries of South India.

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The accolades

Jayalalithaa holds the record of being the Tamil actress who has given the maximum number of silver jubilee hits at the Box Office. 85 of her Tamil films out of 92 in total had run for at least 25 weeks at the Box Office. The actress remained the highest paid Indian actress for 15 years between 1968-1980. Her list of being honoured with the Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Actress is also long — Thanga Gopuram in 1971, Raman Thediya Seethai in 1972, Suryagandhi in 1973, Thirumangalyam in 1974, Yarukkum Vetkam Illai in 1975.

RIP Amma.

Also read: The legend of Jayalalithaa (24.2.1948-5.12.2016) : Tracing the rise and rise of Amma