Before becoming the Iron Lady of politics, J Jayalalithaa was a famed actor and her films are loved even today. City Express rewinds to the 60s and 70s when she acted alongside stalwarts and ruled the screen with her smile.
CHENNAI: I wasn’t fortunate enough to meet Puratchi Thalaivi in person, but have always loved her timeless classics like Aayirathil Oruvan (1965), Vennira Aadai (1965), Adimai Penn (1969), and Thanga Gopuram (1971), and not necessarily in that order.
One of her finest roles came in Muktha Srinivasan’s Suryagandhi (1973). It was also re-released this year on September 16 in a digital format and had a great response from the audience, thanks to the concept and plot, which is relevant even today. Way ahead of its time, the film revolves around the ego clashes between a married couple, when the woman earns more than her husband. She received Best Actress Award for her performance from the Tamil Nadu Government. It supported women empowerment at a time when women were expected to live on the terms set by their husband. One of the songs in the film was choreographed by Kamal Haasan!
She was barely 15 when she was introduced by the legendary filmmaker Boodgur Ramakrishnaiah Panthulu in the Kannada film industry. Her film Deiva Magan (1969) with Sivaji Ganesan was the first ever Tamil film to be submitted to the Academy Awards (Oscars). One of
her Kannada films Chinnada Gombe (1964) was remade into Tamil and Hindi. Jayalalithaa portrayed double roles in eight films. Super-hits among them were Gemini Ganesan’s Ganga Gowri (1973) and Yaar Nee (1966).
Politician-actor-dancer Vennira Aadai Nirmala says that Jaya effortlessly brought out the nuances, a quality she developed from her. “She would come to the sets fully prepared. All you had to do is explain the scene. She would become the character when the camera rolled. Even if the scene had very little for her, she would give her 100%,” she adds. Nirmala credits Jayalalithaa for being the first leading lady of Tamil films to wear western clothes. “She was known to bring in variety, and kept reinventing herself onscreen. She never hesitated to take up glamorous roles. She was comfortable wearing ‘dignified’ sleeveless blouses and tight-fitting kurtis.”
She went on to pair up with some of the biggest stars like MGR, Gemini Ganesan, and others. She has acted in over 100 movies, and the major highlight in her career
was the fact that she had paired up with MGR in 27 hits between 60s and 70s. Language was never a barrier
Jayalalithaa’s last film with MGR was Pattikaattu Ponnaiya (1973), after which he got involved in politics. She also worked with NT Rama Rao and Akkineni Nageshwara Rao. Most of her films had been successful at the box-office, and she was hailed as one of the highest paid artistes between 1965 and 1980. At the age of 44, she officially quit cinema, and started focusing on politics full-time. She has done only one Hindi film Izzat (1968) as a protagonist, which featured Dharmendra in a dual role. It’s difficult to use past-tense while writing about her, because she’ll continue to live in our hearts, as always.