Vennira Aadai announced Jayalalithaa’s arrival on silverscreen, and for a period of 12 years, she was the most sought-out name not only in Tamil, but also in Kannada & Telugu industries. But acting was just the beginning of what turned into a phenomenon
Her career as an actor was rather short — the active years were just about 12 years. But at the end of those dozen-odd years, J Jayalalithaa emerged as arguably the top female star in Tamil film industry, one who was an integral part in some of the biggest box office hits that Kollywood ever recorded in those decades. For the star that she evolved into over the years, Jaya had a low-key debut, curiously in an English film — The Epistle in 1961. The child actor was seen in a Kannada film in the sa me year, and a Hindi film in the next, but was absent from the screen in the next year. Jaya returned in 1964 with three Kannada films and a Telugu film.
That was when Vennira Aadai was released in 1965. Her character, Shoba, a young woman who was emotionally wrecked by the death of her husband just hours after their marriage, had enough substan- ce to reveal the actor in her. That was the first turning point in Jaya’s career. That was when Jaya was cast with matinee idol MGR in Ayirathil Oruvan. The film went on to become an allti me hit and also ma rked the beginning of the most successful acting pair who were cast as the lead in as many as 27 films. What followed was a string of hits, establishing Jaya as the most-sought after name in Tamil cinema. The number of films she ac ted began increasing at a fast clip, several of them grossing big at the box office.
There were at least seven big hits in 1966, five in 1967 and six more in 1968. This fame crossed borders, and she returned to Kannada and Telugu fi lms. But this time, she was the biggest dr a w. But from 1975, there was a distinct sign that Jaya was withdrawing from acting. She acted only in four films that year. The number dwindled to just two each in 1976 and 1977. That can effectively be considered to be the ending part of her career. She was just 29 ye a rs then, an age when most actors hit the pink of their career. The last time she appea r ed in a film was as a Chief Minister in 1992. By then, her life had entered the next act wh e re the fla m i ng career was part of a nostalgic memory.