The tumultuous ups and downs in her relationship with MGR started in the early 1970s when MGR increasingly began to act with younger heroines like Latha and Manjula, thanks to the dogged perseverance of RMV.

MGR also got preoccupied with politics as he was the DMK party treasurer in Karunanidhi’s government. Then serious differences arose between him and Karunanidhi, but according to RMV even this was because of Jayalalithaa’s influence.

MGR and Karunanidhi had once been close. When CN Annadurai died Nedunjezhian, the senior-most, was expected to succeed him. But MGR strongly recommended Karunanidhi’s name and through his influence over party workers got him elected to the post.

Karunanidhi, however, threatened by MGR’s popularity, cleverly excluded him when he formed the cabinet and made him the treasurer of the DMK party.

‘Film News’ Anandan, who was closely associated with Jayalalithaa as her PRO at that time (she was the first south Indian actor to appoint a PRO on a regular salary), believed that people around MGR were jealous of her fame and proximity to MGR. “I know when I was her PRO, MGR’s car would come to fetch her at one o’clock in the afternoon. She would go for an hour and come back.”

Jayalalithaa was then building her house in Poes Garden. When it was complete, the entire film industry turned up for the house-warming function except for MGR. Everyone was surprised at his absence because rumours about their liaison abounded.

Anandan said, “Next morning she had to go to Kashmir for shooting. She boards the plane and finds MGR in the next seat! MGR also had a shooting schedule in Kashmir, but Jayalalithaa was acting with Sivaji Ganesan in another film. The two locations were 40 miles apart. But after reaching Kashmir MGR took her along with him and would send her to her shooting location 40 miles away. Jayalalithaa could have had no say in the matter. If MGR says something, it had to be done.”

But after a while Jayalalithaa found MGR overbearing and dominating. He started controlling all her activities including the clothes she wore.

He even took control over her finances and she had to depend on his good mood for its release. She felt stifled and wanted to break free.

A major clash occurred between the two when she refused to go with him to Singapore. Anandan narrated, “She used to give solo dance performances and also prepare dance dramas. She had prepared a very ambitious dance drama named Kaveri Thantha Kalaichchelvi , which was so popular that she had 29 invitations to perform it from all over the world. She made plans for a world trip and gave dates to everyone.”

Everything was finalised and even the advance money received. At that time there was a world Tamil conference organised in Singapore. MGR was the chief guest, and he asked Jayalalithaa to go with him, suggesting that she could proceed on her world trip from there.

“Jayalalithaa refused, even though MGR was then the chief minister. MGR insisted that she go with him and defied her to go on the world trip without his permission. She was so upset and so angry that she cancelled the entire trip and paid all the artistes their dues. She even dissolved the dance troupe. She did not want to beg MGR for permission...’

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The Tamilian

‘Film News’ Anandan recounts an incident in Mysore that marked Jayalalithaa as remarkably fearless even when she was barely sixteen. She belonged to the Mandiam Iyengar community that hailed from Karnataka. But in an article that appeared in a magazine she was quoted as saying, “I am a Tamilian. My mother belongs to Srirangam.” That angered the Kannadigas in Karnataka who believed her to be a Kannadiga. Because of the threats she received she cancelled her scheduled dance programme at the Dasara arts festival in Mysore.

Two months later, during the shooting of director Panthulu’s film at the Chamundi studios in Mysore, the organiser of the Dasara arts festival heard she was there, and decided to confront her. The studio manager got news that about a hundred protesters were marching towards the studio to beat up Jayalalithaa. So he ordered the gates to be locked. But the hooligans jumped over the gates and entered with lathis in their hands shouting in Kannada: “Where is the bitch?” They barged in, knocking down the guards and journalists standing at the door. Panthulu spoke to them in Kannada and pleaded with them to go away.

But they demanded that Jayalalithaa should say sorry for having said that she was not a Kannadiga. Jayalalithaa was neither ruffled nor afraid. She looked straight at them and said in chaste Kannada, “I have not said anything wrong. Why should I apologise? I am a Tamilian and not a Kannadiga!”

By then the police entered and pacified the protesters and took them away. That Kannadigas attempted to kill Jayalalithaa hit the headlines in all Tamil papers.

Excerpted from Amma: Jayalalithaa’s Journey from Movie Star to Political Queen by Vaasanthi, with permission from Juggernaut Books. The book is available in bookstores and