‘MGR is no more.’

It was a stunning blow to Jayalalithaa. He had departed, leaving her in the lurch. In a daze she summoned the driver and rushed to Ramavaram Gardens, MGR’s residence, but when she reached there she was refused permission to enter the house. She got out of the car and banged on the door with her fists. When the door was opened at last no one would say where the body was. She ran up and down the front and back stairs several times but all the doors were firmly slammed on her face to prevent her from having a glimpse of the dead body of the man who was not only her mentor but with whom she had had such a close, emotional association.

Eventually she was told that his body had been taken away through the back door and driven to Rajaji Hall. She got into her car with her heart pounding and instructed the driver to race there. At Rajaji Hall she rushed to the body and firmly planted herself at the head. MGR lay supine, neatly dressed in his full-sleeved shirt, fur cap and dark glasses – his trademark attire.

One can imagine her feelings on seeing the lifeless body of the matinee idol who had promised Sandhya, her mother, that he would take care of her dear Ammu. She did not shed a tear. She did not wail. She stunned the onlookers and mourners by standing vigil by MGR’s body for two days – thirteen long hours the first day and eight hours the second day. She willed herself not to give way to physical exhaustion.

But the mental and physical torture came from other sources. Several women supporters of Janaki’s stood near her and began stamping on her feet, driving their nails into her skin and pinching her to drive her away. But she stood undaunted, swallowing the humiliation and her pride, obstinately remaining where she had taken position. She seemed oblivious of her surroundings. But there must have been one question hammering her brain – what now? She was thirty-eight, single, left in limbo by the very man, now lying lifeless, who had brought her into politics with promises of a great future ahead. She, who had been looked upon by the party cadres as a natural successor to their beloved leader, was now a non-entity, fighting to have a glimpse of the departed leader. It was not in her nature to take defeat lying down.

She followed the body as it was placed in the gun carriage, trying to place a wreath on the body and join the funeral procession. The soldiers on duty helped her by giving her a hand to get into the carriage. There were at once angry shouts from behind and she saw MLA Dr K.P. Ramalingam advancing menacingly towards her. Suddenly she was assaulted – hit on the forehead by Janaki’s nephew Deepan, who pushed her out of the carriage. She was hurt and bruised and shocked beyond words. Disgusted at the insults hurled at her by Deepan and Ramalingam – they called her a prostitute – she decided not to attend the funeral. She was driven home in her Contessa, escorted by soldiers.

The news spread like wildfire, sending shock waves among the party cadres. Her bruised spirits must have soared as party workers and several leaders, including MPs and MLAs, started pouring in to see her. They swore to stand by her in her claim to be MGR’s successor as party leader. Many among the cadres openly said, ‘We want a charismatic leader. Jayalalithaa is the only person with charisma…

This is a preview from Vaasanthi’s Amma: Jayalalithaa’s Journey from Movie Star to Political Queen. Get the book here:



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