Forced into cinema from her pre-university course
Even when odds were piled up against her and there were swords threatening her, Jayalalithaa had many times grabbed the tiniest of opportunities while fighting those challenges. For example, she wanted to pursue her education and become a lawyer, but her mother Sandhya had other ideas — the family needed money and wanted steady flow of money. She discontinued the pre-university course at Stella Maris College reluctantly, but she put her heart and soul to emerge as one of the most successful heroine in South India.
Asserting herself as MGR’s heir
It was not a smooth sailing for Jayalalithaa in the AIADMK even when her mentor M G Ramachandran was alive. Powerful party functionaries like R M Veerappan and S.D. Somasundaram – protested her elevation in the party and openly rebelled against their leader MGR. She fought a tough fight against the harsh currents within the AIADMK, and emerged as the leader of the unified AIADMK after a brief split – Jaya and Janaki factions. When she was thrown from the gun garage carrying MGR’s body and was assaulted and pushed, she refused to budge, not because of affection, but she wanted to stake claim to MGR’s legacy. She fought against MGR’s widow after his death and not only reclaimed the Two Leaves symbol and the party head quarters but also won 27 Assembly seats in the 1989 election against the Janaki faction’s 2 seats.
Writing directly to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi
When M G Ramachandran was hospitalised in the US following a stroke in late 1984, Jayalalithaa wrote a letter to then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi
to appoint her as chief minister since she felt that MGR’s health would not permit him to discharge his duties. Though many hail it as “politically courageous move”, AIADMK insiders and people close to Jayalalithaa feel it was just an impulsive move. After it emerged that Jayalalithaa did write to Mr Gandhi, MGR stripped her of the post of deputy leadership of the parliamentary party. But, Jayalalithaa always justified writing to the then PM saying that she was her own person and that she has evolved.
Fighting back the conviction and scripting history
When she was convicted in the disproportionate assets case in September 2014, many wrote her political obituary. But Jayalalithaa bounced back. After having spent 21 days at a prison in Bengaluru, Jayalalithaa lived in a self-imposed exile till she was pronounced not guilty eight months later in May 2015. She used the opportunity not only to rally her lieutenants in the party but also the common people to emerge much stronger leader. Her charisma was once again at display when she led the party to a spectacular consecutive term in power, a feat that was achieved only by the likes of her mentor MGR three decades back.