In the ’60s and ’70s, her domination in the Tamil film industry was complete. Her pairing with matinee idol MG Ramachandran (MGR) was absolute. In her heydays, she was a legendary beauty. Her ‘affair’ with her favourite co-star MGR (they did a whopping 28 films together!) meant that she was always in circulation in the gossip circles. Though she never really made a shift to the Bombay film industry (she just did one Hindi film, Izzat, opposite Dharmendra), she was known all over India.
We are talking of Tamil film icon and three-time chief minister of Tamil Nadu and AIADMK supremo, J Jayalalitha.
At the end of her film career, she made an effortless entry into politics, thanks to her mentor MGR patronising her. Her political legacy apart, her claim to fame will always remain the days spent in the glare of the arclights.
As her life takes yet another dramatic turn, we look at some of the most memorable roles she essayed on the silver screen.Vennira Aadai (White Dress; 1965)
Her debut film Vennira Aadai, when it released in 1965, immediately catapulted her to stardom. A love triangle featuring Sreekanth, Nirmala and teenaged Jayalalithaa, it was a huge commercial success. It set her on course to superstardom in the days to come.
Aayirathil Oruvan (One Man in a Thousand; 1965)
One of her earliest films, Jayalalithaa stars opposite MGR in this film based on time-travel-cum-adventure tale. Jayalalithaa plays a princess from the Chola dynasty with MGR playing an idealistic doctor who cures rebels against the cruel ruler. The film was a blockbuster and ran for 100 days in Chennai.
Adimai Penn (Slave Girl; 1969)
Set in the world of kings and queens, Adimai Penn sees Jayalalitha’s playing a princess who is enslaved and is eventually set free by King Vengaiyan, played by MGR. The film also had famous columnist and critic Cho Ramaswamy playing a supporting role.
Ragasiya Police 115 (1968)
A crime and spy thriller starring MGR and Jayalalithaa, MGR plays a Research & Analysis Wing officer called Ramu known by his code name, 115. Jayalalithaa plays a character called Neela, a critical clog in the plot.
Pattikada Pattanama (Village or Town; 1972)
Starring another stalwart of Tamil cinema, Sivaji Ganeshan, this social drama about the clash in lifestyles and its associated values between city and the village, sees Jayalalithaa play a free-spirited city-bred girl who trips for a rustic village chieftain and all the trouble that crops up between the two, thanks to their differing worldviews. The film was a surprise hit when it released in 1972 and sealed Jayalalithaa’s reputation as an actor equally comfortable in fantasy/mythological themes as well as modern social dramas.
Kandan Karunai (1967)
A mythological story based on the life of Lord Muruga. Jayalalithaa plays one of the wives, Valli, to Lord Muruga, a film that has veteran Sivaji Ganeshan playing the titular role.
Yaar Nee (1966)
A Tamil remake of hit Hindi film, Who Kaun Thi (1964), it saw Jayalalithaa and Jaishankar reprise the roles essayed by Sandhna and Manoj Kumar in the original. A psychological suspense thriller, the film was a huge success in its Tamil avatar as well.
SuryaKanthi (Sunflower; 1973)
A family drama about ego tussles, the film stars Jayalalithaa and Muthuraman as the main lead. Set in modern times, the film is yet another example of the ease with which Jayalalithaa could switch between different genres and went a long way in establishing her reputation as a multi-faceted actor.
Arasa Kattalai (King’s Order; 1967)
A classic tale of good triumphing evil, the film, set in the world of kings and queens, again sees MRG playing a valiant king with Jayalalithaa essaying the role of Maghana, a golden-hearted princess. The film was significant for its powerful dialogues and songs. The film starred two of MGR’s most successful co-actors, Jayalalithaa and B Saroja Devi.
En Annan (Elder Brother; 1970)
A social drama starring MGR and Jayalalithaa, the film is about a heroic brother who is falsely implicated in a crime he hasn’t committed. Jayalalithaa plays his love interest. Films like these would go a long way in sealing their fate as the golden couple of Tamil cinema in the 1960s and 1970s.