VaasanthiJayalalitha Jayaraman, the Chief Minister of the southern Indian India state Tamil Nadu passed on Dec 5, 2106 in Chennai. Jayalalitha (68) represents a rare breed of Tamil politicians, who built their career in the Tamil film industry before joining politics. Jayalalitha along with MGR and Karunanidhi exerted a powerful influence on their voters and on the policy and politics of Tamil Nadu.  This is a rare and unusual phenomenon where these 3 politicians were democratically voted in and out of power for over 40 years.

These 3 politicians  – Jayalalitha, MGR and Karunanidhi have been elected as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu since the 1970s till 2016. With the passing away of  Jayalalitha and MGR, the only person left in the triumivirate is Karunanidhi, who is is 92 years old now.

Tamil Nadu politics is filled with complexties and contradictions. To an outsider Tamil Nadu politics is full of contradictions points out Vaasanthi author of  Cut-outs, Caste and Cine Stars.  But, for an insider or someone who grew up in Tamil Nadu (like I did)  the contradictions were part and parcel of their life.

We spoke to Vaasanthi about Jayalalitha, Karunanidhi and the evolution of caste politics in Tamil Nadu and the central roles that Tamil films played. We get a peek into Jayalalitha’s personality and political style through Vaasanthi.


This interview was recorded in 2016 when Tamil Nadu had just held its state elections, where Jayalalitha’s party failed to win the elections. At a personal level Jayalalitha did well in the 2016 elections. Don’t write off Jayalalitha yet she says. Vaasanthi was right. A few years later Jayalalitha won the elections and became the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.

This interview was originally published in May 2006.

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