Simi Garewal recently released an unedited version of her Rendezvous with Jayalalitha on YouTube. While Amma’s transition from a 16-year-old naive actress to being the iron lady of Indian politics will leave you awe-struck, her brutally honest revelations will make you realize why there have been such few female politicians in the country.
As Jayalalitha explained, ”they can’t do without women in films because they need glamor, but in politics, they will leave no stone unturned to banish you” – and neither did they to Amma. Yet, she gathered every stone pelted at her to build the foundations of the pedestal she’s on today, even after her death.
On the horrifying physical assault she faced at the legislative assembly
“Nothing really was worth the humiliation I suffered when I was attacked in the assembly on the floor of legislative assembly on March 25th 1989 in the presence of the Chief Minister Mr. Karunanidhi with both his wives watching from the VIP boxes, all his MLAs and ministers physically assaulted me. They grabbed anything they could lay their hands upon – chairs, mic, a heavy brass bell on the speaker’s table. If they had succeeded on banging it on my head that day, I wouldn’t have been alive today. My MLAs saved me that day. And one of them even tried to pull at my sari. They pulled at my hair. In fact, they tore off some of my hair. They threw chappals at me, big bundles of paper, heavy books at me.
That day I left the assembly in tears. But I was also angry. I made a vow that day. I said I will never set foot in this assembly again as long as this man continues to be the chief minister. And when I do enter this assembly again, I will enter as chief minister. And I fulfilled this vow within two years. I did it!”
On living a hell of a life in the Madras Jail
“That was I think the worst moment of my life. When I look back at all the highs and lows in my life, I think that was the lowest point. Among all the prisons in Tamil Nadu, the Madras Central Prison is the worst. It’s the most unhygenic, dirtiest prison imaginable. And the place where I was kept was a condemned building. It was used as a women’s wing earlier for women prisoners. And then It was declared to be unsafe. So most of the prisoners were moved out to another prison. This was re-opened in my honor.”
“You must have seen some of these old English movies where they show these medieval dungeons. It was exactly like that – a dark dungeon. It hadn’t been swept or cleaned for years probably. There were cobwebs hanging everywhere, the growth of fungus everywhere and all kinds of vermin crawling all over the place. You could have conducted a zoology class there. Every conceivable type of insects and rodents was there. There were big severe rats, bandicoots and swarms of mosquitoes all over the place. And there was nothing in the cell, no furniture… I had to sit and lie on a bare floor. There was not even a square inch of even place on that floor, full of pits and holes with vermins coming out of each hole. It was the filthiest dismal place imaginable and our Madras Central prison is situated on the banks of Cooum river, which is nothing but an open sewer. It was stinking to high hell. I stayed there for a month.”
On how she made herself the Iron lady
“I didn’t cry. I didn’t shed a single tear. I steeled myself the moment I was made to step inside the police van. I said I will bear everything whatever comes with fortitude. I was absolutely calm, absolutely dignified. I didn’t throw any tantrums. They had spies around me and the chief minister used to call every morning to take daily reports- “Is she crying, is she upset?” They were trying to break my spirit but they didn’t succeed. It was one of the worst times in my life.”
Jayalalitha rose against all odds. She has seen the dirtiest of politics mud slung at her. She admits that she has never read a female politician being treated like this anywhere in the world. She also takes immense pride in her battling journey to become the chief minister, Amma and Iron Lady of the country.
Watch this raw, inspiring interview here: