Komalavalli to Jayalalithaa: A saga of pain and success

MGR, who was her co-actor and her ideal took her to politics and rest is a long saga of adventure, struggle and success.

Komalavalli to Jayalalithaa: A saga of pain and success

Komalavalli was born on 24th February 1948 to Jayaram and Vedavalli in the holy town of Melukote, Mandya District. She grew up with living between her grandparent’s homes in Mysore ‘Jaya Vilas’ and ‘Lalitha Vilas’. Thus Komalavalli was given the name Jayalalitha.

Vedavalli was the second wife of Jayaram. Jayaram, a graduate in arts was never into any job and enjoyed his father’s money, ending up with poverty. When Jayaram died, the remaining properties went to his first wife’s family and Vedavalli had no other option than to leave Mysore in search of a decent livelihood. Komalavalli was left with her aunt Padmavalli in Bangalore when her mother migrated to Chennai. Vedavalli started acting in local drama companies to survive and subsequently was invited into films. She took on the screen name, Sandhya and continued acting in films. Though she couldn’t make it any big, Sandhya acted in some notable films in comparatively small roles. It was a never ending struggle for her to make both ends meet.


Meanwhile, Komalavalli was admitted into The Bishop Cottons Girls School in Bangalore. She would meet her mother in Madras during school holidays. During one of the visits, Komalavalli was taken to the studio where the film Sri Shaila Mahatmyam’ was being shot. The child actor supposed to play the role of goddess Parvathy couldn’t show up and the director asked Sandhya to let her daughter act. That was her first entry into the world of cinema. But the film was a flop and JJ had to wait some more time for her turn in the limelight.

When her aunt Padmavalli got married, Jaya migrated to Madras to live with her mother. She joined the Sacred Heart School and started learning Carnatic music, western classical piano and classical dance. Sandhya wanted her daughter to become a lawyer and Jaya was too convinced of that dream.

Jaya’s ‘debut dance performance was in 1960 at Rasika Ranjini Sabha in Mylapore. The chief guest for that arangetram was legendary actor Shivaji Ganesan. Shivaji was very much impressed with the girl’s performance and praised her a lot in his speech. He also urged her to enter into the world of cinema.

Though it took a while, in 1965 Jaya got and offer to act in a movie. ‘Vennira Adai’ produced and directed by CV Sridhar was her first film in a lead role. The movie was given ‘A’ certificate as an adult only film, thus Jaya, then a teenager couldn’t watch her debut on screen. The film was a commercial success and offers started pouring in.


Jaya was not keen on making a career in films and wanted to pursue her dream to become a lawyer. But, family circumstances forced her to continue with acting and she became one of the most popular heroines in south Indian cinema. She shared screen with all-time super stars like MGR, Shivaji Ganesan, Akkineni Nageshwara Rao, Jaisankar, Gemini Ganesan, Rajkumar, Krishna Murari, Sivakumar et al. She had also performed as a playback singer in more than a dozen films. Jaya acted in 142 films in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Hindi and English. Most of them were super hits and had won many awards including Kalaimamani by the Government of Tamil Nadu.

MGR, who was her co-actor and her ideal took her to politics and rest is a long saga of adventure, struggle and success.

* Jayalalitha added an extra ‘a’ to her name due to numerological reasons.