Popularly known as Amma, Jayalalitha was born on 24 February 1948 in a Tamil Brahmin family. Her paternal grandfather, Narasimhan Rengachary, was in the service of the Mysore kingdom as a surgeon, and served as the court physician to Maharaja Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV of Mysore.
She was named Komalavalli at birth.
Her father died when Jayalalitha was two years old and to support family her mother started working in films.
She won Gold State Award for coming first in 10th standard in not just her school but also in Tamil Nadu
She was a bright student.
Jayalalithaa attended Bishop Cotton Girls’ School during her initial days in Banglore. Later she moved to Chennai where she completed her education at Sacred Heart Matriculation School (popularly known as Church Park Presentation Convent or Presentation Church Park Convent).
She won Gold State Award for coming first in 10th standard in not just her school but also in Tamil Nadu. She was fluent in several languages, including Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Hindi, Malayalam and English.
Circumstances forced the young Jayalalitha to enter the film industry later.
Though reluctant to work in films initially, she had to enter film industry, But her mother always gave priority to her education.
She worked in all southern languages, and with cinema legends M G Ramachandran, Sivaji Ganesan, N T Rama Rao, Krishna and Gemini Ganeshan.
Jayalalitha was trained in classical music, western classical piano, and various forms of classical dance, including Bharatanatyam, Mohiniattam, Manipuri andKathak. She became an accomplished dancer and gave her debut dance performance at the Rasika Ranjani Sabha in Mylapore in May 1960.
Jayalalitha’s first film was an English language film, Epistle, which released in 1961 when she was only 13.
The film was directed and produced by Shankar Giri, son of the former Indian President V. V. Giri.
In 1964, when still in school, she played the lead in her first Kannada film, Chinnada Gombe.
The film was shot during her summer vacation, as she did not want to miss school.
Jayalalithaa’s debut in Tamil cinema was the leading role in Vennira Aadai (1965), directed by C. V. Sridhar in which she played a schizophrenic widow. She made her debut in Telugu films as lead actress in Manushulu Mamathalu opposite Akkineni Nageshwara Rao. Her last Telugu release was also opposite Akkineni Nageswara Rao in the film Nayakudu Vinayakudu, which was released in 1980.
Breaking Stereotypes in Tamil Films
She was the first heroine to appear in skirts in Tamil films. At a time when heroines appeared clad in saris on screen, Jayalalitha started the trend of wearing short-sleeved dresses, skirts and tight pants.
In the men dominating Film Industry Her films title used to be kept according to female lead played by Jayalalitha. Adimai Penn, Kanni Thaai, and Kannan En Kadhalan had Ramachandran as the lead male hero but the story and the title was built around the character played by Jayalalithaa.
Charisma of Jayalalitha and MGR
The movie Aayirathil Oruvan (1965) opposite Tamil superstar M G Ramachandran changed Jayalalitha life.
The two actors created magic on screen. Aayirathil Oruvan is considered one of their best films ever.
She starred in 28 box-office hit films with M.G. Ramachandran between 1965 and 1973.The first with MGR was B.R. Panthalu’s Aayirathil Oruvan in 1965 and their last film together was Pattikaattu Ponnaiya in 1973.
The magic of Jayalalitha and Sivaji Ganesan
In 1972, Jayalalithaa acted opposite Sivaji Ganesan in Pattikada Pattanama, which went on to win the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil in 1973. It fetched her a Filmfare Award for Best Actress.
They worked together in 17 films, of which 15 were declared golden jubilee hits.
Jayalalitha debut in Hindi Film Industry
Jayalalitha made her debut in Hindi film in 1968 with Izzat. Dharmendra acted opposite her.
She played a Adivasi girl , Jhumki,who in love with Dharmendra, who is far above her social status.
This movie showcased her dancing talent. But she did not make another Hindi film.
The last film she worked on, in which she played the lead heroine, was a Telugu film in 1980, named Nayakudu Vinayakudu, which became the highest grosser of the year in Telugu.
In 1992, when Jayalalitha was chief minister, she made a brief appearance in Neenga Nalla Irukkanum, in which she portrayed herself and was seen crusading for total prohibition in the state.