Speaking of talented women performers, here’s a story based on a real-life actor-turned-politician in India. J. Jayalalitha served six times as the Chief Minister of the state of Tamil Nadu for over fourteen years between 1991 and 2016. This was after a successful film career from the 1960s onwards with over 140 movies to her name. At 43, she was the youngest to rise to that political office. And the most charismatic to date. People worshipped her like she was a living goddess. Despite the many legal cases against her for corruption and more, in the eyes of her people, she was always “Amma” or mother. Bhanoo imagines her average beginnings as a schoolgirl and then the quick rise to movie star and political legend. Told through the eyes of a former classmate, the narrative is about humanizing and finding some parts of ourselves in such a larger-than-life figure.
First published in Granta online, August 2020, and available to read here