Amma: Biography of Jayalalithaa by Vaasanthi
Jayalalithaa is an enigmatic personality. She gracefully ruled the two most difficult professional worlds. She was in professions that are subject to most public scrutiny. To me, she was always a mystery. A few years back I had read the biography of Mayawati and that made me respect the women politicians a lot, especially the ones who are in politics on their own. So, I was keen to read about Jayalalithaa as well as Mamta Banerjee.
Amma by Vaasanthi was a book that was banned through a court injunction when it first came in 2011. I am not sure how, but the publishers of newly launched App Juggernaut have released the book. My basic search on the Internet tells me that they have released an abridged version of the book. The original book had 320 or so pages while one that I downloaded from the App has only about 182 pages. The chapters are too small. If you live in Tamil Nadu and if you have followed Jayalalithaa’s career, you probably know all that is there in the book. In fact, the author has never really met the protagonist of her work. She traces the journey of Jayalalithaa from the publicly available sources.
As someone not from Tamil Nadu, I got a brief insight into the life of the enigmatic Jayalalithaa. I probably know a bit of her political career so to me a peep into her childhood and her early film career was interesting to read. I have always been intrigued by her relationship with MGR and the book gives some glimpses of that. And I was shocked to know that despite being in a relationship, she seems to have suffered a lot at his hands, his family’s hands and his follower’s hands. What kept her going would be a great insight as and when she chooses to share that with the world.
Poes Garden, Jayalalithaa’s house is another mystery. People who run it, people who live there and people who visit it is all a mystery. Since author also never got an opportunity to visit it, it remains a mystery. Book puts lights on some of the characteristics of Jayalalithaa like her ability to will herself to do anything. Even if she did not want to be in films, when she joined films, she gave it her 100%. The same is apparently true for her political career. As a reader, I wanted to get some insight into her challenges and how she dealt with it. I wanted to know how she made herself a leader of an extremely patriarchal society, how she managed being a Brahmin leader of a Dalit party. Most of these curiosities remain unanswered.
The author being from journalist’s fraternity gets an excellent press. I would not deny her charming ways of writing, but I needed more substance. It is entirely possible that a lot of content was lost in this abridged version.
I read it on the Juggernaut App. I regularly read books on Amazon Kindle and Google Play, and compared to either of them, Juggernaut is a big disappointment. The app did not work in offline mode. Hello, those of us who do not live in metro cities do not get 24 X 7 connectivity – no matter what the Government claims. The half of book repeated itself. There is no way to bookmark the pages. The app does not remember where I last closed the book. The highlights and notes are lost as soon as you close the book. Opening the book itself takes 10 minutes in a process that says ‘Binding the pages’. Overall a horrible experience. Hope the company puts an iota of effort they put in marketing in putting the basics in the app in place.
Take your call.