Three stars of Hindi cinema share their memories of Jayalalithaa with Subhash K Jha.
'She was a wonderful co-star': Dharmendra
Dharmendra is the only Bollywood actor to have worked with Jayalalitha, as she was known then.
"When I heard of her death," he says, "all the memories of our shooting together came rushing back to me. We had a great time. In Izzat, I had a double role. I was cast opposite Kajol's mother Tanuja, and Jayalalitha."
"We shot for a month-and-a-half in Manali. The location was lovely, the co-stars were lovelier and the food was the loveliest," Dharamji recalls.
"Jayalalitha would come on the sets with her mother and they would often bring delicious South Indian food for all of us," he remembers.
"Like Hema (Malini), she was a terrific dancer. She had good songs and dances in Izzat," Dharamji adds. "We had a whale of a time during the shooting."
Though Jayalalitha did not make another Hindi film, Dharmendra stayed in touch.
"When I would be shooting in Chennai I'd call her up. We met a couple of times. She was busy with far more important things than cinema," he says.
"Fate had chalked out a very distinguished career for her in politics. I am very proud to see how far she went in life," he adds. "She would have gone much further if destiny had not snatched her away."
"It is heartbreaking to see co-stars and colleagues go this way."
'I was bowled over by the way she spoke to me': Shatrughan Sinha
Shatrughan Sinha doesn't get impressed easily. But J Jayalalithaa was a woman he admired deeply.
"She conducted herself through the male-dominated world of Indian politics with such grace and dignity. And that hint of a smile which never surrendered to full laughter. It was symbolical of her restrained conduct in politics," he says.
"She was truly the Iron Lady of Indian politics."
"I know what her loss means to Tamil Nadu. I've seen the mass adulation that she commanded. The people literally worshipped her. She was the messiah of the downtrodden. She was charming and polite, clear in her thoughts and very, very, helpful," Sinha says.
He recalls an incident when he was India's minister of health and family welfare.
"I needed the assistance of an IPS officer whom I knew personally from the Tamil Nadu cadre. I was finding it difficult to get him transferred out of Tamil Nadu. I approached Jayalalithaaji as a former colleague and not as a fellow politician," he remembers.
"I was bowled over by the sweet, softspoken, way she spoke to me. I told her I had called not as a minister, but as a fellow actor who respected her for all the work she had done in films. She patiently and politely heard out my compliments and asked what the problem was."
"'Don't worry, Mr Sinha'," she said. "'There will be no problem. The gentleman you wish to work with will be sent to you'."
"The transfer was done almost instantly. No time wasted. That was a lesson to me."
"In Indian politics there is too much time wasted. I remember when I had approached her for this favour, her team chased me down to wherever I was to ensure I was accessible and ready for a conversation at the appointed time."
"That is the kind of team leaders need to achieve their goals."
"Women like Jayalalithaaji are born once in a while. She was an inspiration to every Indian, every Indian woman and every Indian politician."
'I wonder how that shy lady I met on the sets of my first film transformed into one of the most powerful women in India!': Hema Malini
"It's hard to believe Jayalalithaaji has gone so soon," says Hema Malini.
"She and I are the same age. I started my career with her. I was supposed to do my first film in Tamil in which she was the other heroine. The film was titled Vennira Aadai.
"It was a love triangle with Jayalalithaaji and I playing the hero's two love interests. But the director Sridhar removed me from the film after a few days' shooting. I was only 15, too young to understand the complexities of love and relationships. So I don't blame him for asking me to leave."
"The few days that I shot with Jayalalithaaji, I got to observe her very closely. I was very impressed by her grace, beauty and dignity. She came to the sets with her mother. So did I. She remained aloof on the sets and didn't speak much to anyone."
"I wonder how that shy lady I met on the sets of my first film (which I never did) transformed into one of the most powerful women in India!"
"Jayalalithaaji was not just a politician, she was the messiah of the masses. Look at the way the masses of Tamil Nadu, especially women, are mourning for her."
"She gave hope to the poor even from before she became chief minister and then after she came to power she didn't forget her pledge to help the poor. She provided free rice, televisions sets, computers, even homes to the poor. That's why they loved her."
"If you go to Tamil Nadu now, you will hear people wailing, 'Amma! Amma!'. It's as if the state has lost its mother."
"I must tell you about one of her lesser known achievements. She helped restore hundreds of temples in Tamil Nadu which were on the verge of collapse."
"To me her biggest achievement was that she took on the male-dominated bastion of politics with such fearlessness and grace."
"They tried to humiliate and cow her down in every way possible, but Jayalalithaaji was unstoppable. With every attack she became stronger."
IMAGE: Dharmendra with Jayalalitha in Izzat, her only Hindi film.