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When Jayalalithaa had a crush on Shammi Kapoor, flirted on screen with Dharmendra

A phenomenon in the South, J Jayalalithaa failed to get a foothold in Hindi cinema. But from having a crush on Shammi Kapoor to romancing Garam Dharam on screen, she did have a few memorable moments.

Shriram Iyengar

Jayalalithaa Jayaram's appearance on the television show Rendezvous With Simi Garewal remains an interesting event. The episode was shot in 2002, soon after the famously private Jayalalithaa had returned to power in Tamil Nadu. The episode is rare because the former actress was refreshingly candid about the questions thrown at her.

At one point, Garewal asked Jayalalithaa if she had ever harboured a school-girl crush like everyone else. Surprisingly, she said, "Yes, indeed, I remember I had a huge crush on Nari Contractor." 

Contractor, former India Test captain, was known for his agility on the field, and his handsome and charming personality off it before his career ended prematurely when he was felled by a nasty bouncer from West Indian fast bowler Charlie Griffith during India's tour of the Caribbean in 1962.

But Contractor was not the only crush Tamil Nadu's most powerful politician had had and admitted. A Hindi film star, too, had been the cynosure of her eyes. That film star was 'Junglee' Shammi Kapoor. Jayalalithaa said, "I had another great crush on Shammi Kapoor. My favourite film, even today, is Junglee... that yahoo song...."

Sadly, despite their parallel careers in acting, Jayalalithaa never met Shammi Kapoor. Incidentally, she acted in her only Hindi film, Izzat (1968), in the same year that Kapoor delivered his Filmfare award-winning performance in Brahmachari (1968).

Jayalalithaa had a huge crush on Hindi film star Shammi Kapoor

Izzat, directed by T Prakash Rao, a Telugu film director, had the future chief minister of Tamil Nadu playing a talkative, brash tribal girl who falls for Dharmendra's suave, urbane leading man. Sadly, the film did not make a dent at the box office, ending any dreams the young actress may have harboured of repeating her Southside success in Hindi cinema.

A polyglot who could converse in five languages – Tamil, Kannada, English, Telugu and Hindi – fluently, Jayalalithaa had had a couple of trysts with Hindi cinema before Izzat came along. She had a three-minute screen appearance alongside Kumari Naaz in the film Manmauji (1962). The sequence had Jayalalithaa playing Krishna to Naaz's Radha as they performed a Bharatanatyam ballet on screen. Fair-skinned, trained in singing and dancing, naturally expressive, Jayalalithaa had the blueprint right for being a successful actress up North. What failed her was the choice of films. 

Undaunted, the actress went on to become one of the biggest box-office draws in the South for her pairing with MG Ramachandran. After her failure to make a mark in the North, Jayalalithaa went on to star in more than 100 films in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada, before embarking on a highly successful political career. 

It is ironic that the naturally expressive actress became one of the most mysterious, reserved power centres in India. In that same episode of Rendezvous With Simi Garewal, Jayalalithaa said, "I wouldn't be human if I didn't experience emotions like anger, sadness or pain. But when you are a leader, you must learn to control your emotions. You have to learn not to express your emotions openly." Few could take on the role of political leader as Jayalalithaa did.