FOR a much harassed Jayalalitha it has been the unkindest cut. While she was at the receiving end from her enemies, the AIADMK chief never expected her onetime foster son V.N. Sudhakaran to turn against her. Sudhakaran has not only distanced himself from Jayalalitha, who bathed him in crores for his wedding while she was in power, he blames her for the AIADMK debacle in the last assembly elections and accuses the former chief minister's camp of threatening his wife and child.
"After leaving Poes Garden, there has been no contact whatsoever with Poes Garden. On the other hand, I have been receiving threatening calls from that side regularly. My wife and my child are being abused over the phone," Sudhakaran told Outlook in an exclusive interview. The former foster son who also runs JJ TV, a satellite network he named after Jayalalitha, says he has found his true mission in life—working towards reviving MGR's legacy. Sudhakaran claims he has even turned spiritual, which is all part of "God's grand plan to launch him in public life".
Such is his acrimony towards the lady he once described as his guiding light that he says his "Independence Day" was August 25, 1996—the day Jayalalitha unceremoniously disowned him. This revelation is strange, coming as it does from someone who had made capital during Jayalalitha's chief ministership. Sudhakaran was considered a power centre and a part of Jayalalitha's kitchen cabinet that she ran from her Poes Garden residence.
Now Sudhakaran blames Jayalalitha and his aunt Sasikala for all the ills that have befallen him. He even alleges that the AIADMK chief had adopted him as a foster son without either consulting him or his parents: "Jayalalitha has nothing to do with my marriage. My parents talked to Sivaji Saar's (Sivaji Ganesan) family and sought his blessings. On the day of the engagement, Jayalalitha announced that I was her foster son. Neither I nor my parents were consulted before the announcement."
The out-of-favour Sudhakaran even sees an uncharitable motive in Jayalalitha's move. He alleges that she adopted him to show Sivaji Ganesan that she was the boss: "Sivaji Saar has always been a very senior and highly respected person in Tamil cinema. Jayalalitha madam had to stand up as a mark of respect whenever he entered the sets. By adopting me, she became the chief representative of the groom's side; Sivaji Saar was relegated to being a bride's emissary. In our patriarchal system, you know the power the groom's side wields in marriages."
But what about his own excesses during Jayalalitha's regime? He has his explanations. For his extravagant wedding to Sivaji Ganesan's granddaughter Satyavati, he blames Jayalalitha and Sasikala. About the extra-constitutional functioning of Super-Duper TV, the cable network arm of JJ TV, he says he could do little but obey orders. He says his newfound wealth, which investigating agencies claim are in excess of Rs 50 crore, was given to him by Sasikala and that he has no idea about the source of the funds.
According to Sudhakaran, Jayalalitha is responsible for the AIADMK's defeat and that as a true follower it is his duty to restore MGR's legacy. But does he have the political acumen to take on a task when many experienced AIADMK leaders have failed? "I had been in Poes Garden for more than three years and have been a witness to the wrong type of politics. I have learnt from the mistakes. I know how MGR's name was sidelined. Hence, by systematically and meticulously turning the clock back I can bring all MGR followers under one banner. To be a good Christian there is no need to be a contemporary of Christ, a Marxist need not have to be an associate of Marx and a Gandhian may not have seen Gandhi. Similarly, to establish MGR's legacy one need not have been of that generation".
A well-scripted reason but not everyone is convinced that Sudhakaran's tirade against his former foster mother is genuine. Sceptics point out that his revolt could well have been engineered by Jayalalitha and Sasikala—some say it is a ploy to use Sudhakaran to woo AIADMK rebels back to the fold. The former chief minister always had a confidant masquerading as her critic—Sasikala's husband Natarajan played this part once. Whether Sudhakaran has merely stepped into his uncle's shoes is difficult to tell. But for the record he would like to be known as a Jayalalitha-baiter.