From videographer to CM, Sasikala’s complex journey to the top

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Sasikala Natarajan, a close friend of the late Jayalalithaa, the general secretary of All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the next chief minister of Tamil Nadu, owes it all to one IAS officer. Tamil Nadu would not have known Sasikala if not for Chandralekha, an IAS officer who introduced her to Jayalalithaa.

Sasikala Natarajan

Born in 1957 in the Thiruthuraipoondi area of Thanjavur, Sasikala's life saw two major turning points. One was after her marriage to M Natarajan, the other was her introduction to Jayalalithaa. At the time of Sasikala's marriage in 1973, Natarajan was an official with the state department of information and public relations. Their wedding was presided over by then chief minister and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam patriarch M Karunanidhi.

At a time when video cassettes were the best way to reach a wide audience, Natarajan prudently set up a rental video store with Sasikala. This was the birth of Vinod Video Vision, a video cassette rental and video recording shop, in Luz Corner in Mylapore in the early 1980s. Sasikala, who could easily work a camera, started shooting political rallies.

In 1984, V S Chandralekha, an IAS officer, helped Sasikala get a contract to videograph Jayalalithaa's political meetings. A thoroughly impressed Jayalalithaa, the then propaganda secretary of the AIADMK, made Sasikala a regular at her meetings. This was a 'road to Damascus' moment for Sasikala who today, never having fought a single election, is set to reign over Tamil Nadu.

Despite being ousted from Jayalalithaa's residence twice, Sasikala always managed to find her way back. Choosing Jayalalithaa over her family, Sasikala trudged along into Poes Garden as an ardent loyalist. An accused alongside Jayalalithaa in the disproportionate assets case, Sasikala has been likened to a mother by Jayalalithaa in one of her interviews.

"Sasikala is a much misunderstood and maligned person who is being targeted for being loyal to me," Jayalalithaa had said in an interview. Sasikala was the only person who had full access to Jayalalithaa in her last days at the Apollo Hospital and this proximity became allowed her sudden political rise and near-complete dominance in the AIADMK.

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