V Pattabhi Ram
AMMA by Vaasanthi
I first saw the book at Crossword and was quite taken aback. What? A book within days of her demise?
As I picked the book, I realized there was everything that was wrong with it.
A book titled Amma would be shamelessly eulogistic. A book less than 190 pages, its font type and size similar to those of the Enid Blyton books you read at school hardly inspired confidence. Admittedly, the writing cannot be fast-paced. It was by an author of whom I hadn’t heard in the English fraternity, Vaasanthi. A Tamil woman writer, writing about a lady considered an icon in Tamil Nadu would never be unbiased, I told myself. It would be sycophantic, in lines with the signs of the time. Then there was the price. While I have never worried about price when it comes to books, Rs 299 appeared stiff given the demons that ran in my mind. So I finally decided not to buy it.
That night a caller asked me if I had read the book. Two days later I saw the book with a friend, picked it and read. OMG, how wrong I had been. The book was written in May 2916, wasn’t sycophantic, read wonderfully well, was crisp besides being balanced. It talks about Jayalalithaa’s early days, her wait, post-school, for her mother, and the dressing down she received on the only day she attended college at Stella Maris. It also talks about her break into films, her friendship with Shoban Babu, her yo-yo relationship and near marriage with matinee idol MGR. V K Sasikala and some of the court cases come in for reference, albeit in swift brushes.
It would have been better if the story had been more detailed considering it was about Jayalalithaa. But I am not complaining since another way to look at it is that it is an appetizer. While balanced there is a reference to Kanchi Sankaracharya, which I felt was not in good taste.
Broadly a good read.