June 25, 2001



Creating History
Aamir Khan steers away from mushy romance in lush locations in his first production, Lagaan. The formula-busting period film on colonial arrogance, backed by good acting, promises to give Indian cinema a classy makeover.



Governance On
The Hold
Absent ministers, coalition politics and an unwell prime minister paralyse all decision making at the Centre. With business sentiments diving and industrial growth rate receding, the alarm bells have begun to ring.



Super Clinic Inc.
Patients will be treated as customers with some companies hoping to revolutionise the Rs 60,000-crore private healthcare market. They are setting up a chain of neighbourhood health clinics that will provide quality medical care.



Fostering Ill-will
The arrest of Jayalalitha's foster son may be linked
to the sour relationship.

Crescent Classroom
An organisation has given madarsa education in the state a communal slant.



Fostering Ill-will

The arrest of Jayalalitha's disowned foster son may be linked to a relationship that has gone sour

During the run-up to the recently-concluded assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, a shabby banner in a sleepy southern village likened AIADMK General Secretary Jayalalitha Jayaram to the "Mummoorthy", the holy trinity of creation, protection and destruction. Too preposterous, many might have thought then. But Jayalalitha's disowned foster son V.N. Sudhakaran realised in the early hours of June 13 in a rather rude way that the banner was something more than just an activist's display of sycophancy.


FALLING APART: Sudhakaran (centre) being taken to court; and (below) Jayalalitha had organised his lavish wedding in 1995



Shortly before daybreak that day, the police arrived at Sudhakaran's Chennai residence and arrested him on charges of attempted murder. The raid that followed yielded an unlicensed gun and, as the police told Metropolitan Magistrate P. Jayapalan, a sachet of heroin. The fir says Sudhakaran had threatened his former aide Gopu Sridhar "at gunpoint" for not repaying money he had borrowed from him.

In his complaint, Sridhar said Sudhakaran called him to his residence on June 12. When Sridhar went there with his assistant Muthuraman and driver Palani, the three were beaten up by Sudhakaran's henchmen. Sudhakaran flashed his pistol and threatened him, Sridhar alleged. Foul, cried Sudhakaran. He says the cases were foisted against him to tarnish his political image. An ardent worshipper of Lord Muruga, the self-proclaimed "Chinna MGR" (Junior MGR) said God would come to his rescue.

Sudhakaran, who was arrested around 3 a.m., was kept in two police stations till the morning and produced before the metropolitan magistrate, who remanded him to judicial custody till June 27. He was then taken to the Vellore Jail by road. Later in the day, Sudhakaran's father T. Vivekanandan was also arrested on the basis of the same complaint. Cases were also filed under several sections of the IPC, including Section 307 (attempt to murder) and Sections 20 (1) (B) (A) of the Arms Act. And later under Section 25(1)(D) of the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.

If popularity makes men, Jayalalitha is Sudhakaran's undisputed creator. In 1994, chief minister Jayalalitha named the little-known nephew of her near-inseparable aide Sasikala as her foster son. That marked the beginning of Sudhakaran's meteoric rise. Jayalalitha doted on him. She had personally called on actor Sivaji Ganesan to ask for his granddaughter Sathyalakshmi's hand in marriage for Sudhakaran. The wedding on September 7, 1995, monitored by Jayalalitha herself, made national news for its lavishness. The display of wealth and misuse of official machinery was a major factor contributing to her rout in the 1996 polls. The same year saw the AIADMK general secretary publicly disowning Sudhakaran as her foster son.

But why was Sudhakaran arrested more than five years after incurring Jayalalitha's wrath? In the Poes Garden intrigue, characterised by Jayalalitha's precarious proximity to Sasikala and her family, logical explanations often fail and gossips laced with indistinguishable truth take over. Here is one: While Jayalalitha was in prison in 1996 on corruption charges and her Poes Garden residence was about to be raided, a huge sum of money was spirited away by Sudhakaran.

There are diverse opinions on the amount, from Rs 100 crore to Rs 1,100 crore, which is almost equal to Tamil Nadu's health budget. Street talk has it that the money was never returned and Sudhakaran instead launched an expensive image-building exercise.

Proclaiming himself to be MGR-reincarnate, he cobbled together a group he named the "Chinna MGR Narpani Manram (Junior MGR Fan Club)". In those days, Sridhar was a key aide of Sudhakaran. He was in charge of releasing advertisements and posters of Chinna MGR's pilgrimages, organising farewells and reception meetings for the leader at railway stations and airports and making sure that the evening papers covered "the event". Despite all this, Sudhakaran's Manram remained a nondescript outfit. With Jayalalitha returning to power, goes the theory, the pressure on Sudhakaran to return the money became insurmountable.




Pak Unplugged
Fresh-faced youngsters were cheering through qawwalis, pop songs and poetry reading at India Habitat Centre, Delhi. The occasion? A week-long workshop, "Rehumanizing the Other", was all about promoting neighbourly feelings in a period of bad press.

Looking Glass

Mumbai Exhibition:
"Potters in Peril"

Chennai Coffee Bar: Barista

Bangalore Resort: Angsana Oasis Spa and Resort


    Web Exclusives

The Delhi Government's campaign to clean up the Yamuna was impressive but needs to backed up by measures that can weed out the root causes of the pollution. INDIA TODAY's Special Correspondent Sayantan Chakravarty reports in Long Drive



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