The Hindu Lit for Life 2018

Sagarika Ghose and Vaasanthi talk about writing on Indira Gandhi and J. Jayalalithaa respectively

Sagarika Ghose,Sushila Ravindranath, and Vaasanthi.   | Photo Credit: R. Ragu

These two women are as different as chalk and cheese. But we’re here to talk about the few similarities they shared,” said Sushila Ravindranath, moderator of the first session at The Hindu Pavillion on Day 1 of The Hindu Lit for Life. Women of Steel: Indira Gandhi and J. Jayalalithaa had Sagarika Ghose and Vaasanthi in conversation with Ravindranath, on the politicians on whom they had recently authored books.

“It was one of the most difficult assignments I have ever done, as there was hardly any written material on Jayalalithaa,” said Vaasanthi. Ghose, on the other hand, had to contend with 120 biographies, innumerable TV interviews. “I was drowning in information! But I wanted to bring Indira Gandhi alive for a new generation, so the book is in the form of letters to her,” she said.

Ravindranath noted that while both women claimed that they did not like politics, they were, in fact, astute politicians. “What motivated them?” she asked. Ghose replied, “There was a duality to Gandhi’s persona: she was always striving for her father’s approval, but she was also her

mother’s protector. Her entry into politics was a riposte to Jawaharlal. She was in the ruthless pursuit of power. But the blunders she made created an extremist monster that claimed her life.”

In Jayalalithaa’s case, it was anger, particularly directed at two men: MGR and Karunanidhi. “Her politics was all about herself. An AIADMK victory was her victory,” said Vaasanthi, adding, “She didn’t groom a successor because she did not care if the party imploded after she was gone — which is what is happening now.”

Ending the conversation on a lighter note, Ravindranath asked Ghose about the film rights to her book, and who would make a good Indira. “I think Vidya Balan has the emotional complexity to play the role,” said Ghose.


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