Valentine’s Day is over, but those wanting to steal a quiet moment together could visit some locales in Pondy where songs and romantic sequences from the latest Tamil films were shot. OLYMPIA SHILPA GERALD writes
The sight of a camera on a crane is a common sight in Puducherry, so if you’re lucky you might find yourself cast as an extra in a film. While Puducherry once had the reputation of being a jinx for Kollywood, in the last decade, every other film has found a reason to capture this pocket of melting cultures and landscapes on camera. Bollywood and Hollywood too have not lagged behind.
So, if Pondy is a director or cinematographer’s muse when it comes to shooting romantic duets, we too can draw inspiration from several film songs. Here goes, but this is by no means an exhaustive list…
Say something: Aayi Mandapam — Bharathi Park
This is no Central Park in New York, but if you’re the type who looks for parallels between Paris and Puducherry, then the Aayi Mandapam, that glistening white monument, which you glimpse through all the foliage, is our equivalent of the Arc de Triomphe. Lyrically, the park has a touch of the poetic, being named after Bharathi, a man whose love poems are no less unrivalled than his verses on women empowerment or patriotism. And it is right on top of the list of Pondy’s favourite haunts, if you leave out all the beaches.
Many a climactic scene has been canned here but it is often the set for romance, even if it is as relentless as seen in the recent Ajit-starrer Arrambam, where Arya pursues Taapsee. The scattered sculptures you stumble upon, paved pathways under a canopy of trees, stone benches set among wildflowers in bloom — they’re all perfect for saying the right words or sometimes, saying nothing at all!
Playlist: ‘En Fuse Pochu’ from Arrambam, ‘Aadatha Aatamellam’ from Mounam Pesiyadhe and ‘Ennamo Edho’ from Ko.
Stroll the Streets in the French Quarter and Heritage buildings
Maybe it’s the cobbled (now almost split open) paths; maybe it’s the cascading bougainvillea peeping over arched doors in bright red, pale green and brilliant blue. Or perhaps it is the wooden balconies or that indescribable Gallic touch. Or perhaps it is just how this part of town wears its colours. Come on, how often do you find a quarter where buildings are a lovely shade of pink?
The streets dotted with colonial buildings and the little boutiques set in every lane are perfect for walking, biking or driving. Stroll down the mustard buildings with the classic grille windows like Suriya and Tamannaah in that popular duet ‘Vizhi Moodi’ from Ayan. What about a bicycle meant for two? Cycle through Romain Rolland or Rue Suffren with their leafy glades and sea-facing heritage buildings, including the Notre Dame des Anges (a preferred shooting spot) like Jyothika and Bentley Mitchum in Little John. If you’re lucky enough to get a convertible like the lead pair in Leelai, then hum away ‘Ponmaalai Pozhuthu’and stop for a cuppa and croissant in a café. If a heritage hotel or a guesthouse graciously lets you enter its walled courtyard, then go ahead and take a leaf right out of the hero Shiv Pandit’s book. Serenade your loved one on a trellis covered balcony! If you want to keep it simple, take inspiration from the Suriya-Simran duo, sauntering through the cobblestoned streets singing ‘Mundhinam Paarthene’.
Playlist: ‘Ponmaalai Pozhuthu’ from Leelai, ‘Mundhinam Paarthene’ from Vaaranam Ayiram, and ‘Vizhi Moodi’ from Ayan.
A moment for two: The Promenade and Gandhi Thidal
A charming esplanade with the iron-grey blue sea on one side and a row of historical structures that each tell a tale, on the other… what more could you ask for? The Lighthouse, the square where Gandhi stands silently, and the Unknown Soldier have featured in many a frame. The Promenade with its stone seats, the sea-facing old port which is Le Café today, and the glinting smooth black rocks provide many a cosy nook. Get down on the rocks like the lead pair in Little John or share a book and snack like the duo in the lilting ‘Idhu Varai’ in Raman Thediya Seethai or grab a cup of coffee with the sound and sight of the waves just ahead of you.
Playlist: ‘Lady Don’t’ in Little John, ‘Idhu Varai’ in Raman Thediya Seethai and ‘Anbe En Anbe’ in Mounam Pesiyadhe.
Jig of joy: The Pier and the rocky stretch
There’s a lot of geometry which makes for great aesthetic appeal on camera at this spot — the vertical arm extending into the sea, the pillars and beams that form a series of concentric rectangles and the smooth stretch of wide rocks, almost geometrically arranged smooth rocks. Director Ang Lee used the pier for a poignant brief moment in Life of Pi — when Pi bids adieu to sweetheart Anandi. But filmmakers down South have used this spot for moments of joy and excitement. Like the antics of the trio in the song ‘Kaatril Eeram’ where the beams of the pier are the scene for much frolic and fun. If you watch your step, perhaps you can do a Suriya in ‘Vizhi Moodi’, hopping over the black rocks fringed by white surf, in the first flush of love. The beaches have also famously starred John Abraham-Bipasha Basu in the steamy Jism.
Playlist: ‘Kaatril Eeram’ from Veppam and ‘Vizhi Moodi’ in Ayan, ‘Uyirin Uyire’ from Kaakha Kaakha.