The bold Tamil letters that read ‘Murugan plumbers', the pickle stall named ‘Sumathi Oorugai' and the red chillies in sacks at the entrance of small shops in the market area evoke a sense of nostalgia. The image, however, is not of any of the older markets in Chennai, but one of a “Madras marketplace” that has been recreated in Mumbai, on the sets of ‘The Dirty Picture' starring actor Vidya Balan. Interestingly, this is also a reversal of the strategy used in art direction for Mani Ratnam's ‘Bombay' made in the nineties. Then, the city of Bombay was re-created on the Campa Cola building premises here in Chennai.
It is no easy task bringing alive a city's spirit in another, says Milan Luthria, director of ‘The Dirty Picture'. A team of three persons toured Chennai, Puducherry, Mysore and Ooty extensively to get a feel of the colours, designs and spirit of the south.
“Small roadside idli stalls, people selling tender coconuts and men in bicycles with piles of banana leaves… these scenes have always fascinated me,” he said.
While some portions will be shot on the sets put up at the Mumbai film city and Mehboob Studios, certain other portions will be shot in Chennai itself, at locations including the Marina beach and the race course. “It would depend on the costs involved and whether we get permission,” Mr. Luthria says.
A lot of thought has gone into this film to get the look, feel and costumes of Madras of the eighties, says the director. The ‘Dirty Picture,' which is on actor ‘Silk' Smitha's journey in the film industry, is not a sleazy film, he clarifies. “It is a happy movie that captures the glamour of that era. It has bright colours, wonderful songs and seeks to entertain the audience.”