P. Murahari, retd. assistant commissioner (in-charge), Corporation of Chennai, recalls among other things, how he saw N.T. Rama Rao.
I am 68 years-old now and Madras has changed drastically in my lifetime itself. As a child, my younger brother used to run off to the end of our street in Poonamallee and would wait endlessly for cars to pass by as sighting one was very rare. Movies too were promoted very interestingly. When the movie ‘Town Bus’ starring Anjali Devi and M.N. Kannappa released in the 1950s, a model bus made of aluminium was built and a photo of M.N. Kannappa was placed in the driver’s seat and Anjali Devi’s photo was placed inside the bus. This was pulled around the streets for promotion.
Most of my memories of Adyar and its neighbourhoods are of the period between 1962- ’72 when I worked as ‘overseer’ and was in-charge of Adyar. The division limits of Adyar were the Adyar River in the north, the sea in the east, the city limits in the south (the signal after Thyagaraja Theatre in Tiruvanmiyur), and the Buckingham Canal in the west. Lattice Bridge Road was known as ‘Palagai Varavadhi Road’, and this was the only road that led to Mamallapuram in those days. One actually had to cross a wooden bridge to go there. The bridge in Muthukaddu was constructed much later. I also vividly remember watching boats go past on Buckingham canal carrying salt and other items while crossing the bridge near Cancer Institute in Adyar in the early 1960s.
We used to visit the division on cycle, and we got a monthly cycle maintenance allowance of Rs. 8. As part of our daily routine, we had to inspect the Urur Water Supply Pumping Station which was located on Vannanthurai Road. From this road, we could see the Schmidt Memorial on Elliots Beach as there were no buildings between then. Just sand. While it was common to see a lot of foreigners on Elliots Beach, Marina Beach was frequented by locals because there was no bus service to Elliots Beach. There were thatched huts on the beach which provided shade to those visiting the beach and these were maintained by the families of fishermen from Olcotkuppam. In those days, a small stage was erected at the Marina Beach and the AIR news bulletin would blare on a speaker. Many gathered at 4.00 p.m. to listen to news on the radio.
We used to see a lot of movie shootings along the banks of the Adyar River. The most memorable of them was when I saw N.T. Rama Rao. He was sitting on a chair dressed like Lord Krishna and was reading The Hindu with his spectacles on. When the shot was ready, he got up and acted in a scene where he was searching for someone. Done in a matter of minutes, the actor got back to his chair, wore his spectacles and got back to the newspaper.
It is also interesting to observe how land usage has changed drastically since the 1960s. M.R.C. Nagar was full of Casuarina trees and the area where the present-day Karpagam Avenue and Police Quarters are located, was part of the backwaters. The vacant land in the vicinity was used by those learning to drive.
Many assistant overseers who were appointed during the British Period still came to office with a big moustache, wearing a white half-sleeve shirt inserted in khaki half-pants, donning khaki hats.