Masala vadai and some movie magic

Producer S Thanu opens up about his growing up years in Old Washermanpet and his mother’s cooking

April 19, 2017 02:45 pm | Updated August 08, 2017 05:06 pm IST

producer and distributor S Thanu at his office serving non vegetarian food to his guests on 12 april 2017.

producer and distributor S Thanu at his office serving non vegetarian food to his guests on 12 april 2017.

Producer and distributor S Thanu takes great pride in saying he grew up in North Madras — his father had a tin factory in the area — and has fond memories of Old Washermanpet. “I have cycled all over the locality and used to enjoy flying kites,” he says. “Growing up in North Madras has made me gutsy.”

He used to excel in oratory and dramatics in school. Local politicians invited to the school’s cultural events used to award him money in appreciation.

North Madras means access to the best seafood, and Thanu’s mother was good at preparing various types of seafood. Her speciality was era thokku (a prawn dish). “More than the dish, I loved the kadaai soru she used to prepare by adding hot rice to the vessel in the thokku had been cooked ; even now, when my cook prepares this particular thokku, he makes kadaai soru for me, without fail.” He continues: “The taste of my mother’s mutton kadalaparuppu kootu still lingers; she would combine mutton with semi-cooked Bengal gram, drumstick and garam masala. My wife learnt it, but after her demise in 2001, no one cooks that dish anymore,” says Thanu, who is an expert in making dosa . When his daughter was younger, he would assist her in cooking.

The producer, who leaves his MRC Nagar home every day by 9 am, goes to his daughter’s house in T Nagar, has breakfast with her and his son-in-law before heading to office on Prakasam Street. Since his wife’s passing, Thanu has lunch and dinner there; his guests and his sons join him for lunch.

Thanu is particular about serving food to his guests — the menu is based on his suggestion — and elaborates upon every dish. Every Wednesday, there is a non-vegetarian spread.

Thanu recalls how he entered film distribution. “When I was around 18 or 19, my friends and I would sit in the local barber shop and chat for hours. Senior film distributors such as Chinthamani Murugesan and his friends also used to frequent the place. Those days, re-releasing of old films was in vogue. I started voicing my opinion on which films can be re-released. Soon, I started re-releasing films myself. I entered film distribution with Rajinikanth’s Bairavi , and, in 1984, I started my production house by launching Arjun-starrer Yaar .” Incidentally, it was Thanu who gave Rajinikanth the moniker Superstar. when he took up distribution Bairavi . “I was astonished when I saw the stills of the film and started using ‘Superstar nadikkum ’ during promotion of Bairavi ,” Thanu says.

Non vegetarian lunch served every wednesday at producer Thanu's office in t nagar

Non vegetarian lunch served every wednesday at producer Thanu's office in t nagar

The only time Thanu travelled extensively — for over two months — was in 1995, when he went to Las Vegas to attend the NAB 95 exhibition, and to many places in the US, the UK and Europe for over a month. “I survived on fruits and bread-omelette and terribly missed home food,” says Thanu, who decided to travel for shorter durations after that.

Once in a while he eats on the sets — his favourites are kal dosa with ginger chutney and masala vadai . He also loves to eat in the kaiyendhi bhavans around Panagal Park — steaming hot idli and onion-tomato chutney. Any place in North Madras? “Of course. For vegetarian, it is Govindan Nair’s and for non-vegetarian it is Hotel Pandia’s or Bala Military Care (all on GA Road, Old Washermanpet).”

As one ages, one must eat to suit his/her health, feels Thanu, citing the example of his best friend, Rajinikanth. . “During Baasha , he would get lunch from home, and would serve me non-vegetarian dishes. By the time we were shooting for Kabali , he’d eat only vegetables and spinach.”

Thanu, who is concerned about the increasing amount of junk food being consumed by his grandchildren, rues that access has become easier with food delivery apps. “Food cooked in an earthen vessel with masala ground on an ammikal (grinding stone) has a unique taste. Sadly, the younger generation has no clue about such delicious fare.”

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