The city in celluloid

A classic take: Still from the movie "Madrasapattinam". Photo: Special Arrangement  

Chennai and Tamil cinema share a relationship that is older than Monte Real, one of the oldest wines. Of course, the older a wine, the tastier it is; similarly, the older a relationship, the merrier it is.

But what we know and yet fail to acknowledge is the fact that Chennai , as an entity, has great significance in Tamil cinema. Several films over the past many years have showcased the city in diverse frames.

The history of Chennai in Tamil cinema dates back to several years, much before most of us were even born. But the aura it has left behind is evergreen.

Black and white

In “Kanne Pappa” (1969), Chennai was showcased as a caretaker, embracing a lone young girl played by Baby Rani, who changes her fate and becomes prosperous. This is when her relatives, who previously abandoned her, come flocking to claim relationship. It is in Chennai that she finds meaning to her life, stumbles upon goodwill and becomes successful.

Similarly, in the 1967 film, “Anubhavi Raja Anubhavi”, directed by K. Balachander and starring Nagesh and Muthuraman, one cannot forget the famous song Muthukulikka Varrehala sung in Tuticorin Tamil lingo, shot on one of the Chennai beaches. Here, Chennai is not depicted just as a location but as a place where love blossoms.

Moving forward to 1970, in“En Annan” starring M.G.R and Jayalalitha, the song Nenjam Undu Nermai Undu was shot in different areas such as Besant Nagar, Central Station, Ripon building, LIC building and Anna statue reminding us of the city's rich heritage and culture.

In “Galata Kalyanam”, the song Engal Kalyanam was shot at Anna Nagar Tower, leading several couples to discover a perfect getaway back then.

Contemporary setting

Soon to follow were films such as “Pudhupettai”, “Madraspattinam” and “Chennai 600028”, in which all facets of the city - both good and evil - were explored In “Pudhupettai” (2006) starring Dhanush, the dark and dingy side of Chennai was explicitly captured by director Selvaraghavan.

Venkat Prabhu's “Chennai 600028” brought forth the story of gully cricket in Mandaiveli. And the most recent “Madraspattinam” revolved around a love story in Madras of 1940s between a British woman and a dhobi/wrestler, who lived along the banks of the Cooum in Guindy village.

Once again, the message delivered is subtle; love need not happen only in picturesque locations but also in a poverty-stricken place such as the banks of the Cooum. These films showcase three different facets of Chennai: filth, passion and love.

Thanks to cinema, Chennai has become more fascinating and interesting with every passing day, while at the same time clearing myriad perceptions and notions about the city. Films such as “Veppam” and “Aaranya Kaandam” left us wondering how Chennai could have a dark side despite its history and culture.

If you haven't explored Chennai, run to a nearest video library and pick some evergreen classics and watch them. You wouldn't be disappointed.

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Printable version | Aug 4, 2021 6:03:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/nxg/the-city-in-celluloid/article2365178.ece

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