Chennai

The river never found its place in Tamil cinema

A view of Pachaiyappa's college in the city. The Hindu Archives.  

Though the Tamil film industry completely worked out of Madras, it always had a complicated relationship with the Cooum river. Since cinema was often dominated by non-Chennaiites in the early period, film-makers had always portrayed Madras as the big bad city, immoral and decadent. The Cooum has always been portrayed as filthy and as a garbage dump yard.

“Leave alone Cooum, the earlier films have always been critical of Madras’s cosmopolitanism and the Tamil slang,” says Subagunarajan, editor of Tamil film magazine Kaatchi Pizhai. While there are many songs singing paeans about the Vaigai river, he says that Cooum never got its due. “But, to be fair to the film-makers, the river itself lost its character and sheen early in 20th century,” he says.

Film historian and actor Mohan Raman said movies did not really reflect or depict the Cooum river when it was healthy. “Today, Cooum has almost become a bad word. In some movies, we have seen characters chide others by saying that the person smells like Cooum,” he says.

Though several movies come to mind when one thinks of Cooum — Rajinikanth’s Billa, Vivek’s famous comedy track in Run and so on — actor Mohan Raman says that even movies that were shot in Cooum would not acknowledge the same in the film. “In Shakuntala, there are shots of the river which was running just behind the Newtown Studios. But, it wasn’t acknowledged in the film.”



Madras Week: Thus Spake Cooum

>Tracing the sacred roots of a river

The 18 century philanthropist Pachaiyappa Mudaliyar would bathe in my waters and then proceed to worship Lord Komaleeswarar.

>Artists' walk documents the many facets of Cooum

A group of artists had captured these facets of the Cooum river as they set out on a journey along the waterway.

>Institutions pitch innovative solutions for cleaning Cooum

A city grew on the banks of the Cooum, but did you know that they have been sites of the clash of civilisations?

>Celebrating Madras Week

Over years, Chennai’s own river, the banks on which Madras arose, 376 years ago next week, has meandered on, stoic in the face of the assaults on it.

>Madras thrived on her banks

A group of history enthusiasts has brought a fresh perspective to the image of the river.

>The scene of great battles

A city grew on the banks of the Cooum, but did you know that they have been sites of the clash of civilisations?

>For them, Cooum is not synonymous with sewer

The Cooum, as strange as it might sound to some, still remains a lifeline to many villages in Tiruvallur district.

>Cooum snippets

In the first-person account that follows, one R. Premsingh writes, “I wish to draw the attention of the Corporation authorities to the stinking smell emitted by the Cooum river.”

>Cooum: Madras' engine of growth

Nearly everything that was and is notable in the city took root along my banks, from the houses of the powerful to the centres of commerce

>Staving off the sewage threat in Cooum

Chennai Metrowater seems to be trying to actualise the big dream of cleaning Cooum river through small steps.

>What's in a name?

A group of history enthusiasts has brought a fresh perspective to the image of the river.

>When crocodiles swam free in Cooum

If you walked by the Cooum about a 100 years ago, you may just have spotted the Cooum crocodile

>Cooum: High tide of artistic expression

From cinemas and bookstores to theatre performances and architectural marvels, I have witnessed this great city reaching new creative heights over many decades.

>Chennai Corporation to play a key role in Cooum makeover

Following a resolution by the Chennai Corporation Council this summer, the civic body is set to do a study on the restoration of heritage landscape along the Cooum river.

>On Islands Grounds and the Cooum

Do you know that Island Grounds owes its name to the Cooum?

>My waters nurtured centres of learning

The Directorate of Public Instruction on my bank laid the foundation for most of the schools and colleges in the city

>The river never found its place in Tamil cinema

The Cooum has always been portrayed as filthy and as a garbage dump yard.

>Crucial decision made: Between Andhra and Tamil Nadu

So valued was the free-flowing Cooum in those days that there was a demand to carve out an Andhra State from the Madras Presidency in the mid and late 1950s.

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Printable version | Oct 21, 2021 2:39:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/the-river-never-found-its-place-in-tamil-cinema/article7566569.ece

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