METRO PLUS

The French film city

One of the earliest road films to be made in Tamil, Thirumalai Mahalingam’s Madras to Pondicherry (1966), went on to become a hit. The plot revolves around a young girl (played by Kalpana) running away from bad guys in a bus headed to Puducherry from Chennai. The hero (Ravichandran) falls in love with her in the bus. The film was one of the popular comedies of its time, and the character of ‘Pakoda’ Kadher became popular.

Many Tamil films have been shot in this Union Territory, just a two-hour drive from Chennai, thanks to the ECR (East Coast Road). Some films just portrayed the town beautifully, while others had scripts set in Puducherry for a reason. Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning film, Life of Pi , was partly set in Puducherry, and garnered a lot of international attention for this coastal town.

KP Jagannath’s anthology Raman Thediya Seethai (2008) had one episode set here. “The visual beauty of Puducherry fascinated me. The French architecture, street planning, beautiful roads... Its spectacular beach road is high on aesthetics. Had it been an island, its beauty would have been much appreciated, but its proximity has made it merely a party land,” says Jagannath.

He chose Puducherry to unfold the love story of Nedumaran, the visually challenged RJ. “Puducherry was best suited to portray the dignity, courage and self-confidence that the character displays, and the landscape enhanced the power of the role even further. There was no way I could shoot a visually challenged man walking confidently on the road in Chennai. I always believed that it was a place full of intellectuals, and therefore best suited for the love story of Nedumaran and Tamilisai,” he says.

M Rajesh’s directorial Oru Kal Oru Kannadi (2012 ) had the hero Udhayanidhi and his friend Santhanam take a road trip to Puducherry, to attend the wedding of his ex-girlfriend, Hansika. “At the scripting stage itself, I had set the climax in Puducherry. The hero had to make a road trip, and Puducherry’s proximity was best suited for the purpose,” says Rajesh. The perpendicular roads along the Ashram area, the yellow-and-blue paint of the heritage buildings and the aura of the French colony are his favourites.

Rajesh says that more recently, Vignesh Shivan’s Naanum Rowdy Dhaan, starring Vijay Sethupathi and Nayantara, made optimum use of the location. The protagonist’s name was ‘Pondy’ Pandi. “Puducherry was weaved into the script intelligently, and detailed painstakingly, including the police uniform, which is different there, and the song ‘Thangamae’, which captured the most scenic spots.”

“When I think of the word holiday, I am always reminded of Pondicherry,” says Kalaprabhu, who shot his latest Gautham Karthik-starrer Indrajith there. That’s probably why the five days of shooting his latest flick there felt like a breeze. “I could not have even imagined shooting an elaborate and crucial segment of the film — a car chase — in Chennai. But I managed to get that done on the main road in Pondicherry, thanks to the cooperation of the public. The onlookers and residents there love watching shoots and that helped too.”

Naan Puducherry le ella kovilleyum pichai eduthu irukken (I have begged in almost all the temples in Puducherry),” says Vijay Antony, whose blockbuster Pichaikaaran was mostly shot there, as were some segments in Salim and one song sequence in his upcoming Annadurai . He says he has no favourite locations there, however, as he has never had time to explore the town.

“It is practically impossible to shoot with big stars in Chennai, as traffic will be disrupted and there will be too much disturbance from the public. Most importantly, getting Government permission is easy in Puducherry, and as they are favourable to shootings taking place, there are no restrictions regarding shooting timings,” says Rajesh. However, there are restrictions for shooting at the beach in the mornings (5 am to 9 am) and evenings (5.30 pm to 10.30 pm).

The directors also say that the location charges are less and hotel accommodation is cheaper. The rates vary between Government property and private. For example, a dilapidated mill, usually used for action sequences, is privately owned.

“This mill is one of the most convenient locations for shooting scenes that are to be shot on the road, as shooting on the road is not permitted in Chennai and other big cities. Both the Government and the local people are cooperative, and shooting goes on without any hassles, as people are so used to seeing cinema crew all the time,” says Antony.

In En Aaloda Seruppa Kaanom , KP Jagannath shot a segment in Puducherry. “I selected this bridge built during the colonial period at Manjakuppam in Puducherry. It is a one-way bridge, and plays a significant role in the film itself.” Antony, who has signed up for a yet-to-be-titled film after completing Kaali , plans to shoot it entirely in Puducherry.



Bittersweet

Days before they won the Oscar for their much-acclaimed visual effects inLife of Pi, Rhythm & Hues Studios declared bankruptcy.

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