How to navigate Chennai with the movies, from MGR’s Rickshawkaran to Marina
WITH ITS colour, lights and people, Chennai is not a mere setting for our filmmakers; it is an emotion that is often woven into the storyline of our movies. Right from MGR’s Rickshawkaran to Kadhal Desam and recently, Marina, Chennai plays the protagonist. As historian Mohan Raman observes, “For a lot of directors, Chennai is where their story begins.” He cites that director C V Sridhar(Kaadhalikka Neramillai and Pyar Kiye Jaa) has at least one song shot at the Marina in each of his films.” Newer filmmakers like Anjana Ali Khan and Pandiraj continue the tradition. Read on:
1. Amarkalam | 1999 | Ashok Nagar
Recall the theatre in Amarkalam where actor Ajith lived? Shot in Srinivasa Theatre in Ashok Nagar, the movie also sees other locations like Mount Road and Marina beach. The Ajith’s 26 had a re-release to celebrate the actor’s birthday in May.
2. Angadi Theru | 2010 | Ranganathan Street
Shot entirely in T Nagar, this film portrays the lives of people who work in a textile store. Mahesh who plays the protagonist reveals, ‘‘It was my first film and I spent all my days walking into stores in T Nagar. You will never realise how your day passes there. And by the end of the movie, I ended up shopping quite a lot!’’
3. Marina | 2012 | Marina
From Pudukkottai, director Pandiraj’s Marina picturises the boys who live on the beach. “I love this city so much that I made a song (Vanakkam Chennai) based on it. I used to spend a lot of time on the beach before starting this movie and I had conversations with the sundal boys. Each one had a different story and that inspired me,” says the director.
4. Attakathi | 2012 | Avadi
Director Pa Ranjith makes a conscious effort to take up movies that have a strong Chennai connect. “Attakathi is a movie about a boy from the suburbs. He travels by bus every
day via the Avadi route and the movie also explores the local concept of ‘route thala’
(an established bully en route),’’ he says.
5.Parthen Rasithen | 2000 | Thousand Lights
This breezy love story made waves in 2000. Starring Prashanth and Laila, the movie was shot on the 23C bus route. The music for the movie, composed by Bharathwaj was a big hit. “All the songs reflect the thought process of the guy travelling in that bus. Be it Enakena Yerkanave or Kidaikaley Kidaikaley.
I composed the music, after which the lyrics were written,” he recalls.
6. Veppam | 2011 | North Chennai
Director Anjana Ali Khan says she cannot imagine a story without Chennai. “The family dynamics shown in Veppam are very similar to what happens in the slums of North Chennai. I have featured people who paint pictures of politicians on the walls or those who make cut out posters, ’’ she says.
7. Polladhavan | 2007 | Mint Street
It is based on the Italian movie
The Bicycle Thief, Kishore, who plays the antagonist, says, “Vetrimaran the director of the movie, knew exactly what he wanted. In fact, I met real life thugs from that area while shooting there. They even let us shoot in their homes.”
8. Kadhalan | 1994 | Kalakshetra
The iconic song, Take It Easy Policy, from Kadhalan in 1994 features d landmarks in the city like the Gemini Bridge, High Court and LIC Building. Also Pettai Rap, a song that introduced us to Madras baashai was partly shot in Kalakshetra dance school.
9. Goli Soda | 2014 | Koyambedu
Pandiraj turned writer for Goli Soda, a story based on the boys who live in Koyambedu. “I used to visit the market and talk to the boys. It is very easy to sit at home and complain about the hike in tomato prices but these are the people who were directly affected by it,” shares Pandiraj.
10. Chennai 600028 | 2007 | R A Puram
This movie on friendship was a blockbuster in 2007. According to Premji Amaran, one of the actors in the movie, “My brother and I grew up in R A Puram. He (Venkat Prabhu) had his set of friends who used to play cricket with him and that is how he made this movie. There is an ambulance guy and a store owner too who are his friends and their stories are part of the movie,” he shares.
11. Madrasapattinam | 2010 | Central
Recreating old Madras was not difficult for cinematographer, Nirav Shah. “A couple of pictures based on old Chennai is what we needed to replicate the areas,” he says.The movie,
a love story between a dhobiwala and a girl from London back in the 1940s, has the entire climax set outside Central railway station. The credits show a montage of how Chennai looked back then.
13. Vathikuchi | 2013 | Tambaram
The story revolves around the life of a share auto driver who takes the Tambaram-Velachery route everyday.
“We shot most of the scenes in Tambaram. It was quite difficult since the camera was fixed to the share auto and I had to drive it around. Sometimes people would flag down my auto in the middle of the shoot, thinking I am a real share auto driver,” shares Dileepan who played the hero.
14. Kadhal Desam | 1996 | Nungambakkam
The student rivalry between Loyola College and Pachaiyappa’s College is legendary. This was captured in the 1996 film, Kadhal Desam. Besides Tabu and Vineeth, the movie had Abbas who tells us, “We shot all over Chennai—right from the Port to Marina. But the experience cannot be redone today as Chennai those days had more peaceful stretches to offer for shooting than now.”