Post the era of historical and mythological films, Tamil movies had a major transformation with filmmakers like K.Balachander, Sridhar, C.V. Rajendran and A.C. Thirulokchander making their foray into K’town in late 1960s. The films they made had socially relevant themes and were mostly shot inside hugely erected sets in the then top studios of Madras like AVM, Vijaya Vauhini and Prasad. Reportedly there were 20 studios in Madras and now most of them are converted into marriage halls, residential apartments and star hotels.
Not only Tamil cinema, Kodambakkam more so known as Kollywood now, was the hub for the entire south Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada and Hindi cinema shootings. However, if the story demanded to portray outdoor locations, the makers mostly opted to shoot in places like the Marina beach, Gandhi statue, Labour statue, Central station, Elliot’s beach, LIC building, Spencer Plaza, Lighthouse, Museum, Cooum river which were identities of the then Madras. DC takes a look at Tamil flicks, which predominantly showcased the then monuments of Madras city.
Anubavi Raja Anubavi was a 1967 comedy flick directed by K. Balachander. It featured Nagesh, SP Muthuraman and Rajshree. A man experiences a culture shock after arriving in Madras for the first time. The famous song Madras Nalla Madras from the film, which features Nagesh on screen, describes the then Madras.
Babu, a 1971 flick, directed by A.C. Thirulokchandar had lead actor Sivaji Ganesan as a hand rickshaw puller. And interestingly, post this movie in the regime of Kalaignar Karuna ndhi as CM of the state, the hand rickshaw was abolished in Madras.
NENJIRUKKUM VARAI , 1967 film, was directed by CV Sridhar. A popular song Nenjirukkum Engalukku was fully shot along the full stretch of Marina beach with lead characters Sivaji Ganesan, Muthuraman and Gopalakrishnan walking along the road sans makeup.
Rickshawkaran, a 1971 blockbuster film directed by Krishnan Nair featured MGR, Padmini and Manjula. The film had MGR playing Selvam, a rickshaw puller. It won MGR a national award, which was called Bharath Award then for Best Actor, thus crediting him as the first south Indian actor to get national honor.
Galatta Kalyanam, a 1968 rom-com film, was directed by CV Rajendran, starring Sivaji, Jayalalithaa, Cho, Nagesh, V. Gopalkrishnan, Sachu and Manorama. This is the first film Jayalalithaa acted as a pair to Sivaji. The chartbuster song ‘Engal Kalyanam Galatta Kalyanam’ was the first number shot in Anna Nagar Tower Park , which became the highlight location after the film’s release.
Aval Oru Thodar Kathai (1974) directed by K. Balachander established Madras’s LIC and Mount Road bus stops and many other locations. A heroine centric film helmed by Sujatha.
Echil Iravugal in 1982 film directed by Prof. A. S. Pragasam, starred Roopa, Prathap Pothan in lead roles. The movie was set at the backdrop of Chennai beggars.
May Matham, a 1994 romantic film, directed by Venus Balu featured Vineeth and Sonali Kulkarni in the lead roles. A song Madrasa Sutthi Parka Poren was rendered by Manorama, Shahul Ameed, Swarnatha and GV Prakash (kid voice) where Vineeth will take the heroine and a small boy in an open jeep and show around the iconic places of Madras.
Madarasapattinam, a 2010 romantic period drama film directed by AL Vijay, had Arya and Amy Jackson in the lead set in pre-Independent days when Chennai it was called Madarasapattinam. A young British lady (Amy Jackson) who visits India falls for an Indian boy from Madarasapattinam who belongs to washer man community. Though most of us do not have a very clear idea about how Madras would have looked like before 1947, art director Selva Kumar recreated the Madarasapattinam replete with Mount Road, Old Wahermanpet, haloed building of Madras Central, Buckingham Canal which once was the backbone of a very efficient drainage system of the city and Cooum that was not filthy.
Marina a 2012 comedy film directed by Pandiraj starred TV host Sivakarthi keyan in his feature film debut and Oviya in the lead roles. It cantered around boys who sell sundal, chickpeas and water packets in Marina beach.
Chittu Kuruvi directed by Devaraj Mohan had Sivakumar, Sumithra and Meera in the lead. There’s a famous song ‘Enkanmani En Kadhali’ shot fully in a bus, which stops at various vantage stops of Madras. The lyrics include ‘Thenaampettai Super Market Irangu’.
Pasi was a 1979 film written and directed by Durai. It starred Shoba, Vijayan and Delhi Ganesh in prominent roles. The film, which won two National Awards, was the first Tamil film, which was centered around the slums of Chennai.
En Annan was a 1970 film directed by Pa Neelakandan starring MGR and Jayalalithaa. The song Nenjam Undu Nermai Undu was canned on MGR riding a horse cart shot in different areas such as Besant Nagar, Central Station, Ripon building, LIC building and Anna statue.
Punnaga , a 1971 flick, directed by K.Balachander starred Gemini Ganesan, Muthuraman, Nagesh, and Jayanthi. There is a scene where all the lead characters take oath in front of Gandhi statue to remain truthful.
Madras, a 2014 political action drama film, was directed by P Ranjith. It has Karthi, Catherine Tresa in the lead. Most of the film’s shooting was done in localities in and around the northern part of Chennai namely Vyasarpadi, Kasimedu, Royapuram, Otteri and Perambur.
Kakka Muttai (2015) and Vada Chennai (2018) are some of the films, which were set in the present Chennai.