Is there a reason why there is a 'Ma' in the Madras that we've all grown up in or is it just a co-incidence? The motherly love, care, space, freedom and spirit that this city has bestowed upon us truly befit a warm tight hug from all her children either born or brought up in magnificent Madras. It can be called Chennai now, but Madras by any other name would be as dear to each one of us who have their roots here. But how is it possible to personify a city that is made up of mere bricks, buildings and buses? How can we revel in a metro that doesn't party late night, has no fair system of auto-rickshaw rates and is scorching hot for most part of the year? That's the sheer magic of a city that has been so generous in giving us a peaceful riot-free environment to live in, a city of opportunities for all possible careers and the right to bask in all the culture, music, dance, art, temples, beaches and soak in all its beauty. When the positives are much more, the negatives become insignificant and forgivable. I've had the opportunity to stay in all other major cities in the country for a brief period and loved every bit of staying there too but I've always chosen to come back to Madras like how one would just prefer to hit home by the end of day no matter how much one roams around throughout the day. It's an invisible cushion of comfort that can only be experienced if you have been here for a major part of your life and made this city your home.
Every time I cross St. Isabel’s Hospital in Mylapore, where I was born more than two decades ago, every time I whiz past Rosary Matric, the school that I studied in, every time I catch a shot of the circular Rani Seethai Hall, the auditorium where I performed my Bharathanatya Arangetram, every time I accompany my mother to the Kapaleeshwarar Koil, the temple where I sang my first Carnatic song, 'Bo Shambo' for Lord Shiva, it reassures me that I belong here and will always be. It feels like the city is very much a part of my growing up years as much as I'm even now a miniscule part of the city. Of course these landmark buildings or any other special place in Madras wouldn't be as close to my heart if not for the wonderful people behind every occasion. But there's one particular place that involved only images of people and not real people in flesh and blood and yet rekindles wonderful memories of a bygone period. The cinema halls.
Multiplexes and movie halls in malls are more a decade old phenomenon but my memories of movie outings, whistle sessions, bunking Maths tuition class (despite being weak at numbers) and catching the matinee show with school friends, watching my dream heroes with a twinkle in my rather fantasical eyes, all belong to the Devi, Anand, Woodlands and Melody theatres. It is these movie halls that fed my dreams of meeting a Raj of DDLJ someday in my life. It is these buildings screening films that inspired me to dream big and pushed me out of the cocoons of a home straight to Delhi. It is these escapades that unknowingly harbored a talent that got discovered many years later when I accidentally got into acting. It is these structures showcasing super hits that brought my family and relatives together on more than one occasion in a month.
I sometimes wonder if this city will ever be the same to me without the cinema halls where I continue to visit for specific releases, the shooting of films and songs that are made out of AVM studios, the dubbing that happens in Trinity, Orange and other theatres, the post-production work that I silently observe when it happens at Prasad lab and Gemini lab, the convenience of reaching home after shoot, the privilege of watching preview shows at Four Frames, the easy accessibility to all the channel offices for interviews and promos, the recognition that one gets from passers-by while stepping out of home to shop or eat, the opportunities that you get during a special movie-screening/ audio launch to exchange pleasantries or seek wishes from reputed directors, the knowledge that you absorb by discussing a film's nuances with technicians at the city's film festivals and the list definitely is endless. But Madras then or Chennai now, it'll cease to be special and create a vacuum if you remove all of the above from an artist's / technician's world.
Whether you're a professional in the Tamil film industry that has this city as its primary area of operation for all practical purposes or just someone who watches cinema for entertainment with interests / careers outside the film domain, all of us at some point in time have been influenced by the films or events as witnessed by this city. It has always welcomed non-residents who flock from smaller towns and villages with small pockets and big dreams of making a mark in the film industry. But what makes it even more special is when you see success stories of many aspiring talented people that this city has encouraged, when you see great movies made and 3D animation work for Hollywood films being churned from the city's studios, when you hit the halls to see a made-in-madras film with your Stella / Loyola gang of friends or when you watch a movie screening at Madras Boat Club (never mind the incessant mosquitoes that'll eat you up by the time you eat your dinner) or Madras Race Club (with all the snacks and drinks in place) or when you simply watch an old KB Classic DVD in your Abiramapuram residence with popcorn and cola along with your walking friends of Nageswara Rao Park - all of them are sure to become priceless memories of the city you lived in. The smell of the Madras mud after a light shower, the world-renowned landmarks from Marina to Mahabs, the movie halls from Sathyam Cinemas to Shanthi theatre, the craziness to get a glimpse of your favorite actor outside his Chennai residence, the studios that create the magical music of Ilayaraja Sir or ARR will continue to be an integral part of this city as much as the Cooum river or Madras Eye. No man is perfect and no city is either. But we will always love Madras the way she was, the Chennai that she is today and the city that she promises to be tomorrow. Because, as my Uncle rightly stated in the synopsis of his debut book 'The North Star', 'You can take a man out of Madras but you cannot take Madras out of him'.
This page hosts the views of the authors of the column. The views are generally about films, movie reviews, movie news, songs, music, film actors and actresses, directors, producers, cinematographers, music directors, and all others that contribute for the success or failure of a film. People looking for movies online, movie reviews, movie analysis, public response for a movie, will find this page useful.