Finding Chennai Through Tamil Cinema: Stories of Crime, Character and Redemption

never lived Chennai in my life. But I feel like everyone who was born and raised there knows it, not just Chennai. Reason: Tamil cinema. I grew up on Tamil cinema and have shaped my social experience on a deeper level. The fashion sense, the friends I chose, the inside jokes, the slang I spoke were all influenced by trends imported from the streets of Chennai through the magical screens of cinemas.

Chennai is known for the love and kindness it shows to outsiders. There is a saying, “Vantharai vaazha vaikkum Chennai” (the city welcomes and nurtures all). It was a slogan spread across generations through movies. And there was evidence to suggest there was some truth to it.what did you hear Rajinikanth, Prakash Raj and Arjun Sarja all became huge movie stars after going to Chennai. I was very proud when I learned that fact. Rajinikanth It was an export from Bangalore, Karnataka. And I was in awe every time Rajinikanth spoke Kannada so fluently and clearly.

For some young filmmakers today, the authentic Chennai experience is still about walking the quiet streets of Agraharam, sipping filter coffee, visiting the Satyam cinema, Marina Beach, and of course watching a Rajinikanth movie in a packed theater. to watch. Take, for example, the filmmaker his Vineeth Sreenivasan. He wrote and directed an adult Malayalam film called Hridayam. This movie was like a piece of memory that could hold all the fun memories he had from his college days in Chennai. filmmakers sold us through the silver screen. Beaches, cinemas, filter his coffee, Carnatic music and all the quintessential features of the city that we are used to. It lavishly portrayed the splendor of the city. It was like munching on comfort food. But is it all in the city?

Hridayam was an outsider’s experience in Chennai. The film tells the story of a young man who comes to the city dreaming of a life he could not live in his hometown. A city where you can experience new dimensions and possibilities that you cannot experience in your hometown. To the hero, Chennai represented the land of freedom and opportunity.

And then there are Hindi movies like Vivek Soni. Meenakshi SundareshwarThe film chronicles the relationship problems of a timid couple from a Tamil family. Attempts to capture the essence of Tamil culture have been poor. The filmmakers were pressed for time. The only mention of these filmmakers to the unique Tamil culture and its lifestyle seems to come from the 1968 film Padsan.

Meenakshi Sundareshwar is streaming on Netflix.

In a way, both Hridayam and Meenakshi Sundareshwar are by-products of the idea of ​​Tamil culture and Tamil nation offered by mainstream cinema. Whereas Hridayam was a dreamy and truly personal representation of the filmmaker’s memory, Meenakshi Sundareshwar is the story of someone making a film based on limited assumptions, without real-world knowledge of the subject matter they are dealing with. It is what you get when you create a

What more can a Chennai and Tamil cultural experience do than filter coffee, Carnatic music and Rajinikanth?

north chennai

Director K. Balachander’s 1977 film Pattina Pravesam was an anti-urban life film. The film was the antithesis of all those who yearned and desperately sought to experience everything a metropolis like Chennai had to offer. The film revolves around the trials family members go through as they try to build a life in a chaotic city, leaving the village a humble yet peaceful and contented life. And by the end of the film, they’re all back in their villages, learning the grim fact that the experience of an outsider doesn’t necessarily have to be as noble, joyful, and uplifting as Hridayam’s Arun Neelakandan. Cities take more from people than they give.

There was a time in Tamil cinema when the city of Chennai was portrayed as the center of all crimes. North Chennai to be exact. The ghetto in northern Chennai was portrayed as a shadow to the sun in southern Chennai. Darkness and light. If the people of South Chennai symbolized power, progress, wealth, modernity and education, its north symbolized crime, poverty, social and intellectual backwardness. It is questionable how much truth there was in mainstream representations such as must have been.

huridayam, huridayam movie Hridayam was directed by Vineeth Sreenivasan. (Photo: Screengrab/YouTube)

The stories of northern Chennai and the characters who live there were not as complicated as those who lived in other parts of the city. The character can fit either of his two broad descriptions: A, they are infantrymen who carry out hit-and-runs for the wealthy and powerful, and do not want to get their hands dirty and their crisp white linen shirts dirty. B, they are poor and undernourished. but have a good heart and soul and lack ambition. They are happy and content with their place in society. Most of the films made before the pre-Vetrimaaran and pre-Pa Ranjit eras can fit within these brackets. However, there were some exceptions to these rules.

Some filmmakers found their heroes in the streets of Vada Chennai in the early 2000s. Gemini (2002), Aaru (2005) and Cult Classic Pudu Petai To name a few. These films showed the daily lives of the gangs that controlled the land north of the Coovum River. In a way, these films celebrated North Chennai without any judgment. However, they were still the sum total of popular opinions about the proximity of life and crime in northern Chennai.

Vetrimaaran’s Polladhavan (2007) was a landmark film in terms of portraying northern Chennai on film. This part of the city was still portrayed as ruthless and unforgiving, but there was a difference.There was nuance and complexity. Not all tough men want to be rowdy. Not all households had a lump factor. The aspirations and desires of these young people were not much different from those of young people living in fashionable parts of the city.

Directed by Pa Ranjit, Atakati, Madras, Sarpatta ParavalaiHe showed me that in addition to being rowdy and violent, there is more to North Chennai.

Rungis showed that the city was not just divided into two main directions. Departments are run on multiple levels. Madras is set against the backdrop of a poor residential neighborhood. And it’s besieged by the powerful families that control the neighborhood. An infighting erupts between the leaders of his two parties, formerly of the same party. A political rivalry after a series of passionate killings turned into a nasty personal rivalry. And all this death and endless lust for blood aims to seize the most valuable real estate in the region: the Walls. It is believed that whoever controls the wall controls everything around it. So the politics of war and hate are raging.

Madras is also a film that has challenged every popular notion of North Chennai. But there are also children who want to be civil servants who serve society, talented soccer players, rappers, musicians and dancers. I’m just a normal man dreaming of having a family. Kaali becomes upset and breaks down crying when his love interest calls him a “rowdy”. That said, unlike other city-dwellers who might view that description as a badge of honor for toughness, Karli knows it’s a demeaning term and has spent a lifetime trying to be better than it. Because I know you are working hard.

Vetrimarlands Vad Chennai Further explore exploitative politics that drive ordinary people into violent rebellion. It also shows that those trapped in the ghetto are trying to help the younger generation break free from social stereotypes and live better lives.

The complexity, conflict and drama of the story of North Chennai is so vast that it provides the perfect metaphorical backdrop to tell stories of corruption, division, inequality and resistance. No wonder it remains the best muse for storytellers.

Vantharai vaazha vaikkum chennai!

Also, a theme that plagues many new filmmakers is whether Chennai will still make outsiders feel welcome and at home? Are you fast losing your most talked about personality?

Late comedy icon Vivek played an arrogant, know-it-all, dreamy young man in the film Run (2002). He came to Chennai with a dream of making it big. I hope the city is kind and supportive like everyone said, but as soon as you get off the bus they take all your valuables. And his beliefs about the city are exploited at every turn before he learns how to use the beliefs of others to his own advantage. Packed under the guise of a comedy to be done.

Maanagaram Maanagaram poster.

Maanagaram of Lokesh Kanagaraj I explored the same subject on a more serious note. The film follows migrant workers, outsiders, as they struggle to find their way around the city. It’s not easy for anyone who knows the inner workings of the city to immediately stop and help. “Why bother?” “Isn’t this your city?” Several versions of this cautionary phrase continue to be heard throughout the film.

After all, it seems that the experience in Chennai cannot be reduced to stereotypes such as filter coffee, Satyam cinema popcorn, ECR road drives and Rajinikanth movies. It’s safe to assume that your experience in Chennai will depend on the space you occupy, both physically and politically.

https://indianexpress.com/article/entertainment/opinion-entertainment/finding-chennai-through-the-stories-of-tamil-cinema-8026751/ Finding Chennai Through Tamil Cinema: Stories of Crime, Character and Redemption

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