April 03, 2010

Documenting the city in films

What were the most commonly used landmarks in Thamizh films of the 60s and 70s when the film maker wanted to establish a link with Madras?
Central Railway Station and the LIC building on Mount Road.
But there was yet another city landmark that was a favourite of our film makers.
Marina Beach.
I remember the remarkable film director Sridhar recalling his tryst with the Marina. He not only got his flashes of inspiration while strolling on the lawns of the beach or sitting there for a while, but he also shot some of his popular song sequences here.
If you are a keen film buff you may have noticed how these film makers shifted their locations as the city began to get crowded.
Besant Nagar was a new favourite. It still is. But in the 70s, the Elliots Beach and more importantly, the avenues leading from the beachfront provided quiet shooting locations for the crew.
Popular cinema also records the life and times of a city, a city quarter, a neighbourhood and of its people.
It is a social document.
So when ‘Angadi Theru’ released last week and the previews had a lot to talk about this film which is based on life on Ranganathan Street in T. Nagar, I was keen to watch this film.
Everybody who loves shopping in this city knows about Pondy Bazaar and Ranganathan Street and here was director Vasantha Balan, who had impressed with his previous film ‘Veyil’ handling a subject that may not be box office material.
‘Angadi Theru’ is a good film and a brave effort.
It documents the life of one of Chennai’s busiest shopping zones - its businesses, the owners of these ventures, the people who work there and the people on the fringe.
It documents a slice of Chennai’s life.
There is another film that should also interest us. ‘Madrasapatnam’ has attempted to set a story in this city of the early 2oth century.
If you get to watch any of these films, share your comments, particularly on the ways in which a city gets to be part of the film.

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