Strange as this may sound, but in most world cities, the southern parts develop faster than the north. They also tend to be swankier and upmarket. South Mumbai, South Kolkata and certainly South Chennai are far better than the northern areas, and also attract – well naturally – a classier lot of people.
Some of the finest bhadrolok or gentlemen live in South Kolkata – though I dare say that North Kolkata has its great Calcutta University, Presidency College and so on, as well as its celebrated Coffee House -- shabby looking, yes, but it used to attract a motley group of men and women who were just brilliant in every sense of the term.
It is the same with Chennai, whose southern localities are far more advanced and have, for decades, drawn luminaries of every kind. Some of the most renowned institutions, like the Kalakshetra and Theosophical Society, are on the southern fringes of this metropolis. There is even a huge concentration of IT firms there.
In comparison, North Chennai has been terribly under developed and crowded with the poorer classes. Worse, it has been associated with crime, even organised crime.
So, like the cinema of yore that believed in social causes and promoting communal harmony, patriotism and other great values, two Tamil films – Madras and Bhooloham – which are about to hit the screens -- will depict North Chennai in a glowing and positive light. Interestingly, they will be opening at about the same time when Chennai will be celebrating its 376th birth anniversary on August 22.
Bhooloham, with Jayam Ravi and Trisha, will weave a story around boxing, a sport that was once popular in the northern parts of the city.
The director of Bhooloham, Kalyanakrishnan, said that some of Tamil cinema’s legendary actors, such as M.G. Ramachandran (who was also the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu) and Sivaji Ganesan, had patronised North Chennai boxing matches. There were fierce rivalries and healthy competition between several “boxing” families in North Chennai. Maybe a bloody sport like boxing could have sown the seeds of the kind of violence we see there now.
P Ranjith’s Madras, starring Karthi, will zero in on how North Chennai has been abused and enslaved by party rivalry and politics. Ranjit averred that Madras would also tell us how the poor and the downtrodden in North Chennai had managed to remain positive and cheerful despite their many handicaps. “The movie will document the aspirations and desires of the youth living in slums,” he said during an interview.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran has been living in Chennai since the past three decades.)