The Madras they don’t tell you about

Novelist and scriptwriter Tamil Prabha opens up about the Chennai that’s under-acknowledged in pop culture, while sharing some details about Pa. Ranjith’s upcoming film, Salpetta

It was the familiar, annual routine on social media, last Saturday, which marked the 381st Madras Day. Odes were showered on the city, and the usual, popular jewels—the beach, Classical music and dance, filter coffee, heritage buildings, the dosa-pongal-vadai triumvirate…—spoken about with love. Writer Tamil Prabha (the co-scriptwriter of Pa. Ranjith’s upcoming film, Salpetta) has no objection to the celebration of these familiar features. He’s just wondering why other equally important, historically relevant facets find such little acknowledgement. Take, for instance, the beef cuisine the city is famous for.  Or how about Gujili songs that hold within them nuggets of the city’s truths? Tamil Prabha isn’t one for a lament, but his words drip with passion for the city and specifically, for its neglected. As he speaks with love for North Chennai—the beauty in its art forms and the sacrifices of its people—it’s impossible not to spot the yearning for wider acknowledgement of the city’s diversity.

The city’s identity, he says, is that it has no identity of its own, unlike a Thanjavur or a Madurai that was ruled by kings and has a past steeped in dramatic history. “When this city was created, it was a land of opportunity for those desperate to escape oppression and seek a new life,” he says. “Who do you think created all these landmarks: Central station, Binny Mills, the post offices… everything that we today value as heritage? But have we truly repaid them for these sacrifices, or have we simply relegated them to a corner we barely pay heed to?” This neglect, he says, has extended to any art forms generating from these localities too. “While the art of localities built around temples—like a Triplicane or a Mylapore—wears a crown of prestige and honour, what about the song and dance from places like Chintadripet and Vyasarpadi?”

(Continued in below link)

For the remainder of this column (and there’s a lot more left, I assure you), visit

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