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Watch: Let Chennai Breathe, a rap song highlighting air pollution in North Chennai

Let Chennai Breathe takes the beloved childhood game of kabaddi and turns it into the focal point of the video, as the lyrics describe how the current generation is unable to play the game enjoyed by their forefathers due to lack of cleaner air.

Written by Shivani Ramakrishnan | Chennai |
January 16, 2020 2:41:13 pm
Watch: Let Chennai Breathe, a rap song highlighting air pollution in North Chennai With hard-hitting lyrics, the video seeks to highlight the pollution faced by citizens in North Chennai.

After ‘Kodaikanal Won’t’ and ‘Chennai Poromboke Paada’, Justice Rocks has released a new video to highlight the deteriorating air quality in Chennai. Kaatha Vara Vidu (Let Chennai Breathe) is sung by rappers Sofia Ashraf and G Logan to raise awareness on the need to keep air pollution in check in Chennai.

The project, an extension of Save Ennore Creek Campaign, focuses on north Chennai where air pollution is particularly bad.

The video is conceptualised by environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman and his NGO Vettiver Collective. It depicts how residents in North Chennai are burdened by air pollution, a situation that is hindering the lifestyle and careers of several promising footballers, boxers and kabaddi players.

“North Chennai suffers from a disproportionate concentration of polluting industries and the issue of air pollution is hidden from public view since it is a working class area. We have been trying to draw attention to the fact that all the polluting industries are situated in North Chennai. Instead of healing that area, there are plans to intesify industries there,” Nityanand told

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He said he was apprised of the situation while interacting with Srinivasan, a fisherman and a kabaddi coach in North Chennai, a few years ago. Srinivasan claimed the younger generation could not play kabaddi as well because air pollution was comprimising their stamina. “With air pollution intensifying and a proposal for a mega-port by Adani in North Chennai, we were looking at ways to communicate the crisis in that area and the story told by Srinivasan became the basis for the concept of the video”, Nityanand said.

Nityanand said he opted to showcase the sport in the video as it is popular in Tamil Nadu and is easily relatable to people across India. “Besides, kabaddi requires one to hold their breath for a long period of time, which is an indicator of good respiratory health”, the environmentalist said.

The video depicts kabaddi players gasping for fresh air amid polluting industries coupled with the hard hitting lines: “We have difficulty breathing. Do our lives have any meaning left? Is air quality the reason for this?”

The grey scale video echoes the troubled sentiments of the people, painting a vivid picture that bleak times are leaving citizens’ world void of colour, while the highly industrialised locale of North Chennai in the background serves as a constant reminder of the crumbling ecosystem. “Air is equal, But pollution ain’t, There’s levels of grey”, rap Ashraf and Logan.

Nityanand urged the government to increase facilities for sports persons in the area. “Healthy air and lots of play allows a child to become a healthy adult. Air pollution compromises that since it affects the development of the respiratory function, which in turn affects the body’s physical, intellectual and emotional development.

“One of the key requirements for sports is clean air. The players here are exercising in poisoned air and playing everyday despite the pollution”, he said.

The video, which ends with a Public Service Announcement (PSA) urging citizens to ask the Greater Generation Corporation (GCC) to address the air pollution in Chennai, bows out with the lyrics, “Can’t play, Can’t run, Can’t sing, We can’t! We can’t!”, while the visuals end in a kabaddi match, with one of the players gasping for breath and ultimately losing the match.

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