Madras Day is celebrated every year on August 22, which is the city’s founding day. In the year 1639, a sliver of land where St. Fort George stands now was transacted on the same day, by the East India Company. Here is a list of songs that not just glorify the city and its inhabitants but also raise some very pertinent thoughts about its lifestyle and development.
1. Madras Nalla Madras
This iconic song from 1967 movie K Balachandar movie Anubavi Raja Anubavi is a classic thanks to the M.S.Viswanathan’s catchy tune and Kannadasan’s descriptive lyrics. Composed as a narrative vehicle, the song was sung by the veteran TM Soundarajan. One of the earliest songs about Madras, it beautifully catches the ironies in city life. Filmed on the lanes of Madras, it has Nagesh charting his experience in the big city for the first time. While it doesn’t glorify Madras, Kannadasan’s lyrics aptly ask some thought provoking questions and points out the conundrums that every Chennaite would still be able to relate.
2. Madras a suthi paka poren
Surprisingly, the next song to be explicitly about the city was “Madras a suthi pakaporen” in the 1994 film May Madham. Composed by AR Rahman, it is tough to miss this song when you think about the city. Vairamuthu’s lyrics shine with humour and the song gives interesting insights to the Madras life with lines such as “Madrasin Hero Athu Metrø Water, Aanaa Štylnaa Ippø Kudi Mineral Water” (The hero of Madras is Metro water but the style now is to drink mineral water) or “Cinema Paithiyam Èndraal Madras, Kaathal Paithiyam Èndraal Madras” (Madras is for the movie addict, Madras is for the lovers).
3. Vanakam vazha veikum chennai
Another song from the tourist angle, this song is a bit sinister when it comes to its description of the city. Part of the 2012 film Marina directed by Pandiaraj, it succinctly expresses the love/hate relationship that Chennaites have with the city; or which an outsider acquires when they come here; we crib about the city but long for it when we leave it.
Tamil Nadu has a popular tagline that outsiders might not know. The city is described as ‘Vandharai vazha veikum Tamizhagam’, and Chennai is the best example you can get. Girish G’s music brings late Na.Muthukumar’s lyrics to life as it beautifully describes the journey of migrants in the city, tamil or non-tamil, from being an outsider to making Chennai their home.
4. Chennai city gangsta
Composed for the movie 2013 Vanakam Chennai, this song has become the anthem for every young Chennaite. Composed by Anirudh Ravichandran, the lyrics were written by rappers Hard Kaur and Hip Hop Tamizha Adhi. This is the song that Chennaites have ready in hand as an answer to our north Indians, who crib about life in Chennai. A tribute to an average youngster’s life in Chennai, this track is incredibly popular even today.
5. Enga ooru Madras
Part of the 2014 film Madras’s soundtrack, this song brought North Chennai back into cinematic narrative. The movie which was itself shot extensively in North Madras, earned a lot of accolades for its focus on that part of the city which had been reduced to mere stereotypes on screen. With references to stage shows, gaana patu, football and politics, the robust Chennai spirit in the song adds to Santhosh Narayanan’s music.
6. Porambokku paadal
Chennai is almost synonymous with Carnatic music. And, who said Carnatic can’t be contemporary? A brilliant Carnatic piece sung by classical singer T.M.Krishna, Kaber Vasuki’s lyrics question decisions that led to the infamous Chennai floods.
A political commentary on the city’s growth, the song broke a very important musical shackle – using Carnatic music for contemporary issues, which is how music was used in ancient times. It was released as an independent song by the Vettiver collective.