Presidency College has played a supporting character in several ‘Madras films’. Apart from being used to depict a college in films, its 165-year-old building has also doubled up as the High Court, a church and police station. The climax of Kamal Haasan’s Nayakan, where Velu Naicker comes to greet his people after the court case, was shot here, and remains an unforgettable use of this location. In Mani Ratnam’s Mouna Ragam, the building was both a college and a police station in different scenes. In Thiruda Thiruda, the college turned into a Government office.
SSN College of Engineering
Ironically, the go-to location now to shoot college scenes, especially love stories with an engineering college background, is SSN College Of Engineering. With a flower-laden canopy and a fountain at its centre, the place looks more suited for students from a certain upper middle-class background, with English creeping in naturally into the dialogues. Gautham Vasudev Menon, set his recent Enai Noki Paayum Thotta here, with the protagonist calling it a place with high capitation fees, and saying the owner thought of making even more money by letting it out for film shoots. This location works just as well in song/proposal scenes.
For many filmmakers, a film isn’t really even set in Chennai if there’s no scene on Napier Bridge. What Presidency is to Mani Ratnam and what SSN College and ECR are to Gautham Vasudev Menon, this Bridge is to director Atlee. What’s interesting is how this bridge has evolved from when it was just used for an ‘establishing shot’ early on in the film. From love songs and drunk songs to interval twists and mass fights, the bridge has become quite the star in its own right, at the risk of it even being overused. In Atlee’s Theri, it becomes a symbol of justice when police commissioner Vijay Kumar uses the bridge to hang a rapist upside down from it.
GN Chetty Road Flyover
The flyover on GN Chetty Road is closed late in the evenings until early in the morning, and that makes it a sweet spot for shooting. Apart from it being aesthetically pleasing, this flyover has become an unmissable component if the scene is about Chennai’s nightlife. If it was earlier used as a place to showcase heartbroken men, with films such as 96, the flyover has become a place to show heartbroken couples too.
Karl Schmidt Memorial On Elliot’s Beach
Another favourite for romantic scenes, right from the Seventies or Eighties, is the Karl Schmidt Memorial on Besant Nagar beach. From Revathi dancing here in the rain in Mouna Ragam to the mature romance set here in the recent hit Sillu Karupatti, there’s a scene for every mood here.
For a place one associates with so many horror stories, the Broken Bridge in Chennai has been home to several iconic scenes, especially emotional ones, just before a couple decides to break up. But, in Ayitha Ezhuthu, this is where gangster Inba (Madhavan) meets Michael (Suriya), a student union leader, before the elections. From insulting each other, they end up trading blows in an unforgettable scene, which eventually changed how people see the bridge.
No list about Chennai’s shooting spots is complete without a mention of Binny Mills. Another favourite of director Atlee and Shankar, this has mainly been used to stage elaborate and colourful songs shoots or even bigger, wilder fight scenes. These fight scenes are usually clubbed together with the Railway warehouse, making it ideal for every gangster film. The rustic look of this place also ensures you don’t need too many filters for Instagram.