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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

landmarks of Chennai - Walltax Road (VOC Salai) - Padmanabha theatre

The other day, travelling on Walltax road – saw this old building – which looked like a religious place at first sight – it is not to be – and the whole area once was a beehive of activity was later understood. 

Wall Tax Road renamed after Kappal Ottiya Thamizhan (VO Chidambaram Pillai) and now VOC Salai, runs adjacent to the big landmark – the Central Railway station bordering the Sowcarpet / erstwhile Georgetown area. The road was named after the wall built as a protective measure by the British in 1772–1773, which still remains partially. It is stated that when the  road was completed, the government decided to impose the cost of the newly laid road on the public in the form of tax; the subjects refused and it was never paid, though it gave the road the name.   So clearly this is centuries old road – part of a long colonial history.  The French occupied the Madras city for a brief while, taken back by the British, which strategically strengthened the city – the wall here once was known as black town wall.  Reportedly, the wall ran from Cochrane Canal on north to Poonamalle High Road- Central Station junction on the south.  One of its gates was  Elephant Gate locally known as Yaanai Kauni.  In the vicinity was the Mint, Salt cotaurs, Govt printing press and more.  There are many bamboo vendors on the road who have been in business here for decades. 

Buses from Tamilnadu to Andhra (especially Thirumala Tirupathi) have been running successfully for long.  While TN State Corporation buses used to start from MUC / Terminus opp to Esplanade (High Court) and Broadway, the Andhra Pradesh bus stand (APSRTC) used to operate from this road – before CMBT changed the traffic flow  of the city. 

In Kakinada, there was the Cinema road, which housed so many cinema theatres.  In the city of Madras too, cinema industry was deep rooted and the city had so much to do with Cinema.  There were many production houses, Cine studios, theatres and many distributors besides associations for artistes.  After the World wondered the moving images of Lumiere Brothers, something known as kinemascope came to Chennai.  The older ones would include Crown Talkies,Murugan Talkies etc.,  Gaiety, Casino, Chtira, Paragon, Wellington, New Elphinstone, Minerva, Star were some of the older ones.  In mid 1970s – the ones dotted the Mount road include : Santhi, Devi complex, Alankar, Wellington, Plaza, Alankar, Midlands, Anand, Saffire and more – most of which have been razed down with commercial complexes standing in their place. 

The structure seen in the photo is that of Padmanabha Theatre, which was known as ‘Regal Talkies’ in early days.  Not sure when this was closed, though it is clear by its very looks, it remains used at least for 2 / 3 years.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

14th  Oct 2o14.

1 comment:

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