Madras gave a reception fit for a Queen in 1961 – The Hindu

Chennai News

Not many know that the Queen Elizabeth II arrived in Madras decades before the much spoken about 1997 visit to the sets of actor Kamal Hassan’s film Marudhanayagam (which never got made), when the city had got its new name Chennai.

Rewind to February 19, 1961. Thousands of people dotted the city’s roads along the 30-km route from the Madras airport in Meenambakkam to the heart of the city to give a spectacular welcome to the Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh when they set foot here.

“Many said that such a reception had not been accorded in living memory to any visiting foreign dignitary. It was unique both in its magnitude and warmth,” The Hindu’s report dated February 20, 1961, said.

Queen Elizabeth II interacting with some of the families at quarters of the Integral Coach Factory at Ayanavaram on February 20, 1961. The then Union Minister for Railways Jagajeevan Ram is at left.
| Photo Credit: The Hindu Photo Archives

Flavour of the city

Be it a long “sightseeing” drive through the city to get a glimpse of Marina, Adyar, Fort St. George and War Memorial or experiencing magic of Nadhaswaram maestro Karakurichi Arunachalam, performances by dancer-actor Vyjayanthi Mala, Padmini and Ragini and numerous folk dances, Queen Elizabeth II truly experienced different facets and flavour of the city. As part of this tour, the Queen visited the Integrated Coach Factory and was mighty impressed with the modernity.

She made a quick visit to a worker’s home too and asked the women in the household about the way they arranged condiments in their kitchen and whether they used firewood or charcoal.

A replica of the Rippon Buildings, the headquarters of the then Madras Corporation in silver, being presented to Queen Elizabeth II at a children’s rally at the stadium in Madras on February 21, 1961.
| Photo Credit: The Hindu Photo Archives

Second visit

After this brief brush with the Queen, the city once again played host to her 36 years later.

During this outing, the Queen was treated with a taste of south Indian art and culture, with a visit to Kalakshetra, a 25-minute tour to Ekambaranathar temple in Kancheepuram, a view of the demonstration of silk weaving and the shooting of the film, ‘ Marudhanayagam’.

On October 16, 1997, the Queen, who was seated in a special enclosure, saw the shooting of a scene from this film.

Actor Kamal Haasan showing Queen Elizabeth II around the sets of his film Marudhanayagam at the M.G.R. Film City on October 17, 1997.
| Photo Credit: The Hindu Archives

According to The Hindu’s report, “[TMC founder and Congress veteran] Mr. Moopanar sounded the clap-board for the shot, in the backdrop of a fort, while [Chief Minister] Mr. Karunanidhi performed the “switch-on”.

The Queen exchanged pleasantries with some of the invitees such as actor ‘Sivaji’ Ganesan. Mr. Cho Ramaswamy, Amrish Puri and Rajinikanth.”

On Friday, actor Kamal Hassan reminisced of the Queen’s visit to the sets of Marudhanayagam and said, it was perhaps the only film shoot she attended.