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.
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.
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.
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.