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Vol. XXX No. No. 12, October 16-31, 2020

Chennai’s Heritage during Covid-19

By The Editor

I first got a call from L. Ramachandran immediately after the lockdown was lifted. He was a photographer he said, and he had been going around the city between March and June 2020 taking pictures of various places. He had shown the collection to Mr. N. Ram of The Hindu, who he said had asked him to contact me.

I was so caught up in work thereafter that I quite forgot about my promise to meet him. And then one day in September, a hefty package from Ramachandran arrived at my residence. It took quite an effort to lug it to my study and there I opened it.

Inside were two volumes of a glossy book – all in black and white. Titled Chennai to Madras, each part had around 230 pages containing what can only be described as magnificent photographs of Chennai’s built heritage. They were all portrayed in grandiose isolation – can you imagine a Central Station or a Kapaliswarar Temple without people? Or a Kasimedu harbour with all the boats neatly lined up and no one in sight? This is Ramachandran’s contribution to our city – a visual record of our monuments and historic buildings during lockdown.

While perusing the books, and they were so beautiful that they demanded immediate attention, I was constantly reminded of Biswanath Ghosh’s Tamarind City. In it he pauses to leaf through S. Muthiah’s Madras – Its Past and Present and notices how the old photographs have hardly any people in them. He then wonders about it. Who would have thought then that the scenario would repeat itself in 21st Century Chennai?
I called L. Ramachandran at once and we met up thereafter. He gifted me with a few blow ups from his Chennai collection. During the course of my chat I discovered that he is a fashion photographer, and apparently the only one from India to be approved by Playboy. From there to capturing our buildings on camera is quite a shift but then as we know very well, Chennai’s edifices too can cause heads to turn, eyes to pop out and mouths to hang open. Madras Musings is happy to present a few of L. Ramachadran’s collection in this issue, with his permission.

– The Editor

Museum Theatre.
National Art Gallery.
Agurchand Mansion.
Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
Dare House.
Gove Building.
General Post Office.
The Law College.
Madras Central Railway Station.
Napier Bridge.
Quibble Island Cemetary.
Ripon Building.
The Government College of Arts and Crafts.
The Victoria Public Hall.
PWD Building.
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