Report by Niveda Manohar, with inputs from Dani Charles.
The walls of Saidapet local railway station are no longer dull. To the delight of commuters and station vendors, images of stars from classic Kollywood films now adorn the station. The transformation is thanks to 50 children from government schools in Tondiarpet, Perambur, Kodambakkam, and Perungudi, who transformed the walls into murals of legends like Sivaji Ganesan, MG Ramachandran (MGR), Padmini, Revathy, Kamal Haasan, and Rajinikanth. We take a tour.
Is this a railway station or the sets of the Wizard of Oz? These paintings of Kamal Haasan, Sivaji Ganesan, and Nagesh have made commuters pause in wonder.
Moving closer, it’s clear that Kamal’s joy from Virumaandi has been perfectly captured.
Here’s Sivaji Ganesan in a scene from Kattaboman.
Another crowd favourite at the station is this painting of Nagesh from Server Sundaram.
The initiative was started by Sriram Ayer, founder of the Nalandaway Foundation. Fifty children from several government schools painted these amazing murals as part of the Dan Utsav in October, when eight railway stations were beautified. Ayer told Deccan Chronicle, “[w]e were entrusted with the job of decorating Saidapet Railway Station. Instead of doing the routine motifs, we thought of something unique. That’s when the idea of painting legendary stars of K’town struck. I honestly feel that for the entire cinema crazy Tamil Nadu, (and we blame cinema for everything), there’s hardly a single public place where cinema is not being celebrated.”
MGR and Nambiar’s angst and hatred is depicted here, from a scene in Naan Aanai Ittal. Perhaps to resonate with the sentiments of passengers waiting at the ticket counter! Regardless, their eyes are frequently riveted to the mural.
Here’s Padmini from Thilana Mohnambal.
When we spoke to passengers at the station, there was unanimous joy at seeing the station they visit every day receive this bright and quirky face-lift. “Nagesh and Sivaji, summa sceeeene ah pannirkanga,” said Aashiq, an MNC employee. Another commuter Gowrishankar said, “We are not able to see stars like MGR, Nagesh, and Padmini even on film posters these days. I was so delighted to see them on these walls.”
“The station used to look like a ruin. It was in such a dilapidated condition. The wall posters used to make things look worse. But now, there’s a look of surprise on everyone’s face when they catch sight of it,” said Senthilkumar, an auto driver who operates near the station.
“We hope they maintain it this way, without ruining anything by pasting more posters or vandalising it,” said Sethuraman, who operates a cycle stand at the station.
That might be an unrealistic wish though. Already, someone had decided to autograph one of the murals – he even added the date!
For now though, there’s much to enjoy here – like the superstar with his signature swag.
Or this evocative painting, which is impossible to look at without also hearing Goundami say, “Indha Vilambaram unaku thevaiya.”
As we head for the exit, a commuter who frequents the station echoes our thoughts, “I wish all stations would get a face-lift like this.”