Madras Ba(a)shai in Thamizh cinema

While channel surfing last Sunday evening, I chanced upon an interesting and humorous yesteryear movie – “Bommalaattam”, that had a line-up of stars like Jai(shankar), Nagesh, Cho, Major Sundarrajan, V.S.Raghavan, Jayalalitha, Manorama etc. Cho was, as usual, at his comical best in the role of a city rowdy – Ja(a)mbajaar Jaggu (that gave rise to the famous song by that name), mouthing the well-known Madras Ba(a)shai effortlessly (btw, why do a few have nothing better to do, than trolling Wikipedia and objecting, like our famous Nakkeerar :-), to content that may all not have “notability”, but are informative nonetheless?)

Watching Cho got me thinking on who in the history of Thamizh cinema spoke Madras Ba(a)shai like a pro onscreen, and I could think of only three names (in chronological order of their introduction to the celluloid world):

“Loose” Mohan

There have been others, but none of them ever came across as naturals as these three on this one. Maybe Kamal, but even he is reported to have said that “Loose” Mohan Annan is the best in the business. And the admirable part was that each of them (in the trio), put his own distinct stamp in delivering his lines – in the body language, timing, tonal inflection and overall expression. Today’s generation may not connect very well to the use of Madras Ba(a)shai in movies, due to their ever-changing tastes as well as suffering in general from ADD, but at one time it used to be the stuff of guffaws to a section of movie-goers, who, even while having a patronizing view of it, thoroughly enjoyed watching it enacted with uniquely Chennai-oriented theatrics.

9 Comments so far

  1. Ram (unregistered) on May 31st, 2007 @ 8:48 am

    the earliest one to use the Madras baashai is Kali N. Ratnam (along with Angamuthu) —
    “NAn pOttukkinEy vArEn, nee azhichukkinEy vArEy” but in Kali Ratnam’s time the Madras vocabulary had not grown as it did in the recent past

  2. F e r r a r i (unregistered) on May 31st, 2007 @ 10:54 am

    Coconut Srinivasan and Manorama are also good in Madras baashai ;)

  3. Navneeth (unregistered) on May 31st, 2007 @ 1:40 pm

    I was about to say that, F E R R A R I. :-)

  4. Ravi (unregistered) on May 31st, 2007 @ 4:59 pm

    I second Ferrari. Also, Vadivukkarasi and Babu in the movie “En Uyir Thozhan” were very good. Infact they did not overdo their rendition at all and was very apt. And ofcourse, Kamalhassan!

  5. SN (unregistered) on May 31st, 2007 @ 7:02 pm

    I’d like to know as to who uses this so called ‘Madras Bashai’ when they speak. Does the author of the post use it at home? I’ve known quite a number of folks from Chennai but no one speaks like this. Not even the autodrivers in Chennai.
    And, ADD is something very serious. Even though it is used in a humourous way, there is no humour in it.

  6. tsk tsk (unregistered) on May 31st, 2007 @ 8:35 pm


    I’d like to know as to who uses this so called ‘Madras Bashai’ when they speak:

    Boss, SN, rombo bejaar pannade ya. nariya pasngala madras tamil pesuvanga! ni nella kaadu open panni gavani..


  7. thennavan (unregistered) on June 1st, 2007 @ 1:08 am

    Prabhu, I saw your Metblog post on this and thought of including my favorite “Thengai” in the list but he was more known for the random and extremely funny impromptu Sanskritization of some Thamizh words (like “idhu enna orey bulb prashathamaa, chathuramaa” in Kaase Dhaan Kadavuladaa :-)). Manorama too but somehow that image never sticks in the mind regarding her and Madras Ba(a)shai as much as it does with the three I have mentioned.

  8. Rastafari (unregistered) on June 1st, 2007 @ 1:18 pm

    Cho pesaradhu Madras bashaiya??? Its as contrived as anyone can get. It has “put on” written all over it.
    These days, most sidekicks speak natural Madras bashai. Apart from Kamal, Pasupathy excels in that among others, especially because he is from North Madras himself (Wannarappettai)

  9. silanthimanithan (unregistered) on June 5th, 2007 @ 2:11 am

    Rastafari, Bulls Eye. Cho and also madhu-cheenu/YGM Pesaradhu/Coconut Sreenivasan are all extremely contrived and mere caricatures of Madras Baashai.

    They could easily be called Mambalam edition of Madras Baashai. The language was as much a caricature as the speakers themselves – Cricket Loving, Tambram Boys from Mambalam would try and mouth Madras baashai in an effort to identify with the majority of Chennai. Nothing wrong. But, this in itself makes up a whole new topic of discussion.

    The only “real” presentations of Madras Baashai were by Kamal and Loose Mohan.

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