The Indo-Saracenic style was a British architectural movement of late 19th century. Chennai’s (Madras) Chepauk Palace is said to be the first Indo-Saracenic building. Such structures were primarily grand public buildings, made according to standards of 1800’s, including infrastructures of iron, steel and concrete. Costs involved in such constructions were high, including their inherent customization, ornamentation, minute decorations and the artisans’ ingenuous skill. Hence this style was executed only on buildings made on a grand scale. Such buildings had domes, pointed arches, vaulted roofs, pinnacles, minarets, pierced open arcade and open pavilions. Chennai has many Saracenic buildings, such as the Victoria Public Hall, Madras High Court, Senate House of the University of Madras, Chennai Central station etc. This architectural style was later exported to British Malaya (Malaysia) by engineers and architects from Britain who were influenced by Indo-Saracenic architecture of British India. For people from India who are familiar with Indo-Saracenic buildings it is worth to take a flight from Chennai to Kuala Lumpur to compare the styles in the two countries. Buildings in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur such as Sultan Abdul Samad Building, National Textile Museum, The Old High Court Building, Railway Administration Building, Jamek Mosque etc. are few examples of this architectural style.
These days Tamil films are often made outside the state and many enthusiastic Tamil filmmakers have churned many movies from Malaysia. The first Tamil movie produced in Malaysia was Ratha Paei in 1973 starring Malaysia’s Vasudevan. However, this movie was shot in Chennai. Based in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Johor Bahru, the industry remained relatively small with fewer than 50 films produced. The movie industry had a slow growth due to tough competition faced from Tamil films of Kollywood (film industry of Tamil Nadu). Plots of many Tamil movies have been set in Malaysia or shot in various locations like Langkawi, Batu caves and Petronas Towers of Kuala Lumpur. Billa, Priya, Ayan, Kabali and Ninaithaale Inikum are such examples. Hence Tamil actors have to take a flight from Chennai to Kuala Lumpur to shoot. Surprisingly, Malaysia was the only overseas market where Tamil director, Shankar’s, Jeans had a 100-day run. Another popular movie starring Tamil superstar Rajanikant and Aishwarya Rai (former Miss World) was Endhiran in 2010. Endhiran’s music by Oscar-winner A. R. Rahman, was first released on 31 July 2010 at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre in Kuala Lumpur.
People who have taken a flight from Chennai to Kuala Lumpur may be surprised that they find very familiar food in their destination. Roti Canai or Roti Cane is an Indian-influenced flatbread, a popular Malaysian breakfast. Roti in the Malay language means bread and canai comes from the word Chennai. So Roti Canai literally means ‘Bread from Chennai.’ The dough is kneaded, thrown, flattened, oiled and cooked on a flat iron skillet. It is eaten hot with either lentil, fish or chicken curry or even with sugar or condensed milk. It has numerous variations such as Roti Pisang (with bananas), Roti Telur (with egg), Roti Sardin (with sardines), Roti Bawang (with onions), Roti Telur Bawang (with egg and onions), Roti Planta (with ghee margarine), Roti Boom (similar to roti planta but smaller and thicker), Roti Tisu (paper thin and conical). These are supplied around the clock in ‘Mamak’ (Muslims in Malaya are called Mamak) shops. Roti Canai was probably introduced by immigrant labourers from Chennai (the then Madras). It is a cheap and convenient and quite filling dish that can be held with hands. It is also available in the streets of Kuala Lumpur in frozen forms that can be refried and consumed.
Kabali, the 2016 Indian gangster-drama in Tamil starring superstar Rajnikant, drew thousands of his fans, making the movie the highest revenue earner on the day of its release in India. It also had the largest opening weekend for any Indian film worldwide. A part of Kabali was filmed on 17 September 2015 at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture in Chennai, but the major part was shot in Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur), Bangkok and Hong Kong. Kabali was released in Tamil worldwide, along with dubbed versions in Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam and Malay. Malik Streams Productions and Distribution, a Malaysian media company, simultaneously released it in Malay for exclusive screening in Malaysia alongside the original Tamil version. More than 20 films postponed their release to avoid clashing with this mega budget movie.
Chennai Mayor M. Subramanian and Kuala Lumpur Mayor Seri Ahmad Fuad bin Ismail, signed a sister city agreement in 2010. Both mayors believed the cities have a harmonious blend of tradition and modernity and hence could help each other in their progress. Since then these two fastest growing cities of the world came together in the fields of art, culture, tourism and economy and established themselves as thriving sister cities. Numerous flights from Chennai to Kuala Lumpur bring them together.