With all travel plans stalled for the foreseeable future, we take you on a trip from Singapore to Peru to Norway, with Tamil music playing in the background.

Collage of Tamil songs shot in foreign locations
Flix Kollywood Sunday, February 21, 2021 - 17:57

“Andha dupatta va nenga thooki erinjeenga. Adhu apdiye parandhu poi, Dubai la vizhundhuchu dupatta. […] Anga oru song vekarom. ‘Dupatta dupatta… Un kannathila appata appata?’” (You pick up that dupatta and fling it. It flies and falls down in Dubai. […] We’ve got a song there: ‘Dupatta dupatta… shall I smear it on your cheek?’”). With this popular comedy reference from a Sathyaraj film, we open our listicle.

Because this is perhaps the best explanation anyone could give for the logic, or the lack thereof, for why most film songs suddenly cut to an exotic foreign location. Indian cinema and its audience are a little too acquainted with this practice that at least one of the four songs from a film will be shot in a foreign country.

With the pandemic throwing all travel-related plans out the window for the foreseeable future, we take you on a trip from Singapore to Peru to Norway, with excellent Tamil music playing in the background. Or maybe the other way around!

‘Bansaayee’ from Ulagam Sutrum Valiban (1973)

This film was shot in multiple locations in Asian countries like Japan, China and Singapore. A major chunk was shot at Expo ’70, the world fair held at Osaka Prefecture in Japan between March and September 1970. Interestingly, the story itself is set in Singapore where a man goes in search of his missing brother. This particular song ‘Bansaayeeeee’ (Banzai meaning 10,000 years in Japanese) was shot in Japan, where actors MGR and Chandrakala, dressed in a kimono, walk through the busy streets and then to other tourist spots in Japan. Mount Fiji too is shown briefly in the background.

‘Akkarai seemai azhaginile’ from Priya (1978)

Now this song was really shot in Singapore. Rajini and Malaysian actor Aznah Hamid go riding down Singapore roads in a convertible, frolicking in slightly over-crowded beaches and enjoying the night life on bicycles. The song, rendered in KJ Yesudas’s voice, itself is in praise of Singapore and its people. If you can forgive the snide diss at people back home in Tamil Nadu, you might find some love for Singapore. Interestingly, the song’s intro is based on the British band Simon Dupree and the Big Sound’s song ‘Kites’. The film was also a milestone in Tamil cinema for using stereophonic technology for the first time to record the soundtrack.

‘Germaniyin senthen malare’ from Ullasa Paravaigal (1980)

This song from Kamal Haasan’s film was shot in multiple locations in Europe, from the United Kingdom to the Netherlands. Along with actor Rati Agnihotri, Kamal dances outside some of the historical buildings in Europe. Only a portion of this film is set in a foreign country but this song is popular for the landscapes it covers.

‘Kadhala kadhala’ from Avvai Shanmughi (1996)

While the film is surely set in Chennai, this duet between the film’s lead characters takes us to The Palace of the Lost City in Sun City, South Africa. The song also has some extravagant aerial shots, perhaps filmed from helicopters, with some charismatic tribesmen making an appearance too.

'Un per solla aasai than' from Minsara Kanna (1999)

The film is set in Ooty but at some point there's a flashback from a foreign country. Hence the logic behind the song shot in Switzerland. With the majestic Alps making an appearance, Vijay and Monica Castelino dance away in this melody.

‘Konja neram konja neram’ from Chandramukhi (2005)

In this Rajinikanth-Nayanthara duet, we are off to breathtaking locations in west Asian countries. According to reports, the song was shot in different places in Turkey such as Ephesus, an amphitheatre in the ancient city of Hierapolis near Pamukkale, and Cappadocia near Istanbul. Phew, what a ride!

‘Nenje nenje’ from Ayan (2009)

This song was shot amid the sprawling sand dunes of the Namib-Naukluft National Park in Namibia, located between the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and the edge of the Great Escarpment. Temperatures here soar to above 40 degrees during the day and dip to below five degrees in the night. While the park definitely presents harsh living conditions for humans, it surely is a sight to behold with its lagoons and bright dunes. This song's picturisation was the buzz around the time of its release.

‘Amali thumali’ from Ko (2011)

This became the first Tamil film to zero in on Norway to shoot some portions. The result is ‘Amali thumali’, in which actors Jiiva and Karthika Nair dance precariously but gracefully almost on the world’s edge, shot at Preikestolen in the western part of Norway.

Around the world with Shankar

While making this list, it was dangerously close to becoming a listicle just on director Shankar’s songs. No surprises there. From covering all seven wonders of the world in one song to shooting at UNESCO protected heritage sites, the director has shot all over the world. Some of the songs you may want to revisit are ‘Kan thondri mann thondri’ from Jeans. Head to Australia with ‘Telephone mani pol’ from Indian, or to the Netherlands listening to Vikram sing ‘Kumari’ from Anniyan or to Machu Picchu in Peru or even to China proclaiming ‘Pookalee satru oivedungal!’ (Flowers, please rest).

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