CHENNAI: The broken bridge that once helped the fishermen in their livelihood and topped the list of popular shooting locations, has now become a bachelor hangout — for both good and bad reasons. Residents in the nearby fishermen hamlets claim that they had only faced more trouble ever since the bridge became unusable. Also a new east coast elevated expressway in the same place will do them no good.
The broken bridge has a past that is still recalled with pride by the fishermen community in Olcott Kuppam and Uroor Kuppam. They said it was built in 1967, cutting across the Adyar River mouth, to connect the fishermen hamlets on the Adyar side to that of Srinivasapuram on the other side. Fisher folk who worked at the harbour would then take their tricycles and rickshaws across the bridge. The narrow bridge had also facilitated movement of four wheelers; but only one vehicle at a time.
The bridge overseeing the Adyar estuary has always been a place of scenic beauty. And it was for this reason that turned out to be a popular shooting spot. “Many yesteryear stars had come here for a shoot, especially our MGR. If you want to see the old shape of the bridge, then watch Kadaloram Vaangiya Kaatru song from MGR’s movie Rickshawkaran. It was shot here. I still remember he walk past my house to reach the road,” recalled K Parthasarathy, President, Uroor Kuppam.
The fishermen too made brisk business by fishing in the Adyar river rather than risking their lives to go to the sea. The fisher families were prosperous, said the fishermen. Prawns and crab were in abundance as they used to breed in the river mouth. Worms used for fishing were also available then near the banks of the river.
The happiness in the hamlets began to crumble after part of the bridge collapsed following strong current reportedly during the year 1977. They had to go around the city to reach harbour for work. The utility of the bridge would have gone but the charm remained. It continued to be a sought after shooting location. Fishermen recall watching shooting of Tamil films Vaali and Ayudha Ezhuthu. “We have seen Ajith, Vijay and Suriya during shoots here in recent times,” said Srinivasan of Uroor Kuppam. Since the bridge ran past the rear end of the Theosophical Society, many walkers and joggers, mostly celebrities, began to throng the place. For bird watchers, it was a much preferred place due to the peaceful surroundings while amateur photographers queued up as well to capture the beauty during the dawn and dusk.
Soon, the secluded location began attracting crowd and, in the process, trouble. Band of boys would drop by with liquor bottles, young lovers would seek serenity around the quiet surroundings while families met up for a picnic. Today, the once pristine river mouth has lost its sheen, primarily because the visitors had dirtied the area by throwing wastes, complained the fishermen.
Since there are no lights and the broken bridge is at least five minutes running distance from the hamlets, the fishermen claim that many bachelors come here to drink and if a woman happens to walk in, trouble starts. “Ask us what has not happened in this place. Chain snatching, rape and murder, everything has happened. Whenever there is a problem here, we are blamed and the police question us. Neither we nor our children go there after dark. Only horrifying things have happened on the broken bridge,” said the Uroor Kuppam President.
With the fisher folk benefitting nothing from the broken bridge, they claim that even the proposed elevated expressway too will not help them for a better livelihood. “We have lost business in the river because of garbage dump by visitors and other illegal activities including stealing of the sand and encroachments on the river. So there is nothing left to gain from the new expressway. We don’t even live in hygiene conditions here. The government does not care about us or bothered to curb the bad activities in the bridge but are concerned for a newer bridge just for the rich to travel,” added the president.