Madras Bhashai is a quirky twist to certain words in the Tamil language made more delightful by Tamil Cinema. The likes of Ulagayanayagan Kamal Haasan, Superstar Rajinikanth, comedy artists like ‘Loose’ Mohan, Manorama, Kovai Sarala, writer/comedian ‘Crazy’ Mohan and many others have brought Madras Bhashai to life in speech, attitude and emoting.
Madras Bhashai is not really a dialect but a different version of real words in not only Tamil, but also borrowed from other languages. It is also part of everyday life in Namma Chennai. Here’s a quick round up of mostly non-offensive Madras Baashai words:
Formally, “vasool” means to collect or recover money that has been lent. “Paisa vasool” also means value for money - for example, a really interesting thriller movie would be “paisa vasool”, or well worth the money.
A local slang in Chennai that is often used to describe someone with extraordinary boldness or courage. “Enna DHILLU da saamy”, is an exclamatory response to someone making a daring attempt or even as a shocked reply to someone who has just crossed the line. Most Chennaiites find this word quite satisfying as it has the ability to feed one's pride.
Jammunu is a versatile word that describes a range of comfort that is mixed with a trace of luxury. It could also include another meaning that denotes expertise in something. “Jammunu bike ottaraan” means “he is very comfortable and expert in riding a bike”. The question “How are you?” can be answered with a satisfied “Jammunu iruken” meaning “I am doing GREAT!”
Whether our friend showed up in a bizarre outfit or with a haircut that provides entertainment(!), “Kalaichifying” is the only way to get it out of our system. Kalaichutan means to make fun of. It is a word featured on our popular “FULLY CHENNAI-FYD” T-shirt. “Kalaai” or “to tease” is a popular word amongst Chennai folks. It often reminds us of a favourite Tamil comedian Santhanam, who is best known for kalaichifying people. And always remember: “Kalaikaruthe oru kalai” (meaning teasing someone is an art!)
Bejaaru is a word used to express that something is a problem or problematic. It also means to cause someone to become vexed or stressed out. “Romba Bejaara pochu” means “That was such a problem.” And “Bejaaru pannitaan” means “he stressed me out”.
This word can refer to being mesmerized or captivated by something. If it looks familiar, that’s probably because of the super hit song ‘Mersalaayitten’ from the movie I, composed by A.R. Rahman and sung by Anirudh Ravichander. Mersal is also the name of the 2017 hit movie directed by Atlee and starring our very own Thalapathy Vijay. Although not as commonly used, ‘mersal’ is an effective way of expressing awe or amazement.
Not often used as a compliment, ‘apeetu’ means to escape without being noticed. It can be used when you and your friends are stuck in an awkward situation (“namma nice-ah apeet-aaidalaam” meaning “let’s escape”), to berate someone who was supposed to turn up (“avan apeet-aaitaan” meaning “he absconded”) or to say in relief, “naan angerundhu apeet-aagiten” meaning (I escaped from there).
“Aleka” means “smoothly”, and can be used in a wide range of situations. If your friend has managed to sweet-talk their way out of a problem, you can very well say, “Ava aleka pesitu vandhuta” (She handled it smoothly). While lifting heavy furniture, the guys doing the heavy-lifting often tell each other to do the word ‘aleka’.
If you’ve travelled by auto, chances are you’ve come across one auto driver using his foot to help another one, saying “aleka thallitu poidlaam”. This example is featured on our ‘Aleka’ t-shirt and mug designs. When you’re driving on a rough road, make sure to drive “aleka”!
Machaan / Macha / Machi
Machan means “wife’s brother”, but in Tamil slang, it is also a way to address someone who is a close friend. It is a word used every day among friends pretty much like ‘Dude’ is used. Whether the day be happy or sorrowful, our machas will always be by our side to make it better.
To be “ushaar” is to be alert and aware of one’s surroundings. This is a term describing someone who is difficult to trick or to slip anything past - and is one of the more commonly used Tamil slang words. Some variations include “ushaar party” (a very “ushaar” person) and “ushaar pannanum” (needing to handle something or someone carefully). Being ushaar or calculating with money is also widely used, so it can also mean to be shrewd.
It's always good to be “ushaar” in any sphere of life.
This is by no means a complete list of what constitutes Madras slang, but to get Fully-Chennaifyd, it definitely IS a start!