The Madras Legislative Council set up in the 1860s continuously expanded thereafter till the 1920s. It had its meetings in the Council Chamber in Fort St. George. When the Legislative Assembly came into existence following the institution of dyarchy, it met first in 1937 at Senate House and between 1938 and 1939 at Banqueting (Rajaji) Hall. By the 1940s, a full-fledged Assembly Hall had been built inside Fort St George and so the Assembly moved into the Fort.
Independence posed a new problem – the composite Madras State, which comprised what later became Andhra, had 375 Assembly constituencies and, so, that many legislators as well. The Assembly Hall in the Fort could not accommodate so many. A new Legislature building was, therefore, constructed in Government Estate, just behind Rajaji Hall and Government House. Completed at a cost of Rs. 10 lakh, it was inaugurated on May 2, 1952 by Governor Sri Prakasa.
The division of States on the basis of linguistic regions saw the creation of Andhra Pradesh in 1953 and the number of legislators in Madras State fell to 205. This could be safely accommodated in the Assembly Hall inside the Fort and so the legislature shifted back. The newly built Legislature building was re-developed as The Children’s Theatre where children’s films and documentaries were shown at subsidised rates. It was, however, never popular. The auditorium received a fresh lease of life when it was refurbished as a 1000-seat theatre and relaunched as Kalaivanar Arangam, named after N.S. Krishnan.
The theatre survived till 2008 when, as part of the magnificent obsession to build a new Assembly-cum-Secretariat in Government Estate, the heritage buildings in the premises were all brought down one by one. Rajaji Hall was the sole survivor. Kalaivanar Arangam too became a casualty. That it was all to no use is now clear, what with the Assembly having shifted once again into the Fort and the new building becoming a multi-speciality referral hospital.
Meanwhile, work has begun on building a new theatre on the spot where Kalaivanar Arangam once stood.
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