Chennai's past landmark Dasaprakash fades

Madras High Court Division Bench allows property to be sold

A court has directed the sale of his dreamchild, the Dasprakash Hotel, here.

Once vitally linked to the hotel industry of old Madras, now Chennai,  Rao excited good food lovers all over the country when his modest “Modern Café” just opposite the High Court here offered the “masala dosa” for the first time in the mid-1940s to rev up lawyers’ lunch. Now his flagship heritage institution, “Dasaprakash Hotels,” is in near shambles.

‘Home away from home’ Shut down for the past 45 months after a cash crunch, “Dasaprakash” was revered by customers from far and wide as a “home away from home.” High quality Indian food cooked and served in hygienic conditions and its large airy 120 rooms enhanced by traditional hospitality, were its USP.

A Division Bench of the Madras High Court issued directions recently that the hotel property—36 grounds and 1,431 square feet of area in all including the staff quarters—be sold to Prince Foundations which offered the highest bid of Rs 165 crore. The company remitted Rs 20 crore on December 20 on the court’s directive and will pay the balance as per its affidavit filed in court.

As “Prince Foundations” hopes to start its new apartment project there in another two months, some of “Dasaprakash” employees were virtually in tears. “It is a very sad day for us; it was like a home for us and most of us have put in over 25 years of service here,” one of them said.

This heritage hotel on the busy Poonamalle High Road here will now become history.
Moving into Chennai in the early 1940s, Rao, from a humble and deeply religious family in Kuthethur village near Mangalore, had built his hotel business brick by brick, starting with “Modern Café” known for quality food from day one.

Dream gone sour

The construction of “Dasaprakash” was his ultimate dream, to “truly build and run an Indian hotel in contemporary style,” one of its employees told Deccan Herald on Friday on its deserted premises. A blue statue of Udupi Sri Krishna, adorning its roof, still sparkles like a crest on the jewel.

“Dasaprakash” had become the locus of VVIP visits, including then Prime Ministers Jawarharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi and Presidents V V Giri and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. It had the privilege of being the official caterers for the jumbo Congress session at Avadi near Chennai in 1955, when the party officially adopted the famous “Socialist Resolution.” The hotel’s furniture and other paraphernalia still speak of a royal post-World War II vintage.

The hotel’s decline started after Rao’s death in 1967. Family bickerings took a huge toll of “Dasaprakash,” whose ice-creams and cold coffee were great favourites among customers. “You can get hot idlis and coffee at even 2 am in the morning,” mused another staffer.

With Rao’s four sons—Balram Das, Bhagwan Das, Ram Das and Narayana Das—locked in a prolonged property partition dispute, the hotel came under a High Court appointed receiver, said Radhakrishnan, Secretary of the Dasaprakash Hotel Workers Union.

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