Tamil film industry, one of the most prolific in the world has produced
more than 5000 films. The first feature film was made in 1916. During the
silent era, more than one hundred and twenty feature films were made and
the first Sound Tamil film was made in 1931. Tamilnadu has the highest
rate of exposure to cinema in India.
The main component of popular culture in Tamilnadu is cinema. Because of its ability to tell a story in living colour and stereo sound, it has a special place in the minds of a people who are so tuned to the storytelling of religion. Film stars achieve so much popularity that they can easily step out of the silver screen into the world of politics. Much of the popular music comes from movies, as Tamil movies are musicals. There is an average of five songs in each movie.
Chennai, the centre of South India's film industry, its skyline is ablaze with bright movie billboards advertising the latest celluloid fantasies. The film industry in Chennai now rivals Bollywood in output. There are many big film studios. Since the 1940s, cinema has become the most popular form of mass entertainment.
Tamil is spoken in different parts of the world such as Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Middle East and South Africa. In these countries, also Tamil films are screened. In the entire Tamil Diaspora, Tamil films are a factor in cultural identity.
65 Years Of Tamil Cinema
Tamil cinema is 65 years young. It has come a long way since 1931 when sounds not so distinct or clear were heard from the screen on that fateful day at Cinema Central, Madras, where "Kalidas" the first Tamil film was screened for the pleasure of an excited, eager, astonished audience. Technical advancement and development one could not have dreamt 60 years ago are now routine. As the caravan of the time passes on further advancement of a bewildering kind is sure to surround us throwing challenges for creative artistes. Quantity-wise Tamil cinema had shown a magnificent improvement by producing thousands of motion pictures during the 60 years period. Technique wise and quality wise also the growth has been equally spectacular.
The Support Given By The Government
The Government of Tamilnadu has firmly stood behind the Tamil film industry offering encouragement, help, guidance and support in many ways. Several measures like cash subsidies for films of merit, awards and prizes for individual excellence by artistes and technicians are offered providing stimulus for the creative filmmaker to do better to make more significant and quality oriented motion picture in Tamil.
Progress Of Film Making In Chennai
In the early years of Tamil cinema there was no facility for study of film technique in a disciplined, systematic and organized manner. There were no schools, colleges or institutions imparting knowledge and training in the secrets of the fine art of cinema. One learnt film making by trial and error and little else.
As part of the scheme for imparting technical education the then provincial government established a Polytechnic in Broadway, Madras, in which training was given to students in cinematography and sound engineering and those who took a three-year course were awarded a diploma Licentiate in Cinematography and Sound Engineering (LCSE). In 1959, the Directorate of Technical Education was established and in 1960 an Institute for Film Technology was started in Madras. For the first time students were offered training in the technique of film processing and developing. In 1964, a modern film institute was started on a 64-acre plot in Adyar, Madras and soon a full-fledged film institute began to function. Over the years instruction and training in many disciplines of filmmaking were offered like acting, cinematography, editing, film direction, film theory and screen play writing. Students were given training in filmmaking. The institute had facilities for giving such training at many levels. Later training in television and video were also offered by the Film and Television Institute of Tamilnadu, now a full-fledged center of such learning.
The students of the Institute inspired by the ideals and ideas of great film makers with international reputation whose works they had watched, analyzed and studied, were understandably excited to give expression to their creative ideas, aims and objectives and to make films utilizing the knowledge and experience they had gained. To break away from the commercial formula of the film industry and to make cinema meaningful and reflecting all that is best in international cinema, it was no easy task to achieve such ends and the students found that they had to fight the establishment to get their foot in the door.
The struggle for recognition and opportunity went on and fighting against odds, the diploma holders began to make their presence felt in the local film world. Films like "Daham", "Oomai Vizhigal" "Senthura Poove" made by the students of the institute were box office successes and within a short period of time the Film and Television Institute of Tamilnadu has contributed immensely to the growth of Tamil cinema by giving birth to brilliant young men and women qualified in various departments of film making.
Various Associations Spreading The Knowledge Of Cinema
To create a proper friendly atmosphere, to enable film persons to function in a proper and signified manner several associations and bodies have been established over the past many years. The South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce, the Film Producers Guild, the various associations of Tamil film producer, distributors, exhibitors, unions of technicians and craftsmen like Federation of Film Employees of South India, South Indian Film Directors' Association and Associations of technicians like cameraman, editors, directors and others have been rendering great service in this direction to achieve the aims and objectives.
A non-political non-trade body established by the great filmmaker K. Ramnoth for spreading knowledge about cinema is Cine Technicians Associations of South India which over forty years has been discharging its duties to enrich the knowledge of film technicians.
Smt.T.P.Rajalakshmi: The First Tamil Film Heroine
T.P.RajaLakshmi, stage actress, film actress, producer and director was a multi-faceted personality. She was the heroine of the first Tamil film "Kalidas". She was patriot and made one film in her production as a tribute to the freedom struggle. Smt.T.P.RajaLakshmi had extra-ordinary singing and dancing capabilities. Her other memorable hits include, Savithri(1933), Draupati Vastrapaharanam(1934) and Gule Bahavali and whenever we talk about the contribution of women to the development of Indian films we can not forget the work of Smt.T.P.RajaLakshmi.
Mr.R.Nataraja Mudalair: Builder Of The First Studio In South India
Mr R.Nataraja Mudaliar made the first silent feature film in South India. His first film 'Keechaka Vadam ' was a super-hit in year 1917.He constructed the first studio in South India at Chennai. His other notable films are Lavakusa(1919),Rukmini satyabama(1920) and Markandeya(1922) .He was the one who laid strong base for film industry in South India.
R.Venkiah and R. Prakash: The Duo Who Brought Movies To Chennai
R. Venkiah was the pioneer who brought movies to Chennai. He built Gaiety in 1914 -it was the first theatre in South India owned by an Indian. It still stands in the same place and continues to screen movies. Venkaiah constructed three cinema houses in Chennai and one in Madurai.
R.Prakash, the son of Venkiah also contributed a lot for the development of Indian movies. The father and son duo built a studio named "Star of the East" in Chennai. R.Venkiah produced memorable silent movies notable among them were BhismaVadam(1922),Nandanar(1923) Samudra Madanam(1923),Gajendra Moksham(1924),Usha swapna(1924),Draupathi Bhagya(1924) and Mahatma Kabirdas(1925) .
Mr Prakash who himself was a cameraman joined Mr A.Naryanan and they made a string of successful movies. Noteworthy among them are, Leila a major box-office hit not only in India, but also in all other neighbouring countries. Mr Prakash also had International exposure in making films; he went to England and learnt picture production at the famed Barker's Motion picture studio, London. He also went to Hollywood where he worked with all-time greats such as D.W.Griffith and Cecil.be.Demille. These two legends together helped many others in the development of Indian Films.
Mr. AV.Meyyapan: The Innovator
AV.Meyyappan, popularly known as AVM was the one who opened the doors for the entry of technical innovations. His technical innovations like 'playback' singing, dubbing of pictures from one language to another and shooting in places outside the studio revolutionised film making in India. AV.Meyyappan has produced and directed many films. He established the AVM Studios and produced many films under the banner AVM Productions. His film ' Naam Iruvar ' in Tamil was a block buster and ran for more than 25 weeks. His film 'Vazhkai ' is another mega-hit which made film actress-politician Vyjayanthimala an instant star.
AV Meyyappan was a versatile personality, he worked as the Head of the Tamil Nadu Films Division and Film Institute, Adyar .He won many awards, his Hindi film 'Hum Panche Ek Dal Ke' won the national award .His film 'Andha Naal' won National Award for best feature film in Tamil. His blockbusters include Kalathur Kannamma, Server Sundaram and Ramu .He produced many successful films in Hindi like Bahar, Bhabhi, Barkha and Chori-Chori. AVM Studios continues to give good quality family entertainers. His sons now manage the studio.
Mr.L.V.Prasad: A Titan Of Indian Films
Mr L.V.Prasad made many memorable movies in Telugu, Tamil and Hindi. He was a director and later was recognised as a generous producer. His memorable contributions include Uthamaputhran, Padagotti, Matharkula Manickam, Charana Dasi, Palleturu and Sasuraal. His film Ek Duje ke Liye directed by K.Balachander set box-office records.
L.V. Prasad built studios and laboratories in many places around the country. Most of his films had melodrama mixed with comedy and an undercurrent of social relevance. He also believed that music, dances and songs are equally important for films. He introduced artistes like N.T.Rama Rao, Savithri, 'Sowcar' Janaki and S.V.Ranga Rao who went on to make history in South Indian Films. During his stint as producer and director, Prasad has received several awards. He was awarded the Dada Saheb Palke award by the Government of India for his contributions to Indian Cinema.
Mr.S.S.Vasan: The Cecil.B.Demile Of India
Mr Thiruthuraipoondi Subramania Srinivasan better known as S.S.Vasan was writer, journalist,magazine editor ,publisher and movie mogul of yesteryears. He founded the Gemini Studio in 1940, which was one of the most successful film production units. Vasan made blockbusters in Tamil, Telugu and also in Hindi.
Vasan's memorable films include Mangamma Sabatham, Balanagamma, Chandralekha, Apoorva Sahotharargal , Vanjikottai valiban , Nishan ,Gharana, Grihsati and Paigham. Chandralekha was his magnum opus, the film was shot for 5 years (1943-1948). To picturise a song for that movie he hired 400 dancers on monthly salary and has rehearsals for six months. He spent nearly 3 million rupees for that film which was unheard of at that time. It was shot both in Hindi and Tamil and it ran for more than 25 weeks. He also started a colour film laboratory long before colour films replaced black and white films. Vasan started "Ananda Vikatan" a popular Tamil weekly magazine, which still continues to enjoy the patronage of the people of Tamil Nadu.
K.B.Sundarambal: The First Star Of Tamil Films
K.B.Sundarambal popularly known as KBS, was well known for her songs. The producer and director of the film Nandanar wanted her to play the lead role in that film. So they requested her to play the role, but she refused and they persisted with their efforts .So finally she agreed to play the role if they pay her rupees one lakh which was a huge amount at that time, hoping that they will stop bothering her but to her surprise they agreed to pay the money. She was left with no choice and so she played the lead role after Nandanar she acted in Manimekalai, Avvaiyar, Thiruvilayadal and Poompuhar. Though she acted only in few movies she is still remembered for her sterling performance and the ever green songs she rendered in her movies .She was the first film artiste to enter the legislature. She was nominated to the Madras Legislative Council in the year 1951.
Smt.M.S.SubbuLakshmi: The Divine Voice In Tamil Films
Madurai Shanmugavadivu SubbuLakshmi popularly known as MS is one of greatest singers of the century. She has acted in four films. Her Films like Sakunthalai and Meera in which she played title role is considered as one of the greatest Classical Movies of South India. She was closely associated with Mahatma Gandhi. She has been awarded with Bharat Ratna,the Highest civilian award in India. It is very rare to see a Celebrity with such a dedication, generosity and social responsibility.
Kalaivanar N.S.Krishnan: The Unforgettable Comedian
N.S.Krishnan popularly known as "Kalaivanar" among the people of the Tamilnadu was one of the finest comedian the Indian Cinema has ever seen. He believed that films should convey some message to its audience. He was a patriot. N.S.Krishnan along with artistes like T.A.Madhuram (his better half), T.S.Durairaj, Pulimootai Ramasami, C.S.Pandian and writers like Udumalai Narayana Kavi and Subbu Armugham gave numerous hits in those days. He was a talented singer. His hits include Sivakavi, Raja Rani and Manamagal.
Mr.C.N.Annadurai: The Revolutionary Writer
C.N.Annadurai affectionately known as "Anna" is yet another personality who will be remembered forever for his contribution for the development of Indian films. His film 'Velaikkari' is a trend-setting film, which changed the course of Tamil movies. He was actively involved in politics and he formed his own Political Party Dravidia Munettra Kalagam, and he became the Chief Minister of Tamilnadu in 1967.
Besides these some directors like Mr. Balachander, Mr. Bharathi Raja, Mr.Bhagyaraj, Mr. Mani Rathnam and Mr. Shankar are also performing well.
Other famous film personalities are Mr. Shivaji Ganesan and M G Ramachandran (MGR for short), who held sway over the Tamil film world for decades, their popularity graph soaring with every successive release. Shivaji Ganesan bought many credentials to the industry including "Dada sahab phalka" award. After MGR and Shivaji Ganesan now the Tamil film industry is being dominated by Mr. Rajinikanth, Mr. Kamalhasan and young hero's like Ajit and Vijay
Indians are musical by nature and enjoy listening to
melodious music. The films became the vehicles for offering
well-orchestrated tuneful melodious songs to satisfy the wishes of
moviegoers. Films today stand more on the strength of songs, rather than
the story lines and that is the reason why film producers spend 50 per
cent of their budget shooting songs.
There is an average of five songs in each movie and most Tamil movies are musical hits. Music composers of yester years like Pabanasam Sivam who also wrote lyrics besides composing the tunes contributed to the growth of Tamil film music. Other music composers like G. Ramanathan, S.V. Venkatraman, M.D.Parthasarathy, S. Rajeswara Rao, C.R. Subbaraman, Viswanathan Ramamurthy, Shankar Ganesh, K.V.Mahadevan, V. Kumar and many others contributed their creative talents to the growth of Tamil film music and its role in making cinema popular.
Ilayaraja is a gifted composer of music who has taken the world by storm with his brilliant music in South Indian Cinema. Within a brief period of time, Ilayaraja set a record worthy of inclusion in the Guinness Book of Records for the number of pictures for which he composed music. AR Rahman popularly known, as "The King of Indian Pop" has recently gained popularity and with his inspirational, infectious numbers has won praise in India and aboard.
There are both touring and permanent cinema theatres; and
sentimental and spectacular films, often featuring light music and dancing
are produced by the film studios situated largely around Chennai. This
massive facility came up in 1974 in Chennai, and marked a great advance
for the film industry. If you are taking quantity rather than quality,
then Chennai is now
number one in India, having recently overtaken
Of the many film studios operating in and around Chennai, MGR Film city is the only one that is routinely open to the public. It is also the only studio with outdoor sets - Mughal gardens, a Graeco-Roman amphitheatre and giant concrete shark to pose before.
Chennai's other big film studios are Universal Studios, Vijay Vahuni Studio, The Prasad Group and AVM Studios, but the manager's permission is required to visit these studios and it's not readily given.
Film producers, financiers, distributors, writers, directors, artistes, and exhibitors these are not all and enough to keep the world of cinema spinning. Even film needs its audience, moviegoers! Without an audience, there can be no cinema! Sounds so simple and yet so true. Over the 60 years period the anonymous moviegoer has been giving the Tamil film world his patronage, encouragement, support and goodwill. But for the moviegoer industry will cease to exist. It is therefore necessary and imperative that every film person bears in mind and heart and Soul, this anonymous but definite individual and moviegoer, is the supreme and ultimate judge of them all.