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VOL. XXIII NO. 16, DECEMBER 1-15, 2013
The Tamil Film in 100 years of Indian Cinema

AV. Meiyappan.

Nataraja Mudaliar.

Ellis R Dungan.

S S Vasan.

K.P. Sundarambal.

M.G. Ramachandran

The South Indian film industry comprises four distinct film cultures, the Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu film industries. Although developed independently for a long period of time, exchanges of film performers and technicians as well as globalisation have helped to shape this new single identity.

The first South Indian talking film was released on September 15, 1931. H.M. Reddy produced and directed Bhakta Prahlada (Telugu). This was followed by Kalidas (Tamil) on October 3, 1931. Kalidas was produced by Ardeshir Irani and directed by H.M. Reddy. These two films were South India’s first talking movies to have a theatre release.

Tamil Cinema has grown tremendously since those beginnings. Most of its films are produced in Chennai in Kodambakkam and, so, the industry is often referred to jocularly as Kollywood. Here are some highlights of the Tamil film industry story:

  • The first-ever movie screened in South India was at Victoria Memorial Hall in 1897 by an Englishman, M. Edwards.
  • Electric Theatre was the first purpose-built theatre. It was built in 1900 for movie screening on Mount Road by an Englishman called Warwick Major.
  • Keechaka Vadam – the first South Indian silent movie was released in 1918, and marked the birth of South Indian cinema. It was the first Madras production.
  • Kalava (1932)was the first full-length talkie made entirely in Tamil.
  • Tamil cinema’s first superstar was Thyagaraja Bagavathar, who was a producer, singing sensation, and great actor. He  made has film debut in Pavalakkodi (1934)
  • Nandanar, released in 1935 and directed by M.L. Tandon, featured K.B. Sundarambal, the first actor to receive Rs. 1 lakh as compensation for acting.
  • T.P. Rajalakshmi was the first woman producer-cum-director in Tamil cinema when she made Miss Kamala in 1936.
  • M.G.R. – Maruthur Gopalan Ramachandran – debuted in the movie Sathi Leelavathi (1936) directed by Ellis R. Dungan, an American whose first film in India this was. Both were to prove box office draws from hereon in.
  • Balayogini, released in 1937, was the first children’s film made in South India.
  • Chintamani (1937) became the first Tamil film to run for more than one year in a single theatre.
  • D.K. Pattammal sang the first playback song for the documentary Mahatma Gandhi directed by A.K. Chettiar in 1940.
  • AV. Meiyappan started a trend when he dubbed the Kannada film Harischandra in Tamil in 1943. Dubbing became a popular practice thereafter.
  • The Madras Film Institute (1945) was the first film school in South India.
  • AVM Studios (1948) in Chennai is the oldest surviving studio in India.
  • Chandralekha, released in 1948, was the highest budget movie (Rs. 30 lakh). Its cost at present value will be $30 million. Chandralekha was the first Tamil film to be nationally distributed.
  • Marmayogi (1951) starring M.G. Ramachandran was the first Tamil film to receive an “Adult” certificate from the film censor board.
  • Ek tha Raja released in 1951 was the only Hindi film in which MGR acted.
  • Sivaji Ganesan’s debut film, Parasakthi (1952), scripted by M.  Karunanidhi, was the beginning of dialogue dominating in Tamil films.
  • Jenova, released in 1953, was the only Malayalam film in which MGR acted.
  • Koondukkili (1954) was the only Tamil film in which MGR and Sivaji acted together.
  • Alibabavum 40 Thirudargalum, released in 1956, was the first full-length colour film in Tamil.
  • Anandha Jyothi (1963) is the only movie in which MGR and Kamal Haasan acted together.
  • Kathalikka Neramillai (1964) was the first Eastman colour movie in Tamil.
  • Rajaraja Cholan (1973) was the first Cinemascope film released in Tamil.
  • The first 3D film in Tamil, Annai Bhoomi, was released in 1985.
  • The first 70mm film released in Tamil was Rajinikanth’s Maaveeran in 1986.
  • Mani Ratnam’s Nayagan (1987) was included in Time  magazine’s 100 best movies’ list.
  • Swayamvaram was the first Tamil film shot within 24 hours. It was released in 1988.
  • Muthu (1995) was the second dubbed movie in Japanese.
  • It is estimated by the Manorama Yearbook 2000 (a popular almanac) that over 5,000 Tamil films were produced in the 20th Century.
  • A.R. Rahman is the only Indian music composer to win an Oscar (2012).
  • Unakkum Enakkum, released in 2006, was the first film to adopt a pure Tamil title in order to enjoy the entertainment tax benefit
  • Actress Padmini is the only Tamil actress to be honoured by the Russian Government. It released a stamp with her face.
  • Rajinikanth’s Enthiran (2010) is the highest budget film in India till now.
  • Kamal Haasan has been associated with seven films that have been India’s official entries for the Oscars (one Hindi, one Telugu and five Tamil).
  • Eight Tamil films have been India’s official entries for the Oscar.
  • Illayaraja and A.R. Rahman have both won the maximum number of national awards for music directors in India (four). (Based of on an article in TCC Digest).
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In this issue

Living in fear of heritage
Is Pre 1947 Architecture Entirely British?
Discovering Mylapore
The Tamil Film in 100 Years of Indian Cinema
Passengers on the Buckingham Canal
The Trees of Chennai
Chuckle with Ranjitha
Making captaincy a winning habit

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Short 'N' Snappy
Readers Write
Madras Eye


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