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Tamil Cinema


The history of cinema began in Tamil Nadu when M. Edwards screened the first ever movie show in South India at Victoria Memorial Hall, Madras in 1897. In 1900, Electric Theatre-the first ever cinema house in South India was built by Major Warwick on Mount Road, Madras (now Anna Salai, Chennai). Lyric, the second cinema house in Madras, was started by Cohen at Anna Salai in 1902. In 1905, Swamikannu Vincent formed Edison's Cinematography, the first touring cinema in South India. He travelled around showing short films like Life Of Jesus Christ. In 1911, The Coronation of King George V was shot by Marudappa Moopanar which was later screened in Madras. In 1914 R.Venkiah built Gaiety, the first Indian owned cinema-house in South India. In 1916, S.M.Dharmalingam Mudaliyar and Nataraja Mudaliyar started the first film producing concern in South India at Madras. Nataraja Mudaliyar made Keechavathanam (1917) the first feature film to be made in South India. Mudaliyar went on to make many successful films like Draupadhi Vastrapaharanam (1918), Lava Kusa (1919), Rukmini Satyabhama (1922) and Mahi Ravana (1923).

R.Prakash (1901-1956) was the first South Indian to receive training abroad at Barker's Motion Picture Studio, London. Prakash's famed films include Bhisma Pratigna (1922), Bhakta Nandan (1923), Leile: Star of Mingrelia (1931), Lanka Dahanam (1935) and Anaadhai Penn (1938).

Kalidas, the first Tami talkie was screened in 1931. It was directed by H.M.Reddy, with T.P.Rajalakshmi playing the lead role. In 1934 A.Narayanan started Srinivasa Cinetone, which was the first sound studio in South India. A. Narayanan's Srinivasa Kalyanam (1934), became the first Tamil talkie to be produced in a Madras studio. Naryanan's other films include Rajambal (1935), Meerabai (1936) and Tenali Raman (1938). Kausalya (1935), made by South India Film Corporation, was the first Tamil movie on a contemporary theme. T.P.Rajalakshmi became the first female producer and director of Tamil films with the release of Miss Kamala in 1936. 

Raja Sandow (1894-1944) an acclaimed silent film star, filmmaker and producer, who directed several Tamil and Telugu films in Bombay and Madras. His films include Anaadhai Penn(1929), Parijatha Pushpaharanam (1932), Menaka (1935), Chandrkantha (1936), Minor Rajamani (1937), Thiruneelakantar (1939), Choodamani (1941) and Sivakavi (1943).

K.Subrahmaniam (1904-1971) was the pioneer of South Indian Cinema who used cinema as a tool of social protest and change. He attacked the evils in society during 1930-1940s in his films. Some of his great films include Balayogini (1936), Bhakta Chetha, Sevadasan (1938), Thyaga Bhoomi (1939) and Kacha Devayani (1939). The last two films advocated women's rights and self-dependence. Sevadasan also introduced to the world through the silver screen, the great singer M.S. Subbalakshmi, who came to be immortalised for her role in and as the poet-saint Meera both in Hindi and Tamil. Chinthamani (1937) became the first Tamil film to run for more than a year in a single cinema house. D.K.Pattamal sang the first play back song for the long documentary Mahatma Gandhi (1940) by A.K.Chettiar.

The film Thukkaram (1938) with Musiri Subramani Iyer in the lead set the popular trend in Tamil cinema. The multi-story movie pattern registered a new landmark in 1939 with the release of Sirikkadhe. The film had five different stories and themes. The same year also saw the release of an extraordinary movie called Thyagabhoomi, based on Kalki’s masterpiece novel. Tamil cinema got its first foreign film-maker when Ellis R.Duncan released his film Sakunthala with two great Carnatic music maestros G.N.Balasubramaniam and M.S.Subbalakshmi as the lead pair. The famous comedies of the period were Sabapathy and Alibabavum 40 Thirudargalum.

A.V.Meiyappan (1907-1979) created history in South Indian cinema when he introduced playback singing in his film Nandakumar (1938). In 1943, he produced the first 'dubbed' film Harishchandra (Tamil), which was dubbed from Kannada. Meiyappan also launched the AVM-banner of movies. He produced several hit films like Bhookailas (1939), Sabapathi (1941), Sri Valli (1945), Nam Iruvar (1947), Vazhkai (1949), Andha Naal (1954) and several others. Vazkhai introduced Vyjayanthimala to movies. Andha Naal was the first South Indian film without any songs and dances.

The beginning of 1940s also saw the emergence of Gemini studios which gave great hits like Madhana Kamarajan, Nandhanaar and Chandralekha. C.N.Annadurai (who later went on to become the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu) wrote the script for Velaikkari (1949), which set a new trend in Tamil films. M.Karunanidhi followed the footsteps of C.N.Annadurai, and started as a script-writer, but later joined politics and is currently the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Alibabhavum Narpathu Thirudargalum (1955), produced by Modern Theatres, was the first full-length colour film in Tamil. The first cinemascope film in Tamil Rajarajacholan was made in 1973. The first 3D film in Tamil Annai Bhoomi was made in 1985. In 1986, the first 70 mm Tamil film Maveeran was released. The Tamil film producer Giridharilal Nagpal created a record of sorts in 1998 when he completed his film Swayamvaram within 24 hours.  

The other early Tamil film-makers of high-repute were S.S.Vasan, M.K.Thyagarja Bhavathar, T.R.Sundaram, S.M.Sriramulu Naidu and Jupiter Somu. M.K.Thyagarja Bhavathar (MKT), who was also a popular singer-actor of the early forties, gave big box-office hits like Mathru Bhoomi, Ambikapathi, Ashok Kumar, Sivakavi and Haridas. K.Balachander, Shankar and Mani Ratnam are the other notable directors of Tamil cinema. M.K.Thyagarja Bhavathar (MKT) is considered as the first super star of the Tamil cinema. P.U.Chinnappa (Dhayalan (1941), Kannagi, Mamonmani, Utthamaputhiran), Gemini Ganeshan, Sivakumar, Sivaji Ganeshan (Thirumbi Paar, Andhra Naal, Rangoon Radha, Kappalotiya Thamizhan), T.R.Mahalingam, Kamal Hasan (Arangetram (1973), Padhinaaru Vayadhinile, Sigappu Rojakkal, Apoorva Sagotharargal, Guna, Nayagan, Indian) and Rajnikant (Bhuvana oru Kelvikkuri, Mannan, Muthu, Annamalai, Padiyappa) are the leading names among the Tamil actors. M.G.Ramachandran, another former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, began his career as a film actor His notable films include Genova, Manthirikumari and Sarvaathigari.

T.P. Rajalakshmi was the first heroine of Tamil screen [Kalidas (1931), Miss Kamala,  Chandralekha]. M.S.Subbalskhmi (Pavalakkodi, Meera, Kanthabai, Lakshmibai), T.R. Rajakumari (Kacha Devayani (1941), Chandralekha), P.Bhanumathi, Padmini (Sorgavaasal, Baagappirivinai, Chithi, Thillana Mohanambal), Savithri (Devadas, Paarthal Pasi Theerum, Pasamalar, Kaathiruntha Kangal, Padha Kaanikkai), Saroja Devi (Naadodi Mannan, Parakkum Paavai), Vijayakumari, Devika, K.R.Vijaya (Karpagam, Idhyakkamalam), Jayalalitha (Vennira Aadai, Kudiyirundha Koil, Engiruntho Vandhaal, Savaale Samali), Sridevi (Padhinaru Vayathinile, Moondru Mudichu) and Khusboo (Varusham 16) are popular names among the Tamil heroines. Jayalalitha was also elected as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, after she left films and joined politics.

|| Introduction || Silent Movies || The Era of Talkies || The Early Films-I ||  ||  The Early Films-II || Recent Films || Star Kids || 
Melody & Music || ||Parallel or New Cinema || || Regional Cinema || || Bengali Cinema||
Kannada Cinema|| || Malayalam Cinema||
|| Tamil Cinema || || Telugu Cinema|| ||English Films ||
Bollywood in nternational Arena || ||Film Censorship ||Film Journalism || ||Film Awards || Famous Cine Personalities ||


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