Tamil Nadu: Mad About Movies

Tamil Nadu: Mad About Movies

A short history of the state's mania for the silver screen

Sudha G. Tilak
June 27 , 2017
01 Min Read

In Hollywood, they build museums for their movie stars. In Tamil Nadu, they (sometimes) build temples. The late matinee idol MG Ramachandran and actress Khushboo are consecrated in several shrines in rural Tamil Nadu.

Chennai’s tryst with moving pictures goes back to 1897, when the Lumiére brothers made their presentation here. The Electric Theatre and Gaiety Theatre were its first movie-halls. By the early 20th century, Chennai turned into a film studio hub. Its first silent film was the mythological Keechaka Vatham, screened in 1917.

Of the many studios that were set up here, the most famous was the Gemini Studio, founded by SS Vasan in 1941. Then the Talkies hit the Coromandel Coast, and renowned Carnatic singers such as Thyagaraja Bhagavathar, GN Balasubramaniam and the beautiful MS Subbalakshmi joined films. In 1935, a film called Sati Leelavati introduced a Malayali actor, MG Ramachandran. His stupendous following and iconic shift to politics has been emulated by many others, including J Jayalalithaa.

After sending the 70s’ matinee idols like danseuse Vyjayanthimala Bali and ‘Dream Girl’ Hema Malini to Mumbai’s film factories, Kollywood (Tamil filmdom’s me-too epithet) is in national mode again —with music maestro AR Rahman’s melodies and director Mani Ratnam’s critically acclaimed ouvre.

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