- Tamil cinema
South Asian cinema
- Cinema of Afghanistan
- Cinema of Bangladesh
- Cinema of India
- Cinema of Nepal
- Cinema of Pakistan
- Cinema of Sri Lanka
Tamil cinema (also known as Cinema of Tamil Nadu, the Tamil film industry or the Chennai film industry) is the film industry based in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, dedicated to the production of films in the Tamil language. It is based in Chennai's Kodambakkam district, where several South Indian film production companies are headquartered. Tamil cinema is known for being India's second largest film industry in terms of films produced, revenue and worldwide distribution, with audiences mainly including people from the four southern Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andra Pradesh, and Karnataka.
Silent films were produced in Chennai since 1917 and the era of talkies dawned in 1931 with the film Kalidas. By the end of the 1930s, the legislature of the State of Madras passed the Entertainment Tax Act of 1939. Tamil cinema later had a profound effect on other filmmaking industries of India, establishing Chennai as a secondary hub for Telugu cinema, Malayalam cinema, Kannada cinema, and Hindi cinema. In its modern era, Tamil films from Chennai have been distributed to various overseas theatres in Singapore, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Malaysia, Japan, Oceania, the Middle East, Western Europe, and Northern America. The industry also inspired filmmaking in Tamil diaspora populations in other countries, such as Sri Lankan Tamil cinema and Canadian Tamil cinema.
Tamil cinema is often referred to as Kollywood, a portmanteau of the words Kodambakkam, an area of Chennai, where Tamil language feature films are produced, and Hollywood. The term Kollywood dates back to the 1950-80s when the term began to be widely used for describing Tamil cinema, the age when the term Bollywood was also starting to be used widely. It is an unknown fact of who first used this word even though many sources assign the credit of using the word to many places. But Kollywood was inspired only after Hindi Cinema started using the word Bollywood.It stands as one of the top commercial film contributors.
In 1897, a European exhibitor first screened a selection of silent short films at the Victoria Public Hall in Madras. The films all featured non-fictional subjects; they were mostly photographed records of day-to-day events. In Madras (present-day Chennai), the Electric Theatre was established for the screening of silent films. It was a favourite haunt of the British community in Madras. The theatre was shut down after a few years. This building is now part of a post office complex on Anna Salai (Mount Road). The Lyric Theatre was also built in the Mount Road area. This venue boasted a variety of events, including plays in English, Western classical music concerts, and ballroom dances. Silent films were also screened as an additional attraction. Swamikannu Vincent, an employee of the South Indian Railways in Trichy, purchased a film projector and silent films from the Frenchman Du Pont and set up a business as film exhibitor. He erected tents for screening films. His tent cinema became popular and he travelled all over the state with his mobile unit. In later years, he produced talkies and also built a cinema in Coimbatore.
To celebrate the event of King George V's visit in 1909, a grand exhibition was organised in Madras. Its major attraction was the screening of short films accompanied by sound. A British company imported a Crone megaphone, made up of a film projector to which a gramophone with a disc containing prerecorded sound was linked, and both were run in unison, producing picture and sound simultaneously. However, there was no synched dialogue. Raghupathy Venkiah Naidu, a successful photographer, took over the equipment after the exhibition and set up a tent cinema near the Madras High Court. R. Venkiah, flush with funds, built in 1912 a permanent cinema in the Mount Road area named Gaiety Theatre. It was the first in Madras to screen films on a full-time basis. The theatre later closed for commercial developments.
Samikannu Vincent, who had built the first cinema of South India in Coimbatore, introduced the concept of "Tent Cinema" in which a tent was erected on a stretch of open land close to a town or village to screen the films. The first of its kind was established in Madras, called "Edison's Grand Cinemamegaphone". This was due to the fact that electric carbons were used for motion picture projectors.
Tamil cinema has been impacted by many factors, due to which it has become the second largest film industry of India. The main impacts of the early cinema were the cultural influences of the country. The Tamil language, ancient than the Sanskrit, was the medium in which many plays and stories were written since the ages as early as the Cholas. They were highly stylized and nature of the spectacle was one which could attract the people. Along with this, music and dance were one of the main entertainment sources.
The Bharata Natyam dance was the oldest dance of India and so impacted the cultural heritage to a very great extent. Usually the kings sitting in the court were seen admiring dancers, and enjoying the music and dance along with the courtiers. These kind of themes were commonly found in the movies. The theory of rasa dating back to ancient Sanskrit drama is believed to be one of the most fundamental features that differentiate Indian cinema.
Along with the music and dance of ancient India, the novels and books written by many authors were used for making the movies and sometimes, the entire story was adopted from the book alone and made into films. The ancient Indian epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana which have exerted a profound influence on the thought and imagination of popular Indian cinema, particularly in its narratives. Examples of this influence include the techniques of a side story, back-story and story within a story. Indian popular films often have plots which branch off into sub-plots which were common in the early Tamil cinema.
There is a strong Indian tradition of narrating mythology, history, fairy tales and so on through song and dance. Whereas Hollywood filmmakers strove to conceal the constructed nature of their work so that the realistic narrative was wholly dominant, Indian filmmakers made no attempt to conceal the fact that what was shown on the screen was a creation, an illusion, a fiction. However, they demonstrated how this creation intersected with people's day to day lives in complex ways. By the end of the 1930s, the State of Madras legislature passed the Entertainment Tax Act 1939
The year 1916 marked the birth of Tamil cinema with the first Madras production and South Indian film release Keechaka Vaadham produced and directed by R. Nataraja, who established the India Film Company Limited.(English: The Destruction of Keechaka). During the 1920s, silent Tamil language film were shot at makeshift locations in and around Chennai, and for technical processing, they were sent to Pune or Calcutta. Later, some films featuring M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar were shot in those cities as well. In the 1930s AVM set up its makeshift studio in the town of Karaikudi, and during the same decade, full-fledged Movie studios were built in Salem (Modern Theatres Studio) and Coimbatore (Central Studios, Neptune, and Pakshiraja). By the mid 1940s, Chennai became the hub of studio activity with two more movie studios built in Chennai, Vijaya Vauhini Studios and Gemini Studios. Later, AVM Studios shifted its operations to Chennai. Thus, with the undivided Madras Presidency being the Capital to most of South India, Chennai became the center for Tamil- and Telugu-language films. Also, most of the pre-independence era drama and stage actors joined the film industry from the 1940s, and Chennai became the hub for South Indian–language film production and the cinema of Sri Lanka before independence.
The Chennai film industry produced the first nationally distributed film across India in 1948 with Chandralekha. They have one of the widest overseas distribution, with large audience turnout from the Tamil diaspora alongside Hindi films. They are distributed to various parts of Asia, Africa, Western Europe, North America and Oceania.
Keechaka Vadham (1918) was the first Silent film made in South India. Kalidas (1931) was the first Tamil talkie film made in 1931. Kalava was the first Full-length Talkie made entirely in Tamil. Nandanar (1935) was the first film for American film director Ellis R. Dungan Balayogini released in 1937 was considered to be first children's film of South India. Marmayogi that starred M. G. Ramachandran was the first Tamil film to receive an "Adult" certificate from the film censor board.
Tamil films have enjoyed consistent popularity among populations in South East Asia. Since Chandralekha, Muthu was the second Tamil film to be dubbed into Japanese (as Mutu: Odoru Maharaja) and grossed a record $1.6 million in 1998. In 2010, Enthiran grossed a record $4 million in North America.
Many Tamil-language films have premiered or have been selected as special presentations at various film festivals across the globe, such as Mani Ratnam's Kannathil Muthamittal, Vasanthabalan's Veyyil and Ameer Sultan's Paruthiveeran. Kanchivaram (2009) was selected to be premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Tamil films have been a part of films submitted by India for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language on eight occasions, next only to Hindi. Mani Ratnam's Nayagan (1987) was included in Time magazine's "All-TIME" 100 best movies list.
Tamil films enjoy significant patronage in neighbouring Indian states like Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharastra, Gujarat and New Delhi. In Kerala and Karnataka the films are directly released in Tamil but in Andhra Pradesh they are generally dubbed into Telugu. Many successful Tamil films have been remade by other film industries. It is estimated by the Manorama Yearbook 2000 (a popular almanac) that over 5,000 Tamil films were produced in the 20th century. Tamil films have also been dubbed into other languages, thus reaching a much wider audience. There has been a growing presence of English in dialogue and songs in Chennai films. It is not uncommon to see movies that feature dialogue studded with English words and phrases, or even whole sentences. Some movies are also simultaneously made in two or three languages (either using subtitles or several soundtracks). Chennai's film composers have popularised their highly unique, syncretic style of film music across the world. Quite often, Tamil movies feature Madras Tamil, a colloquial version of Tamil spoken in Chennai.
Independent Tamil film production in places outside of India, including Sri Lanka, Singapore, Canada, and Europe, took prominence over the late-20th century. The history of filmmaking of Tamil language films in Canada dates back to the early 1990s. It is primarily based in the metropolitan region of the Greater Toronto Area in Southern Ontario. Tamil films are also made in Sri Lanka where Tamil is one of the official languages since the ancient times. The film My Magic directed by Singaporean Eric Khoo became Singapore's first film to be nominated for the Palme d'Or at Cannes. Some of these films have involved one or more film personalities from the Chennai industry as well.
Average annual film output in Tamil film industry peaked in 1985. The Tamil film market accounts for approximately 0.1% of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the state of Tamil Nadu. For the purpose of entertainment taxes, returns have to be filed by the exhibitors weekly (usually each Tuesday). Costs of production have grown exponentially from just under 40 lakhs in 1980 to over 11 crores by 2005 for a typical star-studded big-budget film. Similarly, costs of processing per print have risen from just under 2,500 in 1980 to nearly 70,000 by 2005.
The Government of Tamil Nadu made provisions for an entertainment tax exemption for Tamil films having titles in words from the Tamil language only. This is in accordance with Government Order 72 passed on July 22, 2006. The first film to be released after the new Order was Unakkum Enakkum. The original title had been Something Something Unakkum Ennakkum, a half-English and a half-Tamil title. In July 2011, strict norms on entertainment tax were passed which stated that films which were given a 'U' certificate by the Central Board of Film Certification alone were eligible for tax exemption and those with an 'A' certificate could not fit into this category.
There are 3 major roles in the Tamil film value chain viz producer, distributor and exhibitor. The distributor purchases theatrical distribution rights from the producer for exhibiting the film in a defined territory. The distributor performs enhanced functions such as:
- part-financing of film (in case of minimum guarantee / advance based purchase of film rights)
- localised marketing of film
- selection of exhibition halls
- managing the logistics of physical print distribution
There are three popular approaches to transfer of distribution rights via distribution contracts:
- Minimum Guarantee + Royalty - Here, the producer sells the distribution rights for a defined territory for a minimum lump sum irrespective of the box office performance of the film. Any surplus is shared between the producer and distributor, in a pre-set ratio (typically 1:2) after deducting entertainment tax, show rentals, commission, print costs and publicity costs. Effectively, the distributor becomes a "financier" in the eyes of the market. This is the most common channel available to high budget producers.
- Commission - Here, the distributor pays the producer the entire box office collection after deducting commission. So, the entire risk of box office performance of the film remains with the producer. This is the most common channel available to low budget producers.
- Outright Sale - Here, the producer sells all distribution and theatrical rights for a defined territory exclusively to a distributor. Effectively, the distributor becomes a "producer" in the eyes of the market. So, the entire risk of box office performance of the film remains with the distributor.
There are four popular approaches to transfer of exhibition rights via exhibition contracts:
- Theatre Hire - Here, the exhibitor pays the distributor the entire box office collection after deducting entertainment tax and show rentals. So, the entire risk of box office performance of the film remains with the distributor. This is the most common channel for low budget films, casting rank newcomers, with unproven track record.
- Fixed Hire - Here, the exhibitor pays the distributor a maximum lump sum irrespective of the box office performance of the film. Rental is not chargeable per show. Any surplus after deducting entertainment tax is retained by the exhibitor. Effectively, the exhibitor becomes a "producer" in the eyes of the market. So, the entire risk of box office performance of the film remains with the exhibitor. This is the most common channel for high budget films, casting established front-runners, with proven track record.
- Minimum Guarantee + Royalty - Here, the exhibitor pays the distributor a minimum lump sum irrespective of the box office performance of the film. Any surplus after deducting entertainment tax and show rental is shared in a pre-set ratio (typically 2:1) between the exhibitor and distributor. But risk of deficit remains with the exhibitor. This is the most common channel preferred by single screens.
- Revenue Share - Here, the exhibitor shares with the distributor, in a pre-set ratio (typically 1:2), the entire box office collection of the film after deducting entertainment tax. Rental is not chargeable per show. So, the entire risk of box office performance of the film is shared between the exhibitor and distributor. This is the most common channel preferred by multiplex screens.
M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar was considered to be first most influential actor of South Indian cinema. P. U. Chinnappa, another popular actor in Tamil cinema was slotted second only to Bhagavathar, died suddenly in 1952. M. G. Ramachandran became a prominent actor in the mid 1950s and continued to be a popular actor till the late 1970s before stepping into politics. On the other hand, Sivaji Ganesan, the media-built rival of Ramachandran, was considered to be one of the finest method actors in India of his time.. Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth have been the biggest brands in Tamil Cinema for over twenty five years despite the arrival of the next 3 generations of actors.
K. B. Sundarambal, a popular carnatic singer made her film debut with Nandanar in 1935 was considered to be one of the finest actresses of her time. She was paid a renumeration of 1 lakh (highest pay for a movie star in Tamil back then; amount not adjusted for inflation)for acting in her debut film.
Music composers such as Ilaiyaraaja and A. R. Rahman received international recognition. These two composers also hold the record of having won the most number of awards for Best Music Director from the National Film Awards. A. R. Rahman has won two Academy Awards for his work in the British film, Slumdog Millionaire. His debut film Roja was the only Indian film to feature in Time magazine's "10 Best Soundtracks" of all time. In the 2003 BBC International poll, "Rakkamma Kaiya Thattu" from the film Thalapathi, scored by Ilaiyaraaja was voted by people from 155 countries as fourth in the world's top 10 most popular songs of all time.
Several international composers have used Chennai's studios to record music for projects, as have composers from other film industries. G. Ramanathan was a famous composer for Tamil Movies in the 1950s and was considered to be one of the most influential composers. He won the Best Music Compser award for Veerapandiya Kattabomman at the Afro-Asian Film Festival held at Cairo in 1960. K. V. Mahadevan, a prominent composer in the 1960s and 1970s was the first South Indian music composer to win a National Film Award. M. S. Viswanathan and T. K. Ramamoorthy duo was popular in the 1960s and 1970s, with interest in Tamil film songs being re-ignited with the audio revolution. Other prominent Tamil film score and soundtrack composers of the present include Yuvan Shankar Raja who is the first Indian to win the Cypres International award for music, and Harris Jayaraj, Vijay Antony, Deva, Karthik Raja, Vidyasagar, Bharathwaj, G. V. Prakash Kumar and Shankar Mahadevan who is a part of the Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy trio, who are prominent composers in Bollywood.
The industry includes several groups who organize their own events based on different issues of major concern. Rather than forming separate and distinct groups, each association occasionally collaborate for certain events. These associations are based on profession in the industry, such as a directors' association or producers' association. The most notable association is the South Indian Film Artistes' Association which is a group of all prominent Tamil film actors. Formed in 1952 under the leadership of actor Sivaji Ganesan, the association governs film or media-related issues that may arise to its members. The association has also continued to conduct philanthropic activities, as well as public outcries for certain political and humanitarian issues. The current president of the association is the actor-turned-politician R. Sarath Kumar.
Other associations include the Association of Tamil Film Directors which is headed by director P. Bharathiraja and the Tamil Film Producers' Council, headed by film director Rama Narayanan, who often meet to make financial decisions in the economy. A more broader association that incorporates all kinds of film personalities includes the well-known Film Employees' Federation of South India (FEFSI). They often successfully pledge for the welfare of low-income film workers, such as lighting technicians and stunt coordinators.
The Madras Film Institute was the first film school in south India. This institute along with the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune and the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, Kolkata is among the oldest film schools of India. An Indo-Russian film institute is about to be set up soon.
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- ^ "Afro-Asian film festival". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 17 March 2010. http://www.hindu.com/2010/03/17/stories/2010031752340803.htm. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
- ^ Arnold, Alison (2000). "Pop Music and Audio-Cassette Technology: Southern Area - Film music". The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9780824049461. http://books.google.com/?id=ZOlNv8MAXIEC&pg=RA2-PA554&dq=A.+R.+Rehman+tamil. "The popularity of classic Tamil film songs from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s have been revived through cassettes, making the villages popular-music time capsules. Such songs usually foreground a playback singer's voice against a backdrop of light Carnatic instrumentation including harmonium, vina, tabla and mridangam. In Tamil Nadu, the most popular old film songs are from films featuring the actor turned politician M. G. Ramachandran"
- ^ "Film industry pays tributes". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 2006-07-22. http://www.hindu.com/2006/07/22/stories/2006072221261000.htm.
- ^ Meera Srinivasan. "The academic gateway to films". The Hindu. http://www.hindu.com/edu/2009/03/02/stories/2009030250410100.htm. Retrieved September 27, 2011.
- ^ S. Aishwarya. "Indo-Russian film institute to be set up". The Hindu. http://www.hindu.com/2010/10/06/stories/2010100661890200.htm. Retrieved September 27, 2011.
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