History Of Tamil Cinema - ‘Kollywood‘ - what is it about?

Tamil Film Industry is termed as ‘Kollywood‘. The Kollywood film industry is based in Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu. The name is a conflation of Kodambakkam with the American film industry capital of Hollywood. Kodambakkam is an area in Chennai with a large number of film industry people work and live in. There are a good number of film studios also present in Kodambakkam.

The Tamil Film industry enjoys the widest visibility of any regional South Asian cinema. Many of Indian cinema’s popular figures had made their debut in Tamil films. Bollywood actress and former Miss World Aishwarya Rai made her debut in the Tamil film ‘Iruvar‘ before entering the national film industry. Music Composer A.R Rahman also had his debut in Tamil industry.
One of the most unique features of Tamil cinema is the way the films has been used and exploited to make political commentary and win Elections. Screenwriter C. N Annadurai and actors M. G Ramachandran utilized their films to move into political office in the 1940s and 1950s.
Early Years of Tamil Film Industry :
The Tamil cinema had its beginning in 1897 when M.Edwards screened the first ever movie show in South India at Victoria Memorial Hall in Madras. The first Tamil Talkie was ‘Kalidas‘ was screened in 1931. A.Narayanan started the first sound studio in South India in 1934 and his ‘Srinivasa Kalyanam‘ (1934) became the first Tamil Talkie to be produced in a Madras studio. Gemini Studios was emerged in the 1940s and produced great hits like ‘Madana Kamarajan’, ‘Nandhanaar’ and ‘Chandralekha’. The first Tamil film to be successful in both Tamil and Hindi versions was Chandralekha.
The success of early Tamil sound films led to the construction of up-to-date studios in the South during 1935-1936. In the 1960s, director K. Balachander created movies with bold themes in cinematic styles and gave birth to All-India stars like Kamal Hasan, Rajnikanth and Sridevi.
C. N. Annadurai (former Chief Minister of Tamilnadu) and M.Karunanidhi (the present Chief Minister of Tamilnadu), both started their career in the film industry as script writers. S.S.Vasan, M.K.Thyagaraja Bhagavathar, T.R.Sundaram, S.M.Sriramalu Naidu and Jupiter Somu were some of the early film-makers in the Tamil Film industry. Gemini Ganesan, M.G.Ramachandran(MGR – former Chief Minister of Tamilnadu), Sivaji Ganesan, Siva Kumar and many other actors donned the Tamil films in the early period. There were many popular actresses also like Saroja Devi, Devika, Jayalalitha (former Chief Minister of Tamilnadu), Sridevi and Vijaya Kumari.
Today’s Tamil Cinema and Supertstars – Rajnikanth and Kamal Haasan
  india-tamil-actors-protest-2008-620x238Today’s Tamil Cinema :
According to the Central Board of Film Certification, the Tamil film industry ranked third in terms of the number of films produced in 2003. In 2005, Kollywood produced three new releases every week on average, and an annual turnover of over Rs.23,205 million from ticket sales of 600 million. Tamil films enjoyed consistent popularity among Tamil speakers in India, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Malaysia. Tamil films have recently become popular in Japan, South Africa, Canada, and the UK. For example, Rajini Kant’s ‘Muthu’ was screened for a record period of time in Japan recently.
Many movies like ‘Anniyan’ and ‘Chandramukhi’ were simultaneously released in USA. Tamil films enjoy good patronage in the neighbouring southern States like Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. In Kerala, Tamil films are released directly in Tamil itself, but in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, the dubbed versions of the films are preferred. Many Tamil films were dubbed into Hindi and other Indian languages. The recent film ‘Anniyan’ became the first Tamil film to be dubbed into French.
Superstars in Tamil Films :
Kamal Hasan and Rajini Kant are the Superstars in Tamil films. There are many other actors like Prabhu, Vijay, Ajith Kumar, Madhavan, Surya, Vikram in the industry. Kushboo, Simran, Jyothika, Asin and Trisha are the recent sensations among actresses.
Rajinikanth :
The Superstar Rajnikanth takes home a salary 35 crore per film. He acts in one film every two years recently. Rajinikanth performs predominantly in leading roles in high-budget and major studio films, ranging from romantic comedies and drama to action thrillers. RajniKant has about 63000 registered Fan Clubs across the world.
Rajini Kant’s film ‘Sivaji‘ released on June 15th, 2007, receives huge opening now. It is released in Theatres world wide in approximately 2,900 theatres. Sivaji is one of the most-awaited movies this year. This film credits some of the biggest names like director S Shankar, music director A R Rahman, art director Thotta Tharani, cinematographer K V Anand and many more. The film also stars Shriya opposite him, and has Nayanthara doing an item number. The film, prior to release, has re-written several Indian records at the box-office starting with the most costly production to date with 60 crores, overtaking, the 2002 Bollywood film, Devdas which cost the producer 50 Indian crores.
Kamal Haasan :
Kamal Haasan started his career as a child artist. He is an accomplished actor who received India’s third highest civilian honour, the Padma Shri for his services to Indian cinema in 1990. His most popular films include Moondram Pirai (1982), Saagara Sangamam (1983), Nayagan (1987), Indian (1996) and Hey Ram (2000). In 2007, Kamal Haasan has attempted to portray ten different characters in his upcoming project, ‘Dasavatharam’, therefore making the attempt a possible World Record. Kamal is the first actor to turn his fan clubs into registered non-profit service organizations. He acted in many different roles in many films like Indian, Avvai Shanmugi and Hey Ram.
Actors, Actresses, Directors, Music Directors, Singers and Cinema Halls
Other Prominent Actors and Actresses :
There are many popular actors and actresses in Tamil cinema.
Vijay is the young superstar of Tamil cinema. He earned the title ‘Ilayathalapathy’ in 1996. He has done many blockbusters like Poove Unakkaga, Kadhalukku Mariyadhai, Kushi and Ghilli. He is a good playback singer also.
Surya is another popular actor in Tamil films. He is the son of Tamil actor Sivakumar and he is married to the fellow actress Jyothika recently. He acted in many popular films like Ghajini, Perazhagan, Kaaka Kaaka, Aaru and June R.
Kushboo was a leading actress in Tamil cinema in the 80′s and 90′s. She acted opposite to the superstars Rajni Kant and Kamal Haasan in many films. Apart from Tamil movies, she also acted in various movies in Kannada, Telugu, and Malayalam.
Jyothika is a leading Tamil film actress. She is married to actor Surya recently. She is regarded as a Superstar in South Indian Cinema because of her continuous string of hits. She is paid the highest salary among Indian actresses, beating Trisha Krishnan and Kareena Kapoor. Her famous films include Vaali, Rhythm, Kushi, Thenali, Kaaka Kaaka, Arul, Maayavi, Chandramukhi, Vettaiyadu Villaiyadu and Mozhi.
Simran established herself as an actress of repute in the south Indian film industry. Her notable films include Kanannethere Thondrinal, Vaali and Kannathil Muthamittal. Simran is a versatile dancer.
Playback Singers :
There are many famous playback singers in Tamil like S.P.BalaSubrahmaniyam(SPB), Srinivas, K.S.Chitra, P.Susheela, Nityasree Mahadevan and Chinmayi Sripada.
Popular Directors :
K.Balachander, Mani Ratnam and Shankar are some of the popular film-makers of the Tamil industry today. There are many other leading names in the industry like K.Bagyaraj, Kathir, Balu Mahendra, Bharathiraaja, C.V.Sridhar, Durai and J.Mahendran.
Music Directors :
A.R Rahman, Illayaraja, Bala Barathi, Gangai Amaran, Karthik Raja, Vidyasagar, Shankar Ganesh and T. Rajendar are some of the popular Tamil Music Directors.
Industry Trends:
Average annual film output in Tamil film industry has risen steadily in the 20th century. The Tamil film industry accounts for approx. 1% of the gross domestic product of the state of Tamil Nadu. The Tamil Nadu government has made provisions for an entertainment tax exemption for Tamil movies having pure Tamil word(s) in the title. This is in accordance with Government Order 72 passed on 22 July 2006.
Cinema Halls :
There are about 2,400 cinema halls in Kollywood, of which around 125 are located in the Chennai district. Show rentals range from Rs.700 in C-centres to as much as Rs.7,000 in A-centres for an average 700-seat screen.
The Tamil film industry is one of biggest and most successful film industries in India. It is also one of the oldest film industries which popularized cinema in India.


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