Tamil cinema is the filmmaking industry of Tamil-language motion pictures. It is based in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, in the Kodambakkam neighbourhood, leading to the industry's nickname Kollywood, the word being a portmanteau of Kodambakkam and Hollywood; the first Tamil silent film, Keechaka Vadham, was made by R. Nataraja Mudaliar in 1918; the first talking motion picture, was a multilingual and was released on 31 October 1931, less than seven months after India's first talking motion picture Alam Ara. By the end of the 1930s, the legislature of the State of Madras passed the Entertainment Tax Act of 1939. Tamil cinema had a profound effect on other filmmaking industries of India, establishing Madras as a secondary hub for Hindi cinema, other South Indian film industries, as well as Sri Lankan cinema. Over the last quarter of the 20th century, Tamil films from India established a global presence through distribution to an increasing number of overseas theatres in Singapore, Sri Lanka, Japan, the Middle East, parts of Africa, Europe, North America and other countries.
The industry inspired independent filmmaking in Sri Lanka and Tamil diaspora populations in Malaysia and the Western Hemisphere. In 1897, M. Edwards first screened a selection of silent short films at the Victoria Public Hall in Madras; the films all featured non-fictional subjects. The film scholar Stephen Hughes points out that within a few years there were regular ticketed shows in a hall in Pophams Broadway, started by one Mrs. Klug, but this lasted only for a few months. Once it was demonstrated as a commercial proposition, a Western entrepreneur, Warwick Major, built the first cinema theatre, the Electric Theatre, which still stands, 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. The Lyric Theatre was built in the Mount Road area; this venue boasted a variety of events, including plays in English, Western classical music concerts, ballroom dances. Silent films were screened as an additional attraction.
Swamikannu Vincent, a railway draftsman from Tiruchirapalli, became a travelling exhibitor in 1905. He showed short movies in a tent in Esplanade, near the present Parry's Corner, using carbide jet-burners for projection, he bought the film projector and silent films from the Frenchman Du Pont and set up a business as film exhibitor. Soon, he tied up with Path, a well-known pioneering film-producing company, imported projectors; this helped new cinema houses to sprout across the presidency. In years, he produced talkies and 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, 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.
With this equipment, he screened the short films Pearl Fish and Raja's Casket in the Victoria Public Hall. When this proved successful, he screened the films in a tent set up in Esplanade; these tent events were the true precursors of the cinema shows. Venkiah travelled with this unit to Burma and Sri Lanka, when he had gathered enough money, he put up a permanent cinema house in Madras—Gaiety, in 1914, the first cinema house in Madras to be built by an Indian, he soon added Crown Theatre in Mint and Globe in Purasawalkam. Swamikannu 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. Most of the films screened were shorts made in the United States and Britain. In 1909, an Englishman, T. H. Huffton, founded Peninsular Film Services in Madras and produced some short films for local audiences.
But soon, hour-long films, which narrated dramatic stories known as "drama films", were imported. From 1912 onwards, feature films made in Bombay were screened in Madras; the era of short films had ended. The arrival of drama films established cinema as a popular entertainment form. More cinema houses came up in the city. Fascinated by this new entertainment form, an automobile dealer in the Thousand Lights area of Madras, R. Nataraja Mudaliyar, decided to venture into film production. After a few days’ training in Pune with the cinematographer Stewart Smith, the official cinematographer of Lord Curzon's 1903 Durbar, he started a film production concern in 1916; the man who laid the foundations of south Indian cinema was A. Narayanan. After a few years in film distribution, he set up a production company in Madras, the General Pictures Corporation, popularly known as GPC. Beginning with The Faithful Wife/Dharmapathini, GPC made about 24 feature films. GPC functioned as a film school and its alumni included names such as Sundara Rao Nadkarni and Jiten Banerji.
The studio of GPC was housed in the Chellapalli bungalow on Thiruvottiyur High Road in Madras. This company, which produced the most number of Tamil silent films, had branches in Colombo and Singapore; the Ways of Vishnu/Vishnu L
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