Tamil cinema is Indian motion pictures produced in the Tamil language.
Based in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, the hub of the Tamil film
industry is in the
Kodambakkam neighbourhood of Chennai. Kollywood is
a colloquial term used to describe this industry, the word being a
Kodambakkam and Hollywood.
The first Tamil silent film, Keechaka Vadham, was made by R. Nataraja
Mudaliar in 1918.  The first talking motion picture, Kalidas, 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 later had a profound effect on other filmmaking
industries of India, establishing Madras (now Chennai) 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, Malaysia, Japan, the Middle East, parts of
Africa, Oceania, Europe, and North America. The industry also
inspired independent filmmaking in
Tamil diaspora populations in
Malaysia, Singapore, and the Western Hemisphere.
1.1 Early exhibitors
1.4 Exhibitor strike 2017
2.1 Tamil Film Distribution Territories
2.2 Rest of India
2.3 Rest of the World
5 See also
7 Further reading
8 External links
In 1897, M. Edwards first screened a selection of silent short films
Victoria Public Hall
Victoria Public Hall in Madras. The films all featured
non-fictional subjects; they were mostly photographed records of
day-to-day events. 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 (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, 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, and
imported projectors. This helped new cinema houses to sprout across
the presidency. 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 organized 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. 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 traveled with this unit to
Burma (now Myanmar) and Sri Lanka, and 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 two more, Crown Theatre in Mint and Globe (later called Roxy) in
Swamikannu Vincent, who had built the first cinema of South
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.
Most of the films screened then 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,
then known as "drama films", were imported. From 1912 onwards, feature
films made in Bombay (now Mumbai) were also screened in Madras. The
era of short films had ended. The arrival of drama films firmly
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
The man who truly 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
(1929), 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, Rangoon and Singapore.
The Ways of Vishnu/Vishnu Leela, which R. Prakasa made in 1932, was
the last silent film produced in Madras. Unfortunately, the silent era
of south Indian cinema has not been documented well. When the talkies
appeared, film producers had to travel to Bombay or Calcutta to make
films. Most films of this early period were celluloid versions of
well-known stage plays. Company dramas were popular among the Madras
audience. The legendary Otraivadai drama theatre had been built in
1872 itself in Mint. Many drama halls had come up in the city where
short silent films were screened in the afternoon and plays were
enacted in the night.
The scene changed in 1934 when Madras got its first sound studio. By
this time, all the cinema houses in Madras had been wired for sound.
Narayanan, who had been active during the silent era, founded
Srinivasa Cinetone in which his wife worked as the sound recordist.
Srinivasa Kalyanam (1934), directed by Narayanan, was the first sound
film (talkie) produced in Madras. The second sound studio to come up
in Madras was Vel Pictures, started by M. D. Rajan on Eldams Road in
the Dunmore bungalow, which belonged to the Raja of Pithapuram. Before
long, more sound studios came up. Thirty-six talkies were made in
Madras in 1935.
The main impacts of the early cinema were the cultural influences of
the country. The
Tamil language was the medium in which many plays and
stories were written since the ages as early as the Cholas. They were
highly stylised 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.
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.
In the year 1916 a studio, the first in south India, was set up in
Madras at 10 Millers Road, Kilpauk. He called it the
Company. Rangavadivelu, an actor from Suguna Vilasa Sabha, a theatre
company then, was hired to train the actors. Thirty-five days later,
the first feature film made in south India, The Extermination of
Keechakan/Keechakavatham, based on an episode from the Mahabharata,
was released produced and directed by R. Nataraja, who established the
India Film Company Limited (The Destruction of Keechaka).
Despite a century of increasing box office takings, Tamil cinema
remains informal and dominated by shell companies, or one-film
wonders, born and dead in a matter of months. Nevertheless, there are
few exceptions like Modern Theatres, Gemini Studios, AVM and Sri
Thenandal Films that survived beyond 100 productions.
Exhibitor strike 2017
In 2017, opposing the dual taxation of GST (28%) and entertainment tax
(30%), Tamilnadu Theatre Owners Association announced indefinite
closure of all cinemas in the state from 3rd July 2017. The
strike has been called off and the cinemas will be playing the movies
starting Friday 7th July 2017. Government has formed a
committee to decide on the existence of state's 30% entertainment tax.
Its reported that, per day business loss during the strike was around
₹ 20 crores.
See also: List of Tamil-language films
Annual admissions in
Chennai multiplexes and single screens averaged
11 million tickets with a standard deviation of ±1 million tickets
during 2011-16. 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.
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
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.
Tamil Film Distribution Territories
Maximum Business (%)
6 Northern districts - Cuddalore, Kanchipuram, Tiruvallur,
Tiruvannamalai, Vellore & Viluppuram
4 Western districts - Coimbatore, Erode, Nilgiris & Tiruppur
1 Northern district - Chennai
6 Southern districts - Dindigul, Madurai, Ramanathapuram, Sivaganga,
Theni & Virudhunagar
8 Central districts - Ariyalur, Karur, Nagapattinam, Perambalur,
Pudukkottai, Thanjavur, Tiruchirappalli & Tiruvarur
4 Western districts - Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri, Namakkal & Salem
3 Southern districts - Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli & Kanyakumari
Rest of India
USA & Canada
Rest of the World
Rest of India
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
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. 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
Marupakkam directed by K.S. Sethu Madhavan, became the first
Tamil film to win the National Film Award for Best Feature Film, the
feat was repeated by
Kanchivaram in 2007. Tamil films enjoy
significant patronage in neighboring Indian states like Kerala,
Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and New Delhi. In
Karnataka the films are directly released in Tamil but in
Andhra Pradesh they are generally dubbed into Telugu
where they have a decent market.
Rest of the World
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.
Tamil cinema has been brought to North America and exhibited by
Somasundaram Gunasegaram beginning with "Roja" in 1992. Since then his
eldest son, Siva Gunasegaram, has been at the forefront of bringing
South Asian cinema
South Asian cinema to New York and is responsible for the largest
blockbusters of the decade.
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.
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).
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 22 July 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
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 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. By the
first decade of 21st century, about 90 per cent of the films were
released on commission basis.
Outright Sale – Here, the producer sells all distribution and
theatrical exhibition 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
Theatre Hire – Here, the exhibitor pays the distributor the entire
box office collection after deducting 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. In Chennai, a
moderate theater with AC and DTS can fetch around ₹1 lakh as weekly
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 tax is retained
by the exhibitor. Effectively, the exhibitor becomes a distributor in
the eyes of the market. So, the entire risk of box office performance
of the film remains with the exhibitor.
Minimum Guarantee + Royalty – Here, the exhibitor pays the
distributor a minimum lump sum irrespective of the box office
performance of the film. Rental is not chargeable per show. Any
surplus after deducting tax and show rental is shared in a pre-set
ratio (1:2) between the distributor and exhibitor typically.
Revenue Share – Here, the distributor shares with the exhibitor, in
a pre-set ratio (typically 1:1), the entire box office collection of
the film after deducting 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.
Film studios in
Chennai are bound by legislation, such as the
Cinematography Film Rules of 1948, the Cinematography Act of
1952, and the Copyright Act of 1957. In Tamil Nadu, cinema
ticket prices are regulated by the government. Single screen theatres
may charge a maximum of ₹50, while theatres with more than three
screens may charge a maximum of ₹120 per ticket.
Cinema of the world
Cinema of India
Colour era in Indian cinema
Earliest color films in South India
List of highest-grossing Indian films
List of Tamil actors
List of Tamil film actors
List of Tamil film actresses
List of Tamil music directors
Tamil television soap opera
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Media related to
Tamil cinema at Wikimedia Commons
Tamil Cinema Website - Gallery, Trailer & Videos - Kollywood.Co
Tamil film from Malaysia
Sri Lankan Tamil cinema
Tamil films (A–Z)
Silent films of South
National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil
No Award (1955)
No Award (1956)
No Award (1957)
No Award (1958)
Bhaaga Pirivinai (1959)
Parthiban Kanavu (1960)
Certificate of Merit
Andha Naal and
Edhir Paradhathu (1954)
Mangaiyar Thilakam (1955)
Thanga Padhumai and
Annaiyin Aanai (1958)
Veerapandiya Kattabomman and
Kalyana Parisu (1959)
Paadhai Theriyudhu Paar
Paadhai Theriyudhu Paar and
Kalathur Kannamma (1960)
Kappalottiya Thamizhan (1961)
Nenjil Or Aalayam
Nenjil Or Aalayam (1962)
Naanum Oru Penn
Naanum Oru Penn (1963)
Kai Koduttha Dheivam
Kai Koduttha Dheivam (1964)
Kuzhandaiyum Deivamum (1965)
Thillana Mohanambal (1968)
Iru Kodugal (1969)
Raman Ethanai Ramanadi
Raman Ethanai Ramanadi (1970)
Veguli Penn (1971)
Pattikada Pattanama (1972)
Dikkatra Parvathi (1973)
No Award (1974)
Apoorva Raagangal (1975)
No Award (1976)
Agraharathil Kazhutai (1977)
No Award (1978)
Nenjathai Killathe (1980)
Certificate of Merit
Annai and Sarada (1962)
Karpagam and Karnan (1963)
Server Sundaram (1964)
Discontinued after 1965
Thanneer Thanneer (1981)
Ezhavathu Manithan (1982)
Oru Indhiya Kanavu (1983)
Achamillai Achamillai (1984)
Muthal Mariyathai (1985)
Mouna Ragam (1986)
No Award (1988)
Pudhea Paadhai (1989)
Vanna Vanna Pookkal
Vanna Vanna Pookkal (1991)
Thevar Magan (1992)
Kadhal Kottai (1996)
The Terrorist (1997)
Ooruku Nooruper (2001)
Kannathil Muthamittal (2002)
Aadum Koothu (2005)
Vaaranam Aayiram (2008)
Thenmerku Paruvakaatru (2010)
Vaagai Sooda Vaa
Vaagai Sooda Vaa (2011)
Vazhakku Enn 18/9
Vazhakku Enn 18/9 (2012)
Thanga Meenkal (2013)
Kuttram Kadithal (2014)
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Chennai Super Kings
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Assisi Nagar, Chennai
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