Tamil Cinema History - The Early Days.


Compiled by "Kalaimaamani" Film News Anandan.

During the past 82 years, Tamil Cinema has reached many a mile stone. In this article, 'Kalaimaamani' Sri. Film News Anandan, noted film historian and researcher, considered an walking encyclopedia on Tamil Cinema traces the growth of Tamil Cinema from the silent era to the birth of the talkies and beyond.

This is the second part of this ongoing series on the evolution of tamil cinema.


ambikapathy. Bhagavathar was at his peak. His beauty and music attracted many people to his movies. Two more successful movies, starring Bhagavathar came out this year. The first one was Ambikapathi.(lon the sets of the movie - shown here on the left)  M.R Santanalakshmi was the co-star in this movie. The dialog was written by Elangovan. The next successful movie for Bhagavathar was Chintamani. The movie was produced by Royal Talkies and Aswathamma paired. The movie ran for one year and became a huge success. Y.U. Rao directed this movie.

babysaroja This year also saw the introduction of Baby Saroja to the Tamil film world. Children (including Baby Saroja) played a pivetol role in the movie Balayogini. This movie was directed in two languages by K. Subramanyam. This movie made Baby Saroja (shown on right) so popular that many parents christened their babies after Saroja (If you have grand-grand-mother with this name in your family, probably you should ask them, how they got the name :-)).She was also populary referred to as the "Shirley Temple of India!" This year also saw the successful stunt movie Minnalkodi (K.T.Rukmani acted in this movie) and the movie Nava Yuvan, which had some outdoor scenes shot in London. There was a controvercial movie, whose name got changed by a court order. The original movie name was Thanjavur Rowdy. The court ordered the name to be changed to Pakka Rowdy (probably Thanjavur had more clout in judicial process at that time)


MSK SubramaniamTwo great music maestros got introduced into Tamil films in this year. M.S.Subbulakshmi (left) got introduced in the movie Seva Sadanam by the director  K.Subramanyam. It is S.T.Subhulakshmi who introduced M.S to K.Subramanyam (on the right). 

Master T.R.Mahalingam got introduced in Nandakumar. T.R.Mahalingam acted as Lord Krishna in this movie, which was produced in three languages by A.V.Meyyappa Chettiyar. The first true color picture Dharmapuri Rahasyam came out. Music Vidhwan Subramanya Iyer was the hero in Tukaray. Y.M.Godainayaki, the editor of the newspaper, Jaganmohini wrote the story for the movie Anadai Penn. The other movies that came out this year were Vanarajakarasan (a jungle picture) and Jalaja (a dance story starring Natya Mani Bhanumathi).


The British Government banned the  movies  Thyaga Bhoomi and Maatru bhoomi.(shown below) 

mboomi.jpg (35127 bytes)

As the shooting of the picture Thyaga Bhoomi was in progress, dialogues in the story along with the stills were published in a weekly as a serial. Bhagavathar added another movie Thiruneelakantar to his list of successful movies. Comedian K.Sarangapani acted as hero in Rambaiyin Kaadhal. Another comedy movie Sirikaadhe came out this year.



The great comedy pair  N.S.Krishnan and T.A.Madhuram acted in Naveena Vikramadittan. Director K.Subramanyam who had introduced S.D.Subbhulakshmi and M.S.Subbhulakshmi, introduced G.Subbhulakshmi in the movie Bhakta Cheta. Even though the movie was a success, G.S did not get an opportunity tosakuntala act again. P.U.Chinnappa acted in double role in the movie Uttama Puttiran, which was directed by T.R.Sundaram (a Modern Theaters picture). Music connoiseurs M.S paired with G.N.Balasubramanyam in the movie Sakuntalai. (shown on left) Nadaswara Vidhwan T.N.Rajaratnam Pillai   acted in Kala Megam. The movie Vimochanam had only female artists in it.


Rishya Shringar PosterGemini Studio was established this year. North Indian star Santa Apte acted with M.S.Subbhulakshami (who acted as Naradar) in Savitri. Another jungle picture Vanamohini with artists M.K.Radha and Thavamani Devi came out. Bhagavathar had another box office picture in Ashokkumar. M.G.R had a supporting role in this movie. M.G.R, after becoming the chief minister gave Bhagavathar's wife (after his death) one Lakh rupees and named a building in Trichy after Bhagavathar's name. T.R.Rajakumari got introduced by the director K.Subramanyam in Kacha Devayani. T.R.Rajakumari (from Tanjavour) became famous for her beautiful eyes and body structure. She was the glamerous actress at that time. The movie Gumaasthavin Penn portrayed the aspects of a childhood marriage. The movie was staged by T.K.S brothers. Ranjan and Vasundharadevi paired in Rishya Sringar.(poster shown on the right)

A.V.Meyyappan and A.T.Krishnasamy directed the full length comedy movie Sabhapathi. Ponmal Sampath Kumar did the stage play for this movie. Kali N.Ratnam and T.R.Ramachandran added their comedy skills to this movie.


S.S.Vasan's Gemini Studio had their grand musical picture Nandanar. M.M.Dandapani acted as Desikar in the movie.  The movie was directed by Muruga Dasa. Free coupons were distributed to witness the picture and a huge amount was presented to those who named  the best song in the picture.

kannagiP.U.Chinnappa had two movies this year. The first one was Kannagi (right) with Kannamba as the co-star. Embellished by the dialogue of Elangovan. The second movie was Aryamala (Pakshi Raja's picture). Elangovan was a very popular writer. He worked as Assistant Editor in Manikkoddi magazine and Thinamani paper. He brought literary style to movie dialogues.




chinnappansk-tam in sivakavi!This year saw the first dubbed movie. A.V.Meyyappa Chettiyar dubbed his Kannada version of Harischandra into Tamil and released it and it surpassed the original Tamil version of that movie. The famous P.U.Chinnappa (left) and Kannamba paired in this movie. Gemini studio had another picture (Mangama Sabatham)   paring Vasundhara and Ranjan. Bhagavathar added yet another box office hit in the movie Sivakavi, (N S Krishnan and T A Maduram in a still from the movie - shown on the right) directed by Sreeramulu Naidu. But Bhagavathar's greatest hit came out the next year.



MKTThis year was Bhagavathar's (left) very successful year. His greatness touched its peak in the movie Haridas. T.R.Rajakumari had also acted in this movie. Because of war, there was a footage restriction (of 11,000 feets only) on the movies. Royal Talkies distributed this movie. This movie created the record box office hit in Tamil Nadu. It ran for 110 weeks in Broadway Theatre at Madras and saw three Deepavali days during its run. Another popular and entertaining picture, Jagatala Pratapan starring P.U.chinnappa came out the same year.

(to be continued...)

Original Photographs: Film News Anandan Information Center, Anu Suresh's Private Collection (esp. for the movie posters)
Photographs scanned & restored by:Krishna Sivaramapuram.
Photographic effects added by:Balaji Thirumalaikumara.