The Cinema Resource Centre is looking to digitise its vast memorabilia of South Indian cinema

We’ve come across DVD libraries, bistros and restaurants proudly displaying posters of vintage Hollywood films. Ever wondered why we don’t show similar pride in displaying posters of old Indian films, both Hindi and regional? Imagine on-location photographs and posters of Mother India, Sholay or Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam classics being displayed.

The Cinema Resource Centre (TCRC), based in Chennai, has a vast collection of posters, lobby cards, lyric sheets and images of cinema, mostly Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam with some representation of Hindi and Kannada. “Indian cinema is more than Bollywood. There’s a huge amount of history in South Indian cinema,” says filmmaker Sruti Harihara Subramanian, instrumental in founding TCRC.

Sruti had a huge personal collection of posters, lobby cards and other memorabilia. In 2009, she realised the collection shouldn’t be limited to private viewing, given the history it contained. She registered a trust and stepped up her collection, sometimes from production houses eager to dispose the old ‘clutter’, at times from trash cans and parking lots of cinema halls about to down their shutters and on a few occasions from homes of film industry folks.

“We also tapped vendors of old newspapers, who receive such memorabilia from homes that wanted to do away with space-occupying memorabilia,” says Sruti.

This archival work is only one area of focus for TCRC. Sruti wants TCRC to function like a museum space and host curated shows, screen rare films and conduct discussions on cinema. The immediate focus, however, is to digitise the collection. “Most posters, lobby cards and photographs were not originally made for long-term storage. Some of them are on newsprint and we are doing our best to preserve them as long as we can. It is practical to digitise the memorabilia and make it available online for easy accessibility,” says Sruti.

For the digitisation process, TCRC is hoping to raise funds by reaching out to cinema lovers. Singer Sunitha Sarathy, one of the prominent campaigners for this project (on, says, “This collection is a treasure trove of information for those wanting to learn about regional cinema.

The then undivided Madras was the hub for South Indian cinema, before the Telugu film industry established operations in Hyderabad. A few Hindi films were also shot in Madras studios. The TCRC collection offers a window to this era.”