“I feel like I'm an archaeologist, taking people through places where dinosaurs once lived,” quipped actor Mohan V. Raman as he guided an excited bunch of movie lovers on Sunday through some of the great cinema studios that once dotted the landscape of Kodambakkam and Vadapalani.
The heritage walk, ‘The studios of Kollywood', which was part of the Madras Week celebrations, through up interesting facets about the city's early brushes with cinema.
One of the earliest film studios in the city, Star Combines, which started functioning in 1946, has now transformed into a huge residential complex. Vijayavahini Studio, which had 13 floors in the 1950s and was considered the largest in Asia, is now a restaurant. Most of the studios which were covered during the walk, including the AVM studio, are now largely defunct.
Though their presence has been erased from the city's memory to a large extent, Mr.Raman says that the development of the entire Kondambakkam belt can be attributed to the film industry. Even today, most television serial shootings are done in the adjoining localities such as Saligramam, Porur and Valasarawakkam. A cluster of wig makers, carpenters, painters and moulders still inhabit the belt which was once a ‘film centre', says Mr.Raman.
“I want to show the history of Tamil cinema through these studios,” said Mr.Raman during the walk. He pointed out that while there were 20 studios and 85 shooting floors in the 1980s, the numbers had shrunk to three studios and eight shooting floors now.
When he showed the shooting floor where actor Nagesh made his debut or the exact location where a particular scene of Karnan was made, there were gasps and comments like: “But I have crossed this place so many times and I had no idea.”
At least for the sake of eliciting such pleasant thoughts about the past, people need to be made more aware that such dream factories existed in the heart of our city once upon a time, Mr.Raman added.