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Lasting icons of showbiz: A look at Tamil Nadu's most iconic cinema halls

Devi Theatre, Chennai’s famous landmark recently passed the 50-year milestone

Devi Theatre, Chennai’s famous landmark recently passed the 50-year milestone  

From Chennai's Devi Theatre to Coimbatore's Carnatic Cinema, these halls are home to several memories for both fans and Kollywood stars alike

They have continued to cater while most of their counterparts have chosen to fold up. A look at some of the cinema halls across Tamil Nadu.

K.N. Varadarajan - Devi theatre, Chennai (Since 1970)

Devi Theatre, Chennai’s famous landmark recently passed the 50-year milestone — an appropriate moment, this writer thought to take stock of the situation. Several reasons contributed to the closure of many cinema halls, which once were the main source of entertainment for the urban population. In this Lockdown situation, public viewing of films has been ruled out, casting doubts over their future. So a quick glance at some exhibition halls across the State, which have stood the test of time, attracting film lovers over generations. And we begin with Devi, which celebrated the landmark quietly:

Devi Theatre, Chennai’s famous landmark recently passed the 50-year milestone

Devi Theatre, Chennai’s famous landmark recently passed the 50-year milestone  

 

“We are a little disappointed that we have not been able to celebrate our golden jubilee in the manner it deserves,” says K.N. Varadarajan and goes on to look back at the eventful journey. “We opened with Sivaji Ganesan’s Sorgam, M. Karunanidhi, opening it on May 23, 1970. The legend visited our theatre many times. Our theatre was opened by the then Chief Minister Karunanidhi on May 23, 1970. We have many firsts to boast. We were the first in India to install Dolby digital and Dolby digital surround-Ex in our theatre, which screened the films of all star actors. MGR watched Ulagam Sutrum Valiban with co-stars in Devi (this correspondent saw the film with MGR on this occasion). Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendar paid visits.

Gemini Ganesan was a regular visitor to our theatre. In fact, Devi has been a favourite place for most film personalities up to the current stars. Four films recorded a one-year run — Choti Si Baat (371 days), Nenjathai Killathe (366 days), Karagaattakkaran (365 days) and Titanic (365 days). Other box-office hits were Mackenna’s Gold (175 days), Speed (175 days), Bahubali -2, Theri, Viswasam and Bigil.”

Subbaiya - Vaduganathan Cinemas, Chidambaram (Since 1945)

Vaduganathan Talkies was started as a drama hall in 1945. The following year, it became a silent cinema hall and in August 15, 1947, India’s Independence Day, it was refurbished and opened as Vaduganathan Talkies by my grandfather, the late V DL. Subbaiah Chettiar. In 1972, the 25th year celebration function was attended by the then Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi.

Lasting icons of showbiz: A look at Tamil Nadu's most iconic cinema halls
 

In the same year, Lena Talkies was also constructed by my father, the late Lakshmanan Chettiar. It was inaugurated by the late Karumuthu Thiyagarajan Chettiar, owner of Meenakshi Mills, Madurai. The projector was switched on by none other than M.G. Ramachandran. J. Jayalalithaa lit the kuthuvilakku and first ticket was issued by M.A. Muthiah Chettiar, Raja of Chettinad and pro-chancellor of Annanamalai University. In that opening day celebrations, legend K.B. Sundarambal, Gemini Ganesan, Tamizhvanan participated. We have screened several blockbuster films in both the theatres, star visitors including Sando Chinnappa Thevar, Muthuraman, Jaishanker, Nagesh, M.N. Nambiar, S.A.Asokan, T. Rajender and many more have visited our theatre. After major renovation, we re-opened on November 30, 2017, Vaduganathan Cinemas, a luxury theatre with sophisticated audio and digital projection equipment. The first movie played after renovation was Annadurai, starring Vijay Antony. Petta, Bigil and Viswasam were all screened here. In this journey of 72 years, the thetare has screened the films of all famous stars from MKT and PUChinnapa to MGR and Sivaji Ganesan.

V.G. Sunder Raj - Carnatic Cinema, Coimbatore (Since 1935)

Located next to our city deity Koniamanan Temple and adjacent to the clock tower and Victoria town hall, our cinema hall was the third to be started in Coimbatore. It was founded by my father V. Guruviah Naidu, the first film screened being Krishna Leela, in Tamil, which played for several months. Between 1940 and 70, the theatre did not miss any hit. This included Kalyana Parisu, Pavamannippu, Karnan and Sigappu Rojakkal. Many celebrities such as MGR, . Karunanidhi, Sivaji Ganesan, Gemini Ganesan, Thangavelu and R.M. Veerappan graced the functions held at the theatre, which was upgraded in the late 1990s with air condition system and DTS sound system, ushering in the screening of English, Hindi, Malayalam movies.

Lasting icons of showbiz: A look at Tamil Nadu's most iconic cinema halls
 

Carnatic was one of the few cinemas in Coimbatore to introduce “E” cinema digital projection in the year in 2006. Our theatre also introduced online ticketing system, four way digital sound systems and many amenities for the audience. We have been constantly upgrading our technology at par with multiplexes. Top grossers screened here in recent times are Viswasam, Bigil and Darbar.

Gopaldas - Maharani, Chennai (1949)

Maharaja Krishna Kumarasingh Bhavasingh of Bhavnagar inaugurated the theatre. Right from the inauguration till today, hundreds of films have been sceened, many crossing golden jubilee and silver jubilee landmarks. Superstar Rajinikanth’s Mappilai was one of the biggest hits in recent times. From the days of Vazhkai, we have been regular exhibitors for AVM.

Lasting icons of showbiz: A look at Tamil Nadu's most iconic cinema halls
 

I remember the release of MGR’s Oorukku Uzhaippavan, which was a big hit. He had been expelled from DMK, when he visited our theatre. But he was so calm and and enquired about me, the business and the theatre. I marvelled at his courage. Maharani released both Billas. I’m looking forward to the day we’ll reopen for the public.

A.S. Shanmugam - Karthigeyan Theatre, Arani (1957)

Proximity to Chennai brought many artistes and celebrities to our theatre, which was started by A.S. Subramaniya Mudaliar. The first film was Madharkula Manickam, which was a hit. MGR’s Nadodi Mannan was another big grosser. Ulagam Sutrum Valliban was another blockbuster. People thronged to see their favourite star and all those foreign locations.

Lasting icons of showbiz: A look at Tamil Nadu's most iconic cinema halls
 

Our theatre has the unique distinction of hosting political meetings — by Sivaji Ganesan and Neelam Sanjeeva Reddi. Rajinikanth attended a function and acted in a play. So did M.R. Radha, who staged ‘Rathakkanner.’

P. Kannappan - Sri Durga, Thiruththani (1963)

With two halls — Sri Durga and Sri Thurga Palace — ours is a fully equipped complex with the capacity to seat over 1,000 people. I purchased this theatre from B. Subramania Reddy. We don’t miss new releases in Tamil and Telugu. It was with NTR’s Venkateswara Mahatmyam that the theatre began its journey in 1963.

Lasting icons of showbiz: A look at Tamil Nadu's most iconic cinema halls
 

The renovated theatre has all modern amenities and equipment.

M. Sunder - Bharath Theatre, Chennai (1952)

It was in 1987 that I bought this theatre, whose history goes back to 1952. Krishnasamy Naidu, former judge of the Madras High Court was the owner.

Lasting icons of showbiz: A look at Tamil Nadu's most iconic cinema halls
 

The theatre had screened many famous films, including Parasakti of Sivaji Ganesan. The first film we screened after renovation was Senthoorapoove, which had a 100-day run. ‘Pudhu Vasantham’ and ‘Chinna Thambi’ ran for 25 weeks. All block buster films of Rajinikanth like Rajathi Raja, Mannan, Thalapathi, Annaamalai, Padaiyappa and Chandramuki were big grossers. Kamal Haasan’s Soorasamharam and Aalavanthan were released here. Vijay and his parents watched the film with the audience when his first film, Nalaiya Theerpu was screened.

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Printable version | Jul 13, 2020 11:39:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/lasting-icons-of-showbiz-a-look-at-tamil-nadus-most-iconic-cinema-halls/article31914992.ece

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