Chapter 3
Tamil Cinema: History, Celebrities, Genres

The imagery of banner and cutout advertisements mirrors the narratives and stylistic characteristics of Tamil entertainment cinema. In surveying the development of the cinematic medium in the Indian context the author makes note of three major historical shifts: the pre-independence era of 1913 to 1947, the post independence decades of the fifties and sixties, and the contemporary period dating from the 1970s. The discussion includes a generic classification of India’s film output into the ‘experimental,’ ‘middle’ and ‘entertainment’ genres as well as a division of the industry by language and region.

Most narratives of Indian cinema prioritize the Hindi language cinema centered in Mumbai, traditionally regarded as representative of Indian cinema. A shift in focus to the specific history of Tamil cinema, centered in Chennai, reveals that this cinematic tradition, more than any other in India, has evolved the most vital connections with political and social developments in the region.

The historical narrative of this chapter introduces readers to key celebrities of Tamil cinema who reappear in subsequent chapters albeit in primarily political rather than cinematic roles.



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