Friday, March 13, 2009

Film factory

As a boy working in his father's general store in Karaikudi, Meiyappan was fascinated by the gramophone records that were brought in from Madras. His fascination led him to start Saraswathi Stores, dedicated entirely to music records, many of which were pressed by the Store itself. Most of the music was from the movies; thinking about it, the native business acumen of the Nattukottai Chettiars came through and Meiyappan decided he could produce the whole feature film rather than buy songs from other producers. Sailing forth on this dream, he found his first three movies - Alli Arjuna (1935), Ratnavali (1936) and Nandakumar (1938) - bombing. Meiyappan's response was to go further upstream; partnering with a couple of his friends, he set up Pragathi Studios in Madras.

The movies from Pragathi, in Tamizh and Kannada, including the country's first dubbed film, Harischandra (made by replacing the original Kannada voices with Tamizh ones), were successful and Meiyappan came to be known by his initials - AVM, for Avichi Meiyappan. Needing more space for his ambitions, but hampered from expanding beyond an office of the AVM Studios in Madras because of the II World War, AVM went back to his native Karaikudi. There, on Devakottai Road, he set up a 60' X 120' shed as AVM Studio's first production floor, in 1945.

Today, the initials AVM can be seen on several properties and buildings around Chennai. Though AVM moved away from producing movies for a while, they have come back strong and along with the Studios, they are buzzing away at the forefront of Tamizh entertainment. The original 60' X 120' shed was dismantled after the war, brought to Madras and reassembled on the third floor of AVM Studios. Since then, the pujas for any AVM Production project are always held on this floor!


Anonymous said...

This can be considered a legacy and an "antique" production outfit. Another history in the making and should properly be taken cared of for the future generation to see.

Shantaram said...

@ Xanindia: 60 years old... yes, there's a lot of history that needs to be preserved!