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The Makers: Suppliers of Vitamin M!

The past month has been a very eventful one for almost all Indians, or should I say cricket lovers – for the Master Blaster has played his last game for the country… 24 years of wonderful gamesmanship has come to an end! An almost flawless journey – and Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement from the gentleman’s game only goes to remind us that all things must come to an end! But, on a positive note, the past month has been very very eventful for us here at India Reigns, what with the Honourable Governor of Tamil Nadu – Dr. Rosaiah launching our previous issue of India Reigns and also our online channel.

The director is always said to be the captain of the ship (here the movie is ironically compared to a vessel which is set afloat but sometimes sinks due to a number of reasons! But, for every movie, I believe the director may be the captain, but the master of the ship is indeed the producer. Having pumped in all the money, it is the producer who is literally on tenterhooks till the people’s verdict is delivered!

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With the changing times and trends in cinema, it is not just the actors and technicians who have changed, but the world is witnessing a new breed of producers too! Earlier, there used to be production houses steeped in tradition and they were just a handful but were in control of over 90% of the movies being released in Kollywood. Then came the trend of actors and technicians turning producers. Initially, they started out by producing their own movies, and then when they tasted success, they started backing movies made by others too.

However, the biggest change in terms of movie production came in the form of ‘Corporate Houses’ looking at movies as a business option. Many corporate and multi-national companies decided to produce movies as it appealed to them to be a good money churner. The major drawback with this development was that the ‘Corporate Houses’ knew business and looked at cinema in the same vein, but they did not know or understand the nuances of this wonderful celluloid canvas. That did not deter them from foraying into this lucrative industry. However, the arrival of these Corporates also brought in staggering budgets and professional execution. But, this was not the end of change. These Corporate houses also decided to go into collaboration with Hollywood production houses and thus were thrown open the gates of our cinema to the global players!

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The most traditional production house – AVM Productions, has more than 60 years of production history. Its founder, Avichi Meiyappa Chettiar, began producing movies for over a decade before the AVM Productions banner was founded in 1945. The scion’s protégé have carried on his tradition and are still backing good projects and making some of the finest movies Kollywood is witnessing. On par with major Corporates, this production house has the distinction of making one of the costliest movies ever made – Sivaji, starring Superstar Rajinikanth in the lead.

Talking of traditional film houses, one just cannot forget Devar Films. This production house is mostly known for making movies with various animals like elephants, snakes and monkeys playing important roles in them. Sathya Movies and Sujatha Cine Arts were amongst the first production houses to be formed by people within the industry. Sathya Movies saw the transformation of RM Veerappan into a producer, while Sujatha Cine Arts was actor Balaji’s brainchild. Other famous production houses like Kavithalaya, Gemini Films and others have also been producing movies for quite some time now. Even the legendary Kamal Haasan and Sivaji Ganesan have forayed into production with their movie houses Rajkamal International and Sivaji Films, respectively. Director Mani Ratnam’s production house is called Madras Talkies.

There have also been many notable individual production companies which have been responsible for many top movies that have hit screens till date. Sri Thenandal Films, Sri Surya Movies, Pyramid Saimira,NIC Arts, Ayngaran International, Aascar Films, S Pictures and Kalaipuli S Thanu’s V Creations are all considered to be major players in the market, even today.
The Corporates like Reliance Entertainment, UTV, Adlabs and many others established tie-ups with independent filmmakers and existing production houses and this new combination gave a fresh lease of life to many aspiring directors whose works were solidly backed by these producers.

The ever-rising costs of making movies has also taken out a few players and brought in the bigger movers and shakers. Nowadays, the average budget of a movie has risen considerably, and the bigger the star in the lead, the higher the budget. In such circumstances, the bigger Corporate houses seem more willing to take a few risks and pump in the required money. Some voices from within Kollywood cry foul over the involvement of big business houses in Tamil cinema. They allege that the independent film producers put their own money into play and do not play around with public money and also that the individual producers bring in their own vision to the project. However, despite such strong criticisms coming from a few quarters, the big players seem unfazed and continue to bet on the horses of their choice and still emerge winners.
Some independent filmmakers like Sri Surya Movies AM Ratnam have inspirational stories to their name. After becoming one of the most successful production companies, the banner almost sank without a trace, due to some bad choices and mounting pressure. However, the sharp minds of those at the top ensured a complete turnaround and the banner is back with a bang now.

The new wave of producers who are carving a niche for themselves are some well known names like actor Prakashraj with his Duet Movies banner, director Lingusamy with his Thirrupathi Brothers banner, director Gautham Menon’s Photon Kathas, director Shankar’s S Pictures, actor Vishal’s Vishal Film Factory and many such others. These people have all had experience of working within the industry and know a lot of basic parameters hands-on. So, this helps them in choosing projects that they are sure will work for them, and backing them!

Many foreign movie houses like Fox Star, Warner Bros. and Eros International are also slowly gaining a foothold within the Indian and more importantly south Indian movie industries. However, knowing that this is totally new territory for them, they are choosing to align themselves with existing players from here and going in for joint ventures, which I think is a very smart and calculated move indeed!

Of the recently (with recent being a relative term) cropped up production houses, some names like Studio Green, Radaan Media, Cloud Nine, Red Giant Movies, JSK Film Corporation, Grass Root Entertainment, Escape Artiste Motion Pictures, Vendhar Movies, Libra Productions and Thirukumaran Entertainments are just a few of the names that come to my mind.

However the front or behind the scenes things change, the fact that ‘content is king’ is still an adage that holds true for the success of any movie. The unique marketing strategies adopted by production houses also play a vital role in determining how a movie reaches the audiences. The coming month has quite a few movies lined up to hit the screens! Do watch them all only at theatres and enjoy.

– Vicky

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