A reel revolution from 85 years ago
Kalidas launched the career of T.P. Rajalakshmi, the first heroine of south India
CHENNAI: On Deepavali, over 8 decades ago, a revolution of sorts was launched in Tamil cinema.
“Come and Hear, First Indian Tamil and Telugu talkie”, proclaimed an advertisement in The Hindu, dated October 31, 1931, for Kalidas. The movie, which was touted to be the first talkie movie in Tamil and Telugu in the country, released 85 years ago in the city.
The film was screened at ‘Kinema Central’ theatre, according to the advertisement. The theatre that prided itself on being the ‘House of Perfect Sound’ was to show the movie for a week. An announcement in the newspaper on October 30, a day ahead of its release, too proclaimed that the movie was the first talkie to be screened in the city with Tamil and Telugu songs.
The movie, based on the life of the poet Kalidasa, starred P.G. Venkatesan, T.P. Rajalakshmi and L.V. Prasad, was directed by H.M. Reddy and produced by Ardeshir Irani under his banner Imperial films.
Rajalakshmi, who made her debut in the film, would go on to become famous as the ‘first heroine of south India’. Among the many songs in the movie was the Thyagaraja kriti Enta Nerchina sung by her.
Speaking to The Hindu in 2013, film historian and journalist late ‘Film News’ Anandan said the actors were believed to have had spoken in different languages — Rajalakshmi in Tamil, Venkatesan in Telugu and L.V. Prasad, in his brief role, in Hindi.
Venkatesh Chakravarthy, regional director of the L.V. Prasad Film and T.V Academy said that director H.M. Reddy had worked as an assistant director on the film Alam Ara — India's first sound movie — which probably encouraged him to make a talkie in the south. Irani, who produced Kalidas, had also directed Alam Ara.
“Since the movie was a multilingual one, it probably catered to a huge audience in the Madras Presidency at that time,” said Mr. Chakravarthy.
Noting that most talkies in the early 1930s were shot in either Bombay or Calcutta, Mr. Chakravarthy said that this was because equipment to record sound and trained technicians were available only in these places. Kalidas too was not shot in Madras.