Tamil cinema and technology always go hand-in-hand

What brings difference to a novel, a stage play or a movie is the medium and its attributes through which the story is conveyed – put simply, it is technology. This very tool helped filmmakers to magnify their imaginary plots. Technology is the pivotal factor that makes ‘film-language’ evolve.

In earlier days, the stories and characters were quite ‘distant’ from the spectators who could just enjoy watching a movie when a superstar like MKT speaks in a completely outlandish ‘Manipravala’ language.

As days rolled by and cinema started to evolve, the stories became life-like. Today, the characters that were once distant, come close to the viewer figuratively – in a relatable storyline – and literally – through technology like 3D.

Yesterday, Shankar’s 2.0 has marked one more milestone in terms of introducing a technology to the rest of the world’s film fraternity – SRL 4D Sound System. What was a nightmare for major sound designing companies like Dolby, has now become a reality, that, too, in Kollywood.

Until two days back, sounds of any movie in a cinema hall could be heard from three sides (left, right and top). Here’s 2.0 that brings you sound from all sides, and puts you in the middle of the movie. You have speakers below your seat and you’ll feel like you are part of 2.0, with this SRL tech (left, right, top and bottom).

Guess what? SRL stands for Shankar, Resul and Lyca – respectively, the filmmaker, the sound designer and production house of this magnum opus.

Here is a list of first movies that had various technology upgrades in different phases of Tamil cinema.

Full-length colour film – Alibabvum 40 Thirudargalum (1956)

Colour screen was once meant for only big-budget films. In this era, when a complete colour feature film could be made out of a high-definition mobile camera, it is really significant to know about Alibabvum 40 Thirudargalum, when people saw how fair M G Ramachandran actually was. After that  people of his complexion were usually referred to as, ‘MGR maathiri thaga thaga nu minnuringa’.

Eastman Colour – Kadhalikka Neramillai (1964)

Directed by Sridhar, Kadhilikka Nermallai was Tamil cinema’s first Eastman Colour film.

A romantic comedy, the film featured an ensemble cast consisting of T S Balaiah, R Muthuraman, Nagesh, Rajasree, Sachu, Ravichandran and Kanchana. The latter two made their debut in Tamil cinema with
this film.

CinemaScope – Raja Raja Cholan (1973)

If it was a colour film for MGR, it was CinemaScope for his industry rival Sivaji Ganesan. Raja Raja Cholan was the first movie to be projected with CinemaScope tech.

The images projected out would be two-and-a-half times wide to its height. So, that’s how Thanjai Periya Kovil in the film was actually magnificent on the screen as well.

3D – Annai Bhoomi (1985)

When 3D technology was initially preferred to make fantasy films across the globe, the Tamil industry went the other way. This one starring Vijayakanth, Annai Bhoomi, was an action-comedy that still had a lot of space for making a never-seen-before experience for Tamil audience.

Stereo sound – Kuruthipunal (1995)

There is a scene in Kuruthipunal when Adhi (Kamal) tries to trace the place where his colleague Abbas (Arjun) has been kidnapped and hidden. This very scene was the first one to give the audience an experience of the difference between left and right sounds that originate from the screen. It was all possible because of stereo tech.

DTS – Karuppu Roja (1996)

This is one level above stereo when the entire sound of a movie was made digital to yield better clarity. This Ramki-starrer movie’s director Aabaavaanan is well-known for adapting different technologies. Remember Oomai Vizhigal, when CinemaScope was rebooted in Tamil cinema? That was made by the same crew.

Time-freeze – Boys (2003)

When we make a list of movies that introduced groundbreaking technology to cinema, this director’s movie – Boys – will definitely have a place in that. When filmmaker Shankar decided to show all sides of love in a duet song, he opted to freeze time and captured an entire panorama of the environment where his lead pair shakes a leg for a melody number. As many as 62 cameras were used to capture every shot of this song so that audience could witness the romance of Siddharth and Genelia from every direction.

Nero Motion Camera – Thillalangadi (2010)

This is yet another duet to have a completely new age capturing technology. This motion camera can re-frame over 360 degrees. So, the entire song was captured in a green-mat space in a single shot and showed multiples of Jayam Ravi and Tamannah in one stretch.

Performance Capture – Maatraan (2012)

When two Suriyas wanted to be conjoined onscreen in Maatraan, it would not have been possible to make it in the usual green-mat filming procedure. So, this K V Anand directorial venture opted for Performance Capture technology, when a double was employed in place of one of the twins and the actor’s facial expressions alone were morphed over the dupe’s face.

An upgraded version of this technology was used for a full-length making of K S Ravikumar’s Kochadiyaan starring Rajinikanth. That was a 3D motion capture where the performance was fed over animated characters.

Dolby Atmos – Sivaji 3D (2012)

This is the state-of-the-art sound technology available till date (except for 2.0’s SRL). Through this, a complete atmosphere of sound would be recreated inside a cinema hall. Especially when it rains in a movie or a chopper is flying above in an action sequence, those things will be completely reprised by this tech inside the theatres.

Santhosh Mathevan