AVM Studios

in Module
Published on: 06 July 2019

Senjuti Mukherjee

Senjuti studied comparative literature and arts and aesthetics at Jadavpur University and Jawaharlal Nehru University respectively. Since 2013, she has catalogued and researched visual arts collections and related archives with organisations such as Osian's Connoisseurs of Art, Eka Cultural Resources and Research, and Delhi Art Gallery, focusing on film publicity memorabilia among other things. Lately, she has been exploring the material culture of the celluloid medium, studio systems, and cinematic and photographic apparatus, and has undergone training in celluloid preservation and conservation at workshops held by the International Federation of Film Archives and Film Heritage Foundation.

AVM Studios in Vadapalani, Chennai, was founded by A.V. Meiyappan. It became one of the many film studios in the neighbourhood called Kodambakkam.

Meiyappan hailed from Karaikuddi, and ran a store called A. V. & Sons that distributed gramophone records for HMV and Columbia in the late 1920s. In the 1930s, he set up Saraswathi Sound Productions and Saraswathi Talkie Producing Company, before establishing AVM Studious.

In its years of glory, from the 1950s to 1970s, AVM was at the centre of Kollywood, the Tamil film industry. Over time, it has witnessed rapid shifts in the celluloid industry brought about by changes in film technology and audience’s taste, linguistic divide of Madras State, boom in real estate, and the coming of television and radio.

This module, while focusing on AVM Studios, chronicles the rise and fall of the studio system in Chennai. It looks at the shifts in skillsets, professions, and repurposing of studio floors and production houses. Through conversations and interviews with people in the industry who have lived through the changes, this module tries to put together a history of film projection and distribution, which includes erstwhile machineries like Mitchell cameras, Moviola and Steenbeck editing machines, projectors, microphones and other sound-recording machines.