Kundrathur, Tamil Nadu, India: Open-Air Cinema to Comeup in Kancheepuram District

A slice of history lurks behind the high walls around the half-acre premises overgrown with wild vegetation. It once housed the country's first open-air cinema, the precursor to the modern Prathana Drive-in theatre on East Coast Road. And the man, whose dream project it was, has been running from pillar to post for more than a decade to once again light up the 70-mm concrete wall' screen in Somangalam village near Kundrathur in Kancheepuram district.

The unsung hero who came up with the idea, Tamil film producer of old, N Krishnaswamy, opted for Somangalam after a cluster of 10 villages around it was chosen as ground for Indira Gandhi's 20-point programme in 1976.

An admirer of Indira, Krishnaswamy, managed to get the piece of land on lease from the state government, with a GO' issued for the purpose describing the openair cinema as the first in the country. The man, who would later be consulted when the Prathana Drive-in was at a conceptual stage, realised his dream of screening films under a star-lit sky when Enkay Open Air Cinema' opened in 1978 with MGR starrer Mannadhi Mannan'.

Those days people used to come in bullock carts for the two screenings after dusk. A show would draw an average crowd of 500 people and the festival season would see the numbers go up, to even 1000, Krishnaswamy, the octageneraian producer of classics like Padikatha Methai,' recounts.

Yogesh Kabirdoss


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