Swamikannu Vincent, who had built the first cinema of South India in Coimbatore, introduced the concept of "Tent Cinema" in which a tent was erected on a stretch of open land close to a town or village to screen the films.
During the 1920s, silent Tamil language film were shot at makeshift locations in and around Chennai, and for technical processing, they were sent to Pune or Calcutta. Telugu artists became active with the production of Bhisma Pratighna, a silent film, in 1921. Popularly known as talkies, films with sound quickly grew in number and popularity.
The film was directed by Raghupathi Venkaiah Naidu and his son R. In 1934, the industry saw its first major commercial success with Lavakusa. Pullaiah and starring Parupalli Subbarao and Sriranjani in lead roles, the film attracted unprecedented numbers of viewers to theaters and thrust the young film industry into mainstream culture.
By 1936, the mass appeal of film allowed directors to move away from religious and mythological themes.
One such film, Jeevitha Nouka (1951), was a musical drama which spoke about the problems in a joint family.
It was difficult, as well, to find financial backing for new film projects in the region; thus, very few movies in Kannada were released during the early years of Indian sound cinema.
The first talkie in Malayalam was Balan, released in 1938. Nottani with a screenplay and songs written by Muthukulam Raghavan Pillai.
The films all featured non-fictional subjects; they were mostly photographed records of day-to-day events.
In Madras (present-day Chennai), the Electric Theatre was established for the screening of silent films.
Chennai became the hub of studio activity with two more movie studios built in Chennai, Vijaya Vauhini Studios and Gemini Studios.
Thus, with the undivided Madras Presidency, being the Capital to most of South India, Chennai became the center for South Indian language films. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar were shot in those cities as well.
When the DMK began using cinema for political purposes and actors like MGR and S. Rajendran rode into politics on their popularity as actors, Tamil cinema began to be noticed by academics, S. Rajendran, as a film actor, became the first elected 'Member of legislative assembly in the industry from Tamil Nadu. Ramachandran became one of the most remembered actors of India.