If you’re an auto enthusiast in Chennai, there’s a good chance you would have come up close with a large fleet of vintage automobiles belonging to one the city’s first film families. AVM Productions is probably one of Chennai’s best known film companies with a legacy that stretches all the way back to the 1930s.
Come witness cinema history at the AVM Heritage Museum.
A celebration of legacy, cinema history and our carefully preserved archives, the museum gives visitors the chance to immerse themselves into the rich history of AVM and an impressive collection of rare automobiles.
— AVM Productions (@avmproductions) May 11, 2023
Most Tamil film fans (that’s almost everyone in the state) know about the family’s penchant for automobiles. It’s these beauties that are the stars of the new AVM Heritage Museum that’s located at the very same spot where some of South India’s biggest stars began their illustrious journeys into the hearts of film fanatics.
You’ll see a plaque that marks the spot where Sivaji Ganesan uttered his famous first dialogue – “Success”. AVM Productions was also the launchpad for Kamal Haasan – Haasan tasted instant success as a child star in Kalthur Kannamma that released in 1960.
Kamal Haasan was among the guests at the launch of the Museum that was inaugurated in May 2023 by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin.
A showstopper at the museum is a poster wall at the entrance, with posters from the 1940s and '50s. What’s interesting is that many of these original posters are in English. The Park Hotel in Chennai, one of the only luxury hotels in India with a strong film theme, has a fabulous display of film posters from another era. The hotel is located where Gemini Studios – one of India’s most famous film production companies through much of the 1950s, once stood. You will find SS Vasan’s (the founder of Gemini Studios) 1951 Vauxhall Velox rub shoulders with two other legendary automobiles – a 1938 Vauxhall 14 owned by AV Meiyappan (hence the name AVM Studios) and former chief minister and superstar MG Ramachandran’s 1956 Dodge Kingsway.
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If vintage cars are your thing, then this museum is worth the trek. It’s home to 45 vintage classic cars and 20 bikes that span almost a century. There’s also a sea of audio and video equipment that depict the evolution of the Southern Indian film industry. For decades Chennai (then Madras) was the hub of the Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam film industries and probably busier than Bollywood. Rajinikanth fans will feel at home in the museum, there’s a larger-than-life statue (that was used in the film Sivaji) of the actor and various props from his movies. You will also see a large photo wall that chronicles the AVM journey from Alli Arjuna in 1935 (the first film was produced under the Saraswathi Sound Productions banner) to their OTT debut in the 2020s. M.S. Guhan from AVM Productions reiterated during the launch that the company will add more exhibits like mannequins with famous costumes in the months to come.
For a city and state where the lines between real and reel often blur, this museum is long overdue. While the vintage car collection is impressive, the real opportunity for AVM Productions is curation. This is after all one of India’s oldest film companies and has a treasure trove of props and film memorabilia. Many of its films like Rajinikanth’s Murattu Kalai (1980), Kamal Hassan’s Sakala Kala Vallavan (1982) and the comic caper Kasethan Kadavulada (1972) are now part of film folklore. AVM could leverage all this content with newer museum curation techniques for a more immersive user experience. Here’s to that.