Everyone has heard of Bollywood, but Kollywood? The Tamil film industry is little-known outside India, where enthusiasts would never confuse it with its Hindi-language cousin based in Bombay.
Indeed, Kollywood â" derived from Kodambakkum, the area of Madras associated with film production â" is bigger than Bollywood, a term often erroneously used to describe the entire Indian film industry.
Sivaji: The Boss, a Tamil action flick, is reputed to be the most expensive Indian film ever made, with a budget of about $20 million, including an unprecedented $4 million fee for Rajinikanth, its star. Its release this year caused chaotic scenes in cinemas and set box office records at home and abroad.
The industry, which accounts for around 1 per cent of Tamil Naduâs GDP, is powerful and has been bound with politics since the 1930s. Indeed, its influence on state politics â" and vice versa â" runs so deep many leaders have appeared on the big screen or worked behind the scenes. Muthuvel Karunanidhi, the chief minister, was a scriptwriter; Jayaram Jayalalitha, his predecessor (and successor), was a popular actress.
Yet it was M. G. Ramachandran, the superstar known as MGR, whose decade in power cemented the relationship between films and the popular vote to the point where it is now almost impossible to attain office without experience in the industry.
Despite a reign overshadowed by chronic corruption, police brutality and disastrous economic policies, MGR was a deity to the masses. Upon his death in 1987, two million people attended his funeral and 31 grief-ridden fans committed ritual suicide.
Catch up on fall's hot new shows on Yahoo! TV. Watch previews, get listings, and more!