Favourite haunt of Mani Ratnam, Kamal, Rajini, Chennai’s last big movie library shuts shop

For the cinephiles of Chennai, Tic Tac movie library leaves behind several fond memories.
Favourite haunt of Mani Ratnam, Kamal, Rajini, Chennai’s last big movie library shuts shop
Favourite haunt of Mani Ratnam, Kamal, Rajini, Chennai’s last big movie library shuts shop
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Thirty-three years ago, when Tic Tac movie rentals started, every nook and corner of Chennai city had a movie rental shop. But today, it is one of the last famous movie libraries to shut down.

In 1983, movie libraries used to be the only source of entertainment other than Doordarshan, says Prakash Kumar, the owner of Tic Tac movie rentals. His brother, Suresh Kumar and uncle, Chandra Kumar were the ones who started the movie rentals library in Chennai’s RA Puram.

They started with 75 video tapes and soon had 35,000 video tapes. “That was the highest number of tapes we had during the running of the library. Before closing, we had 12 to 13,000 movie titles,” says Prakash Kumar.

A favourite haunt of popular actors like Kamal Haasan, Rajinikanth and Ajith, Tic Tac has seen its fair share of celebrity patronage, who used to come over to rent exclusive, high quality prints of movies. “Kamal Hassan used to come regularly in the beginning when we began the rental library,” says Prakash Kumar.

But the person who has religiously visited the library through the years has been director Mani Ratnam. Sharing his memories, Prakash says, “Even after his films like Mouna Ragam became a hit, he would come inside the library and take the movies himself, while his guards waited outside for him.”

Other famous patrons include directors SJ Suryah and Vishnuvardhan, who used to frequent Tic Tac in their college days.

Tic Tac movie rentals started off by giving video tapes for rent. The technology changed from analogue to digital medium and laser discs came into picture between early and mid 1990s. “That’s the time home theatres also came into the picture, and our business boomed,” remembers Prakash.   

But soon things started changing when DVDs became the new technology after VCDs. “The quality was extremely good but soon piracy began. We used to rent licenced DVDs for Rs. 50, and the pirated ones were also sold at the same cost, so people used to rent films from us, but our sales started dipping. It went down by five to seven percent every year,” says Prakash.

After DVDs, online downloads were the next big thing. “As the internet speed went up, people started downloading movies. First, the youngsters started doing it and later, they started downloading movies for their parents also,” says Prakash.

But the last nail in the coffin was the arrival of Netflix and Amazon, says Prakash. “When big giants like Netflix and Amazon entered, I decided to shut the business as everyone was using it and I’m just a small fish in the ocean,” he says.

Though the decision to shut shop was an emotional one, Prakash knew he had to move with the times. “The technological changes have affected my business, but I did my best and kept changing the format. Rental itself is coming to an end,” he said.

But the fond memories from the library will live on. Sharing one such memory, he says, “We had a member called Prasad who was a teacher at Rishi valley school and he used to regularly rent movies and show it to his students. Now, some students are in Silicon Valley and others are doing well in art and culture. So, they keep telling him that the movies that he showed them changed their lives. Revenue is important but such instances also make a difference.”

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