Trade Unionism in the film industry of Southern India first began in Madras under the Societies Act by late Sri Ramnath with the formation of the Cine Technicians Association of South India. Primarily, it began as a cultural organization for fellowship and co-operation. The first union as such was formed in 1956 with the registration of the Cine Technicians Guild of South India, CTG. This was an umbrella organization inclusive of all categories of technicians and workers in the industry. The effort was initiated by Sri. Nimai Ghosh, a famous cinematographer from Bengal who came and settled in Madras where he worked and served till his last breath.
CTG gathered momentum and the membership grew by leaps and bounds till, after fourteen years, it was felt necessary to form trade unions craft-wise. And so seventeen cinematographers of that time joined hands to form the Southern India Cinematographers’ Association, SICA, which was registered on 27th November 1972 after all procedural formalities were completed under the Trade Union Act of 1926. Mr. A. Vincent was the Founder-President, Mr.P.N.SUNDARAM the General Secretary and Mr. S. MARUTHI RAO the Treasurer. The office functioned at No.3, Doraisamy Road, Madras-34, the residence of Mr. P.N.SUNDARAM, who devoted a substantial part his time for membership development in spite of his busy work schedules in the industry.
There was no discrimination of caste, creed, region or religion at all between members belonging to the Southern States of Madras, Mysore, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. The office bearers used to meet during night hours to discuss ways and means of improving the Association and the lot of its members by instilling self-confidence and unity. The main objective was to engage with the management of studios and producers on behalf of cine workers to secure just and fair working conditions for them. These workers were hired either on monthly salary basis or per movie contract basis and SICA took upon itself to represent them for better emoluments, job security and fair remuneration and benefits.
This was no easy task as the persons working in the camera department of studios, outdoor units and assistants working with cinematographers were often at the mercy of their employers. Furthermore, students from the film institutes were graduating and getting absorbed into the camera and sound departments. The membership grew by leaps and bounds. Simultaneously, an apex body – Film Employees Federation of South India was registered to unify different categories of trade unions functioning in the Film Industry. There was a great deal of opposition to the emergence of the trade unions and several attempts were made from time to time to break the unity of technicians.