Directors who made a difference in the Tamil Cinema World

Compiled by "Kalaimaamani" Film News Anandan.

During the past 82 years, Tamil Cinema has reached many a milestone. In this article, 'Kalaimaamani' Sri. Film News Anandan, noted film historian and researcher, considered an walking encyclopedia on Tamil Cinema writes about the Tamil film directors who made a difference in the Tamil film world.

This is the first part of an ongoing series on film directors who made a difference.

Nataraja R. Mudaliar (1885-1972)

Nataraja R. MudaliarThe first movie in Tamil was made by Nataraja R. Mudaliar.  He was born in Vellore and initially was in the cycle business and then in car trade business. He learned the tricks of cinematography at Pune and became the official cinematographer of Lord Curzon's 1903 durbar. He setup a studio in Miller's Road, Keelpakam with a second hand camera and financial help from S.M.Dharmalingam.

He made Keechaka Vadham inter-titled in Tamil, Hindi and English. He made Draupadi Vastrapaharanam featuring an Anglo-Indian actress, Marian Hill, as Draupadi. He made many other movies around his native town of Vellore. In 1923, his studio was burnt down and his son died, prompting him to retire.


Keechaka Vadham
1917 Draupadi Vastrapaharanam
1918 Mayil Ravana
1919 Lavakusa
1920 Kalinga Mardanam
1921 Rukmini Kalyanam
1923 Markandeya


Venkaiah Raghupathi ( - 1941)

Venkaiah Raghupathi was a popular photographer and had a studio on Mount Road, Madras. In 1909, he built touring theater, opposite to the Madras Supreme Court building. In 1914, he built 'Gaiety', the first permanent cinema theater in Madras. He also built 'Crown' and 'Globe' theaters in the city, showing mainly British and American films. He was the father of Raghupathy Prakash. Venkaiah sent his son to Britain to learn about movie making. His son returned to India and made many movies. Screened films like Raja's Casket and Pearl Fish in the Victoria Public Hall.


Raja P.K. Sandow (1894-1942)

Sulochana and Sandow in "Indira MA"Sandow was born in Pudukottai. A passionate gymnast, he started his career as a stunt actor in S.W. Patankara's National Film. He went to Bombay and made silent movies. He became famous by the movie Veer Bhemsean. Returning to Tamilnadu, he made many movies based on social reforms. Directed his first film (Anaadhai Penn) with R.Padmanabhan, embarking on a series of reformist socials. He made Nandhanar, the story of an untouchable Hindu Saint. He was the first one to put actors name in the movie title. Tamilnadu Government is giving the 'Raja Sandow Award', for best movies, in memory of him.



Veer Bhimsen
1926 Meena Kumari
1929 Anadhai Penn, Nandanar
1930 Peyum Pennum
1931 Bhaktavatsala
1936 Chadrakantha
1939 Thiruneelakantar


T.P.Rajalakshmi ( -1964)

T.P. RajalakshmiT.P.Rajalakshmi was an actress, producer and the first tamil woman director. She got married and separated at the age of 7. She learnt dance and music and made her stage debut under the tutelage of Sankaradas Swamigal, considered the father of Modern Tamil Theater. In 1936, she directed the movie Miss Kamala (based on her first novel) and earned the recognition as the first woman director. She also acted in Sandow's Usha Sundari and Rajeswari.


Miss Kamala


Madurai Veeran



Subramanyam Krishnaswamy (1904-1971)

Subramanyam was the key figure behind the establishment of a Madras based Tamil film industry. He wasK. Subramanyam born in Papanasam. He started his film career as scenarist and producer, working on Sandow's silent films like Peyum Pennum. He started Meenakshi Cineton with Allagappa Chettiar, directing his first film Pavalakkodi, the film debut of the legendary star M.K.Thyagaraja Bhagavathar. His early work was derived mainly from the stage conventions. He made a remarkable shift with the politically emphatic Balayogini, attacking the caste system.

In 1938, he made  Seva Sadan, advocating a better deal for woman, the saint film Bhakta Cheta, critiquing untouchability and the war effort film Mana Samrakshnam. His best known work, displaying a stridently nationalistic reformism, is contemporaneous with V. Shantaram's and B.N.Reddi's melodramas and culminated in Thyagabhoomi. Thyagabhoomi was a novel by Kalki, which was banned by the British government.


1936 Balayogini
1938 Seva Sadam
1939 Thyagabhoomi


T (Tiruchengodu).R(Ramalinga).Sundaram (1907-1963)

T.R.Sundaram was born in Tiruchengode=u. He worked at Angel Films, then took it over and started the Modern Theaters Studio (1937) in Salem. He produced 98 films, including work by Duncan, C.V.Raman and T.R.Raghunath. He approached film making in a business like attitude, importing foreign technicians for his debut Sati Ahalya, made in two versions, one for Modern Theaters and one for Chandra Bharathi Cineton. He produced the first Malayalam sound film, Balan (1938) as well as the first color film in Tamil (Alibabavum Narpathu Thirudargalum) and in Malayalam, Kandam Bacha coat.

He worked in several genres, most notably the swashbuckling adventure movies of P.V.Chinnappa (Uthama Puthran adapting Duma's The Man in the Iron Mask), that later developed into the MGR filmic and political signature. He also made the war movie, Burma Rani. The world beauty Cleopatra  took bath in donkey's milk in one of her films. In order to create a similar scene in a tamil movie, Sundaram brought 1000 donkeys, milked them and took bath. In memory of him, the South Indian Chambers Complex is called 'Sundaram Avenue'.


Burma Rani
1947 1000 Thalaivengia Apporva Cinthamani
1949 Mayavathi
1950 Manthiri Kumari
1955 Alibabavum Narpathu Thirudargalum
1960 Baghdad Thirudan
1961 Kandam Bacha Coat (Malayalam)

(to be continued...)

Original Article by: Sri. Film News Anandan
Article Elaborated by: Srini Raman
Original Photographs given by: Sri. Film News Anandan
Special thanks to: Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema, 1995. (photograph: Indira MA)
Photographs scanned and effects added by:Balaji Thirumalai and Krishna Sivaramapuram