Celebrating 75 Years of Tamil Cinema (Galatta Cinema Article)

Monday, May 10, 2010
The very first two issues of Galatta Cinema magazine feature an incredible assortment of photographs and tidbits about older Tamil films that I could not wait to share here! The August 2007 issue features part one of the "Celebrating 75 Years of Tamil Cinema" article which includes "From Silents to Sivaji! A look into the past," "Memorable Movies," and "Fascinating Stars."  I've included scans below of all but the last section, which I'll save for later; click on the scans to access a larger version.  Posted with tacit courtesy of Galatta Cinema magazine based on past communication from them.

I've felt like a kid in a candy store as I've discovered all these old archived pictures, and according to the following excerpt about the author (Randor Guy), they are indeed rare: "Randor Guy is no ordinary film historian-his writing skill, his photographic memory of incidents and their details, his intimate friendship with so many celebrities and the world of movies is a story in itself. It is, thus, only fitting that he chronicles and remarks on 40 most memorable movies and 40 most fascinating stars of Tamil cinema, spanning the period of 75 years. Embellished by the rarest of photographs (many provided from his private collection), your journey in the next few pages is going to be as mesmerising as it will be poignant."

What was really fascinating to me was the mention of the American Tamil filmmaker Ellis R. Dungan, pictured in the fifth scan below.  According to this article on him from the Ohio County Public Library, he was a white University of Southern California student who took a job offer at a startup film studio in Bombay, fell in love with India, and ended up staying there for over 15 years and "worked with India's greatest movie stars and created 17 films in the Tamil and Hindi languages, including 12 of feature length."  Would love to know more about him!

I also was amused by the description of Minnal Kodi as one of the first action-stunt films in Tamil, starring "stunt queen of her day, K.T. Rukmini [...][who] plays an elusive female bandit dressed in man's clothes."

Enjoy the scans!

 Memorable Movies

Seetha Kalyanam (1933)

Bhama Vijayam (1934), Menaka (1935)

Naveena Sarangadhara (1936), Chintamani (1937), Ambikapathi (1937)

Bala Yogini (1937), Minnal Kodi (1937), Seva Sadanam (1938)

Nandakumar (1938)

Thyaga Bhoomi (1939), Sakunthalai (1940)

Sabhapathi (1941)

Savithri (1941), Kannagi (1942), Apoorva Sahotharargal (1949)

Manthiri Kumari (1950), Marmayogi (1951)

Parasakthi (1952), Avvaiyar (1953)


  1. Lovely post! I'll spend more time zooming in on these scans later. I bet Richard will enjoy this post. Also, just started following you on twitter. :)
    All the best!

  2. Fantastic! Thanks for posting all of this. Will have to come back and take notes, and then see what I can find next time I'm in Chennai.

  3. marry me! no seriously? dance at my wedding, and then proceed to be my T R Rajaumari!

    randor guy is an old friend from chennai. his name(which is an anagram of his real name which is some ranga..something..used to be a crime and detective fiction writer in the sixties and seventies. when there used to be a moore market in chennai, people could go and buy pulp tamil books by people lie randor guy and tamilvanan.

    its an era that needs a complete blog post, if not a book.

    randor guy's reminiscences are somewhat sanitized tho. not that they are worth nothing....

  4. rangadorai. (it anagrams in tamil.)

  5. Sita-ji - Thanks! Enjoy the scans!. :D

    red42 - Oh how I wish I could visit India and find obscure DVDs! Sounds wonderful. :)

    rameshram - My goodness! Thank you so much for that information and his real name. So you really knew him? Amazing! Apparently he has a rudimentary blog at Galatta Cinema: http://www.galatta.com/community/profile.php?user=randorguy I'm confused about how old he is. In an interview I found of him, he says he is 12 years younger than R. K. Narayan which would mean he is in his 90s?! huh?! And he appears to be quite well known, writing some articles for The Hindu and such. I understand what you mean about "sanitized." I did noticed the writing is somewhat fluffy and overly positive. It's written how I would write the article if I were given the chance. That's not really a compliment, haha. :D

  6. Re: Randor Guy - Nevermind about him being in his 90s. He has a wikipedia entry! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Randor_Guy According to that, he is in his 70s. Still old! I am amazed!

  7. randor guy: i first ran into him at madras doordarshan canteen when we were there to do a school(high school) play and he was staging one of his detective plays with 'delhi' ganesh (the guy who played iyer in nayakan) and someothers. by then we had read a few of his books/stories, so he was somewhat of a legend to us, although quite frankly noone knew exactly what was done when you meet a legend.

    after this i used to run into him at one or two sabha kutcheris, at which time,he would greet me like i was old friends much to my embarrasment because i was quite sure he had no clue who i was.

    im sure he's still in good cheer and alert these days.he used to live in triplicane near S Ramanathan's house (modern school etc) i dont know if he moved out of those digs..

    cant think of much more about him..(he used to be much younger then..but its a while since I went to high school)

  8. as regards sanitized, chennai if you know it well has a strong sense of its history. often people remember their side/version of history rather ironfistedly. if you went and asked someone else, you'll learn about a completely different chennai. Im afraid, from his articles, randor guy's chennai of the 1940's/50's is rose tinted and fabulous.

  9. dude.


  10. rameshram - Wow! Video of him! Kamal is there too! He looks like a nice old man. :D Thanks for the video and the personal tidbits. You've rubbed shoulders with some famous people! :)

  11. "You've rubbed shoulders with some famous people! :) "

    Honey, we should really discuss this over drinks. my place. say when ;)

  12. Sita-ji is right, Richard will enjoy this post! It's been only ten days since I last tuned in (I wasn't visiting blogs much last week because of some Internet connection problems), and look how much I have to catch up on now! Well, this already looks great from a distance, but as with Sita-ji ten days ago, I will have to zoom in and read all of this more carefully.

    By the way, great image header, but I would include Minoo Mumtaz from that scene too. Actually, I like Minoo even more in that scene.

  13. P.S. Great that you included Manthiri Kumari here. Don't you love the Travancore Sisters dance in that one? I've watched it many times already...


  14. Richard - Hi there! Sorry to hear you were having connection problems! I love the image header too- the contrast between the tire tread and her beauty is so eye catching. I had not seen that dance from Manthiri Kumari - thank you for sharing.


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