R. Nataraja Mudaliar

R. Nataraja Mudaliar
R. Nataraja Mudaliar.jpg
Born 1885
Died 1972 (aged 86–87)
Occupation Film Director, film Producer, writer, cinematographer

Rangaswamy Nataraja Mudaliar (1885–1972[dubious ]), was an Indian film director. Popularly known as the father of Tamil cinema,[1] he was a pioneer in the production of silent films. Starting his career as an automobile spare parts merchant, he started the "Indian Film Company Limited" in Madras.[2] In 1917, Mudaliar made Keechaka Vadham, South India's first silent film. Upon critical success of the film, he went on to produce films like Draupadhi Vastrapaharanam (1918), Lava Kusa (1919), Rukmini Satyabhama and Mayil Ravana. After the death of his son in a fire accident in 1923, Mudaliar retired from films.

Early life

Mudaliar was born in Vellore, Madras Presidency, India in a wealthy family.[3] His father was a successful trader. After completing his schooling, Mudaliar came to Madras (now Chennai) to set up his business as the city was the capital of the province.[3] Following that, he started a bicycle business named "Watson & Company" partnering with his cousin, S. M. Dharmalingam Mudaliar.[3] The company sold cycles at 25.[3] The business became successful as the partners acquired a foreign firm, "Romar Dan & Company" in 1911, that dealt with the import of American cars and automobile spare parts. Prior to that "Addison & Company" was the only company in Madras to sell American cars.[3] Mudaliar sold the same cars as 1,000 and became the first Indian to sell American cars.[3] Mudaliar had an early interest in photography this later evolved into "moving pictures".[3]

Film career

Mudaliar developed an interest for moving pictures after watching the films of Dadasaheb Phalke. At the time cinematographers from Britain were filming a documentary on Lord Curzon, then the Governor-General and Viceroy of India.[3] Mudaliar was introduced to Stewart Smith, one of the cinematographers, and learned about the basics of photography in film-making through him.[3] This eventually led to Mudaliar establishing his production house "India Film Company" in 1917.[3][4] He brought together some of his business friends allowing them to invest on the production house and established South India's first studio on Miller's Road, Purasawalkam, Madras.[4]

In 1917, Mudaliar started working on a film titled Keechaka Vadham and looked after the script, cinematography, editing, and direction apart from the production work. The film was over 6,000 feet long had the distinction of being the first silent film produced in South India.[5][6] Upon release it was both critically acclaimed and commercially successful.[6] The title cards of the film were in English and Tamil languages, written by Guruswamy Mudaliar, a famous doctor in Madras and Thiruvengada Mudaliar, a college principal.[6] The titles in Hindi were written by Devdas Gandhi, son of Mahatma Gandhi.[6] Keechaka Vadham was released in Elphinstone Theatre in January 1918. The success of the film prompted Mudaliar to make a series of historic films. Later a difference of opinion arose among him and the investors.[6] The demise of his son in a fire accident that happened in his studio, led to Mudaliar retiring from film-making and close the studio.[6] As a film-maker Mudaliar inspired Raghupathi Prakasa,[2] son of Raghupathi Venkaiah Naidu and J. C. Daniel, who was later revered as the father of Malayalam cinema.[1] He died on 2 May 1971



  1. ^ a b "Classics must be preserved, says B. Mahendra". Deccan Chronicle. 29 May 2013. Archived from the original on 28 October 2015. Retrieved 5 June 2013.
  2. ^ a b Selvaraj Velayutham (2008). Tamil Cinema: The Cultural Politics of India's other Film Industry. Taylor & Francis. pp. 2–3. ISBN 978-0-203-93037-3.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Guy, Randor (9 May 2002). "Remembering a pioneer". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 1 July 2003. Retrieved 5 June 2013.
  4. ^ a b Edited By Jerry Pinto & Rahul Srivastava (2008). Talk of the Town. Penguin Books India. pp. 42–43. ISBN 978-0-14-333013-4.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  5. ^ Samuel Cameron (2011). Handbook on the Economics of Leisure. Edward Elgar Publishing. p. 302. ISBN 978-0-85793-056-9.
  6. ^ a b c d e f "The stamp of honour". The Hindu. 10 July 2000. Archived from the original on 11 November 2012. Retrieved 5 June 2013.