Earliest American innovator in Tamil cinema

Ellis R. Dungan launched necessary methods in each division

Ellis R. Dungan launched necessary methods in each division

Tamil cinema has undergone a unprecedented transformation — when it comes to fashionable know-how and gear, superior projection and cinema halls, movie commerce and fashionable filmmaking methods well-liked all over the world — since its humble beginnings within the early twentieth Century.

Whereas many Tamil movie entrepreneurs, filmmakers, financiers and artists should be credited with this development over many a long time, ‘Hollywood-trained’ American filmmaker Ellis R. Dungan, who launched a number of necessary methods in each division to the business at its nascent stage, will maybe maintain probably the most distinctive place in its historical past. An Irish-American, Dungan made critically acclaimed devotional and historic movies similar to Sathileelavathi (1936), Iru Sahotharargal (1936), Ambikapathi (1937), Sakunthalai (1940), Meera (1945), Ponmudi (1950) and Manthirikumari (1950) in a language and a tradition he knew nothing about.

But, the present-day filmmakers, film stars and aspiring artistes, not often, if ever, recall his identify in conversations about Tamil movie business.

Born in Ohio, U.S. in 1909, Dungan travelled to Spain after which to Paris on a bicycle, went again to the U.S. to review on the Division of Cinematography and Movement Image Manufacturing on the College of Southern California earlier than shifting to India to make movies on the insistence of his buddy Manik Lal Tandon.

In an article in The Hindu after Dungan’s loss of life in 2002, movie historian and columnist Randor Man notes Dungan was signed on by the ‘reluctant’ Maruthachalam Chettiar after being advisable by his buddy, Tandon, to direct Sathi Leelavathi, which launched the careers of S.S. Vasan, M.Ok. Radha, T.S. Balaiah, N.S. Krishnan and former Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran. He then collaborated with M.G.R. in Iru Sahotharargal and made 4 movies with M.S. Subbulakshmi.

Dungan is credited with a lot of improvements — utilizing intelligent modifying patterns and constructing miniatures to movie main motion blocks. However, amongst them, his use of ‘Dungan monitor and trolley’, a technique that allowed him to seize close-up shot of the actors to beat the absence of ‘zooming’ lenses within the Thirties, 40s and 50s by guaranteeing the motion of the digicam on a monitor, was certainly one of his earliest contributions to Tamil cinema influenced by Hollywood.

Certainly one of his ingenious makes an attempt at creating a long-lasting cinematic impact on the viewers by utilizing his command of digicam and modifying methods resulted in a sequence in Meera (1945) starring M.S. Subbulakshmi. Randor Man notes how within the movie “Dungan shot a scene which created historical past in south Indian movie method”.

“The woman Meera (‘Child’ Radha, M.S’s. step-daughter) modifications into the younger girl, Meera (M.S. Subbulakshmi) and the transition have been proven with a melodious track, ‘ Nandha Balaaa En Manaala’, sung by Child Radha and M.S. When the changeover takes place, there’s a 45-second fast-paced background orchestra, a musical interlude as a part of the track. Usually, such background musical interludes are additionally recorded together with the track in a sound studio lengthy earlier than the movie shoot commences. Nonetheless, Dungan didn’t accomplish that. He shot the scene first and the changeover sequence consisted of a lot of photographs of the statue of Lord Krishna…lighted candles with flames flickering, flowers on plates, prayer choices, Krishna’s flute within the statue and minimize to a close-up of M.S. singing with nice emotion. Dungan edited the sequence himself. The impression was ecstatic and good,” he writes.

In a documentary movie, American in Madras, on the life and achievements of Dungan by Karan Bali, C.M. Muthu, make-up artiste who labored in Meera, recollects Dungan launched new make-up merchandise and methods to swimsuit the medium of movie and slowly moved away from the make-up utilized in theatre.

The documentary additionally illuminates how Dungan was maybe the primary director to movie his actors outdoors the managed setting of the units a lot earlier than filmmakers like Bharathiraaja utterly moved out of the units within the Seventies.

Although Dungan primarily labored in devotional and historic movies within the early days of Tamil cinema, the movies have been talked about for that includes ‘daring’ intimate scenes. He briefly labored as a battle photographer when the U.S. joined the battle and helped shoot propaganda movies. He made his final movie Manthirikumari in 1950 earlier than shifting to the U.S. a number of years later as Tamil cinema moved away from devotional movies and took on a extra political flip with actor Sivaji Ganesan’s Parasakthi.

Whereas Dungan’s contribution has not been famous as a lot as the celebs he collaborated with throughout his time (M.Ok. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar, M.S. Subbulakshmi, M.G. Ramachandran and others) and with screenwriter and former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi ( Manthirikumari), he stays one of many earliest innovators in Tamil cinema.

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