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An American in Madras (2013)

An American in Madras primarily traces American-born filmmaker Ellis R. Dungan's years in India. Dungan made India his home from 1935-50 and became a celebrated director in the Tamil Film ... See full summary »


Karan Bali


Teesha Cherian


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Credited cast:
M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar ... Himself (archive footage)
Ellis Dungan Ellis Dungan ... Himself (archive footage)
P.K. Nair P.K. Nair ... Himself
Radha ... Herself
M.S. Subbalakshmi ... Herself (archive footage)


An American in Madras primarily traces American-born filmmaker Ellis R. Dungan's years in India. Dungan made India his home from 1935-50 and became a celebrated director in the Tamil Film Industry based in South India. Born in 1909 and hailing from Barton, Ohio, Dungan reached India on February 25th, 1935 intending to stay for 6 months but ended up staying for 15 years making 13 feature films, 11 in Tamil and one each in Telugu and Hindi. During this period, he brought many technical innovations to the developing Tamil Film Industry of the 1930s and '40s, and infused a sense of professionalism into its filmmaking. All this, without understanding a word of the language! Dungan also served the Madras Government in World War II. He directed photo features, newsreels and wartime propaganda films and recorded historic events in India's history around the period of her Independence. The film traces Dungan's Indian connection right up to 1994, when on a trip to India, the Tamil Film Industry... Written by Karan Bali

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English | Tamil

Release Date:

1 December 2013 (India) See more »


Box Office


INR 1,500,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs




Black and White (HD)| Color

Aspect Ratio:

16:9 HD
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User Reviews

Honored to write the first review of this wonderful documentary!

There are 2 ways a documentary could fail! There are those which have a catchy title which drive down a sense on what the content it could offer, but not end up fulfilling those expectations and then there are those which have an obscure title and the documentary itself ends up being obscurer featuring a non-gripping narrative which loses its viewer half-way through. "An American in Madras" picks option 2, turns it a 180 and makes a victory run!

I am a late 80s born Tamilian and when I finished watching this documentary, I was left with a feeling of pride and also discontent - with my inferior knowledge on Tamil Cinema compared to what I had with those of Western Cinema. We need documentaries like these for all lost art forms(Movies from a bygone era) and Kiran Bali not only shows off his film making skills but also comes of as an historian of great credibility.

Moving onto the review - The documentary portrays the life and successes of Ellis Roderick Dungan in contributing to India/Predominantly Tamil Cinema direction. The story of an American who went globe trotting in his younger days and spent 15 solid years in Tamil Nadu and making a mark as a director at a time where Tamil culture, politics and freedom fights were at the peak is truly elevating to follow and has inspired this documentary.

The movie has lots of stock footage corroborated with references to those by technicians and artists who had worked along with Dungan, which by itself is a mammoth task to achieve and translate to HD! Many interviews have proper English speakers but at the same time Tamil audience can enjoy the remarks by Tamil conversationalists in between which keeps the flavor intact.

Last but very importantly, I would like to thank Netflix to feature this documentary which I mostly would have given a miss considering internet's influence in rather feeding us with cute cat and dog videos! Do check this one out!

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