Movie of the Month


Film Title: An American in Madras

Event No : 23
Date of Screening : 24-Aug-2014
Venue and Time : Hotel Savera 7 pm

Karan Bali & RV Ramani

Karan Bali



Karan Bali’s documentary is a peek into Tamil Cinema history. The 80-minute documentary traces the works and life of director Ellis Roderick Dungan who made some outstanding work between the 1930s and the 1950s. This documentary is a celluloid statement on the creative challenges E.R. Dungan faced and how he overcame them.

Language: English
Running Time: 79 mins
Release Date: December 1, 2013
CBFC/MPAA Rating: -
Directed by: Karan Bali
Produced by: Alex Anthony
Based on:
Life of Ellis R. Dungan
Editing by: Irene Dhar Malik
Shot by: RV Ramani

About the Film

An American in Madras primarily traces American-born filmmaker Ellis R. Dungan's years in India. Born in 1909 and hailing from Barton, Ohio, Dungan reached the shores of India on February 25th, 1935 intending to stay for 6 months but ended up staying for 15 years! 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 during World War II. He directed photo features, newsreels and wartime propaganda films, and recorded the major 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 felicitated him in Madras for his contribution to its development, a good 43 years after he had left India!


  1. Ellis R. Dungan, who knew very little Tamil, directed M.S. Subbulakshmi in the ethereal role of Meera, in a story steeped in bhakti, that went on to become one of the most successful films of the 1940s.
  2. Ellis R. Dungan directed M.G.R. in his first ever film role
  3. Dungan worked with some of Tamil cinema's greatest stars, still revered as such today, including M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar (MKT) and M. S. Subbulakshmi.


  1. Nominated for Best Documentary - 14th New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF)
  2. Screened at 2014 London Indian Film Festival (LIFF)
  3. Screened at 2013 Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF)
  4. Screened at 2013 Chennai International Film Festival (MIFF)

About the Director

Karan is an alumnus of Asia's Premier Film School, The Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), with specialization in Film Direction (1992).

He is based in Mumbai, India and has directed various documentaries that have mostly been telecast on Indian Televison besides being the first AD on two feature films - Everybody Says I'm Fine! (2001) and Matrubhoomi (2003).

He is also the Co-Founder and Content-in-Charge of Upperstall ( - a site that takes a serious and analytical look at Indian Cinema.

He won the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award for the play Madhya Dharanazhi (1996).


Event Media