Ambikapathy (1937 film)

Ambikapathy (also spelled as Ambikapathi) is a 1937 Indian Tamil musical period film directed by American film director Ellis R. Dungan.[2][3][4][5] It starred M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar, M. R. Santhanalakshmi, Serugulathur Sama, T. S. Balaiya, N. S. Krishnan, T. A. Madhuram and P. G. Venkatesan. Ambikapathy is regarded as one of the greatest hits of pre-independence Tamil cinema. Ambikapathy, along with Chintamani were the greatest hits of 1937 [2][6] and made critics regard him as the "first superstar of Tamil cinema".[4][7][8] This was the first Tamil film to name a music director in its credits.[9]

Ambikapathy 1937 poster.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed byEllis R. Dungan
Screenplay byT. P. S. Mani
Story byElangovan
StarringM. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar
M. R. Santhanalakshmi
CinematographyBal Brigae
Edited byEllis R. Dungan
Music byPapanasam Sivan
Salem Shankar Films
Distributed byEast India Film Company
Release date
  • 11 December 1937 (1937-12-11) (India)
Running time
210 min.


The film highlighted the Romeo-Juliet type romance between Bhagavathar and Santhanalakshmi. Dungan who did not know Tamil, used Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as an inspiration and incorporated some of its scenes in the script. The writer for the film was the Tamil scholar Thanigachalam working under the pen name Elangovan. He translated the scenes Dungan had marked out from Shakespeare into Tamil. One of them was the balcony scene. The lines describing Romeo taking leave of Juliet - "Sleep dwell upon thine eyes, peace in thy breast", were translated by Elangovan as Thookkam Un Kangalai Thazhuvattum! Amaithi Un Nenjil Nilavattum. Dungan also introduced some daring (for that time period) intimate scenes like Ambikapathi carrying Amaravathi to the bed and Ambikapathi winking at her. The poet Kambar was played by Serugalathur Sama whose appearance was based on that of Rabindranath Tagore. T. S. Balaiya was cast as the villain Rudrasenan. The comic relief was provided by the husband and wife comedy team of N. S. Krishnan - T. A. Madhuram. The film was shot in East India Studio in Calcutta. Background score was composed by K. C. Dey, while Papanasam Sivan composed music and wrote lyrics for the Songs. The completed film was 19,000 fet in length (runtime : 210 minutes).[2][8][10][1] Initially, the producer M. S. Thottana Chettiar, wanted Y. V. Rao to direct the film, but buoyed by the success ofChintamani, Rao demanded a huge amount of money as payment which the producers could not afford. Instead they hired the up-and-coming American film director Eungan.[2][10] Ellis R. Dungan, on hearing the story, immediately agreed to direct the film.[10] Adevadasi had earlier been chosen to form the lead pair with M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar in the movie.[11] But she refused when she discovered that M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar was not a Brahmin and she had to be teamed up with another Brahmin actor in a minor role.[11] M. R. Santhanalakshmi, a popular stage actress was cast as Amaravathi.


The film is based on a story set in the Chola Empire in year 1083 AD. The titular character in the story is Ambikapathy (M K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar), the son of the Tamil poet Kambar (Serugulathur Sama) who is in love with the Chola princess and daughter of Kulothunga Chola, Amaravati (played by M. R. Santhanalakshmi). The king objects to their love and insists on testing Ambikapathy's literary mettle before judging his worth. The test given to Ambikapathi is that he should write and sing a hundred poems in the field of Puram (dealing with war and politics). The poems should not have any reference to the field of Agam (dealing of love and romance). Ambikapathi begins the test in the King's court with a Kadavul Vaazhthu (invocation to God). Amaravathi who is keeping the count, mistakes the invocation as a poem and counts it as poem number one. When he has sung only ninety nine Puram poems, she thinks he has completed the task and signals him that hundred poems have been sung. Declaring victory, Ambikapathy sings of his love for her and thus fails the test. He is executed by the king.[4]


Ellis R. Dungan directing M. S. Santhanalakshmi in Ambikapathi

Credit to Music DirectorEdit

Film historian G. Dhananjayan says Ambikapathy is the first Tamil language film that named a music director in its credits. This film was also the first to give credibility and respect for dialogues.[12]


This is a partial Soundtrack list. You can expand it.

All lyrics are written by Papanasam Sivan; all music is composed by Papanasam Sivan.

1."Aayakalaigal Arupathi Naanginaiyum"Papanasam SivanM. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar11:13
2."Chandra Sooriyar"Papanasam SivanM. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar2:47
3."Unnai Allaal"Papanasam SivanM. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar5:26
4."Ini Evvaru Marappen"Papanasam SivanM. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar2:30
5."Enna Seythaayi"Papanasam SivanM. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar1:38
6."Unnai Aadaiya"Papanasam SivanM. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar1:47
Total length:25:35


The film was released on 11 December 1937 and was a big box office success. It ran for 52 weeks. Dungan's love scenes, Bhagavathar's singing and Elangovan's dialogue made the film a talked after success. After Chintamani, this was the second hit film for Bhagavathar in 1937 and made him the "first superstar of Tamil cinema".[8][1][13]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Film News Anandan (2004). Sadhanaigal padaitha Tamil Thiraipada Varalaaru (in Tamil). Chennai: Sivagami Publications. pp. 28:10.
  2. ^ a b c d Muthiah, S. (6 September 2004). "Americans in Tamil cinema". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 5 December 2012. Retrieved 13 October 2008.
  3. ^ Muthiah, S. (1 February 2002). "He transcended barriers with aplomb". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 7 October 2008. Retrieved 13 October 2008.
  4. ^ a b c "Regional Indian cinema - Tamil". India Heritage. Retrieved 13 October 2008.
  5. ^ Rajadhyaksha, Ashish; Willemen, Paul (1994). Encyclopaedia of Indian cinema. British Film Institute. p. 325. ISBN 0-85170-455-7.
  6. ^ Muthiah, S. (3 March 2008). "An unforgettable superhit". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 3 January 2013. Retrieved 13 October 2008.
  7. ^ "Tamil cinema history - The Early Days 1937 - 1944". Archived from the original on 17 September 2008. Retrieved 13 October 2008.
  8. ^ a b c "Blast from the Past - Ambikapathi 1937". The Hindu. 26 October 1937. Archived from the original on 10 October 2016.
  9. ^ Baskaran, S. Theodore (1996). The eye of the serpent: an introduction to Tamil cinema. Chennai: East West Books. p. 61.
  10. ^ a b c "MKT Filmography Part I". M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar fan site. Archived from the original on 4 July 2008. Retrieved 12 October 2008.
  11. ^ a b Muthiah, S. (4 November 2002). "Art that never vanished". The Hindu:Metro Plus Chennai. Archived from the original on 4 February 2013. Retrieved 13 October 2008.
  12. ^ G. Dhananjayan (November 2014). Pride of Tamil Cinema:1931 to 2013. Chennai: Blue Ocean Publishers.
  13. ^ Arandhai Narayanan (2008). Arambakala Tamil Cinema (1931-41) (in Tamil). Chennai: Vijaya Publications. p. 48.

External linksEdit