Sathi Leelavathi (1936 film)

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Sathi Leelavathi
Sathi Leelavathi 1936.jpg
Directed by Ellis R. Dungan
Produced by Marudachalam Chettiar
Based on Sathi Leelavathi
by S. S. Vasan
Starring M. K. Radha
M. S. Gnanambal
M. G. Ramachandran
T. S. Balaiah
Music by Sundara Vadhyaar
Manorama Films
Release date
28 March 1936
Country India
Language Tamil

Sathi Leelavathi (Leelavathi, the wife) is a 1936 Indian Tamil-language film directed by Ellis R. Dungan (in his directorial debut) and produced by the Coimbatore based Manorama Films.[1] This was the first film for M. K. Radha, T. S. Balaiah and M. G. Ramachandran as actors.[2] This was one of the first Tamil films to become the subject of a court case involving copyright violations.[3][4][5][6][7] No print of the film is known to survive, making it a lost film.


Radhakrishnan (Radha) is a wealthy man who is married to Leelavathi (Gnanambal). He is led astray by his friend Ramanathan (Balaiah). Drink and women lead to degradation and ignoble living. Poor gentle, loving Leelavathi bears the brunt of his drunken cruelty. In an enebriated condition, he fires his pistol at his friend Parasuraman and runs away from the police. He comes across a corpse and, after exchanging clothes with it, he flees to Ceylon where he obtains work at a tea estate. He finds a treasure and returns to India a wealthy man, but forced to remain in disguise. He is soon discovered, arrested, tried for murder, and sentenced to death. When the hangman is about to pull the lever, police inspector Rangaiah Naidu (Ramachandran) shows up with Parasuraman. The murdered man was someone else, not Parasuraman, and the killer was Ramanathan. Radhakrishnan is acquitted; he and Leelavathi re-unite.[8]


M. G. Ramachandran as Rangayya Naidu



Sathi Leelavathi was based on a Tamil play named Pathi Bhakthi written by A. Krishnaswami Pavalar and starring K. P. Kesavan. It was staged by the Madurai Original Boys Company. M. Kandasamy Mudaliar wanted to make a film based on the play. Production started but soon stalled due to differences and K. P. Kesavan cancelled his contract. Mudaliar walked out of the production and started a new film titled Sathi Leelavathi based on a novel written by S. S. Vasan and serialised in Ananda Vikatan. Mudaliar's son M. K. Radha was cast as hero and an unknown (then) 19-year-old M. G. Ramachandran was cast as Police Inspector Rangayya Naidu. The film was produced by Marudachalam Chettiar of Coimbatore. Chettiar wanted Manik Lal Tandon to direct the movie and went to Calcutta to hire him. Tandon who was busy directing Bhakta Nandanar, introduced Chettiar to Dungan and recommended Dungan be given the chance instead. Dungan was hired as director and the film was made. Some scenes were shot in location at Ceylon. The completed film was 18,000 feet in length.[3][9][10][11][12][13]



The film was released on 28 March 1936. Its release was delayed as it became the subject of a court case. Another film - Pathi Bhakthi - had been released in the same year based on the play of same name and starring K. P. Kesavan. The makers of Pathi Bhakthi sued Marudachalam Chettiar and Kandasamy Mudaliar for plagiarising their story. The case was resolved when S. S. Vasan, admitted in court that both Pathi Bhakthi (written by Krishnasamy Paavalar) and Sathi Leelavathi had been plagiarised from Mrs. Henry Wood's story Danesbury House.[3][10] The art magazine Aadal Paadal in its January 1937 issue appreciated the film for its social setting and praised it for its acting.[14]

Critical reception

Several new techniques introduced by Dungan were not understood by the audience and went unappreciated. Writing in the Silver Screen magazine on 1 August 1936, Pe. Ko. Sundararajan (journalist and writer of Manikodi movement) complained:[15]


No print of Sathi Leelavathi is known to survive, making it a lost film.[16]


  1. ^ Jeshi, K (7 December 2004). "Tunes and trivia". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 2 June 2017. Retrieved 31 July 2015. 
  2. ^ "MGR's first film steps". The Hindu. 25 April 2011. ISSN 0971-751X. Archived from the original on 19 January 2018. Retrieved 19 January 2018. 
  3. ^ a b c Pheroze L. Vincent (25 November 2009). "Romancing the reel". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 8 September 2013. 
  4. ^ Rajadhyaksha & Willemen 1994, p. 175.
  5. ^ Baskaran 1996, p. 180.
  6. ^ Baskaran 1981, p. 109.
  7. ^ Muthiah 2004, p. 404.
  8. ^ Guy, Randor (2 February 1991). "Sathi Leelavathi, made after a legal battle". The Indian Express. p. 19. 
  9. ^ a b Film News Anandan (2004). Sadhanaigal padaitha Tamil Thiraipada Varalaaru (in Tamil). Chennai: Sivagami Publications. pp. 28:7. 
  10. ^ a b Muthiah, S. (6 September 2004). "Americans in Tamil cinema". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 5 December 2012. 
  11. ^ Ramachandran & Rukmini 1985, p. 165.
  12. ^ Narayanan 2008, p. 40.
  13. ^ "Strong national flavour". The Hindu. 27 June 2008. Archived from the original on 7 October 2008. 
  14. ^ Baskaran 2004, p. 47.
  15. ^ Baskaran 2004, p. 39.
  16. ^ Kantha, Sachi Sri (2 April 2013). "MGR Remembered – Part 7". Ilankai Tamil Sangam. Archived from the original on 26 April 2017. Retrieved 25 April 2017. 


  • Baskaran, S. Theodore (1981). The message bearers: the nationalist politics and the entertainment media in South India, 1880-1945. Chennai: Cre-A. 
  • Baskaran, S. Theodore (1996). The eye of the serpent: an introduction to Tamil cinema. Chennai: East West Books. 
  • Baskaran, S. Theodore (2004). Chithiram Pesuthadi (in Tamil). Chennai: Kalachuvadu. ISBN 81-87477-75-X. 
  • Muthiah, S. (2004). Madras rediscovered. Chennai: East West Books (Madras) Pvt. Ltd. ISBN 81-88661-24-4, ISBN 978-81-88661-24-4. 
  • Narayanan, Arandhai (2008). Arambakala Tamil Cinema (1931-41) (in Tamil). Chennai: Vijaya Publications. 
  • Rajadhyaksha, Ashish; Willemen, Paul (1994). Encyclopaedia of Indian cinema. British Film Institute. ISBN 0-85170-455-7, ISBN 978-0-85170-455-5. 
  • Ramachandran, T. M.; Rukmini, S. (1985). 70 years of Indian cinema, 1913-1983. Chennai: CINEMA India-International. ISBN 0-86132-090-5, ISBN 978-0-86132-090-5. 

External links

  • Sathi Leelavathi on IMDb
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