P. K. Raja Sandow

P. K. Raja Sandow
Raja Sandow
Born 1894 or 1895
Pudukottai, India
Died 1943 (aged 48–49)
Occupation Film Director,
Film Producer,
Years active 1923 - 1943

Raja Sandow (1894[1]-1943) (born as P.K. Nagalingam) was a Tamil film actor, film director and producer.[2] He began his career as an actor in silent films and later became a prominent actor and director in Tamil and Hindi films of the 1930s. He is considered to be one of the pioneers of early Indian cinema.[3][4][5][6]


Biography and career

Raja Sandow was born in Pudukottai, Tamil Nadu.[7] He was trained as a gymnast and started his film career as a stunt actor in S.N. Patankar's National Film Company at Bombay.[8] He was given the name "Raja Sandow" because of his physique (after strongman Eugen Sandow).[9] His first lead role was in Patankar's Bhaktha Bhodhana (1922), for which he was paid Rs. 101 as salary.[10] He became famous by starring in silient films like Veer Bhemsen (1923), The Telephone Girl (1926).[11] After acting in a few silent films he also worked as a director in Ranjit Studios for a monthly salary.[2] His first film as director was Sneh Jyoti (1928).[12]

Returning to Tamil Nadu, he directed and acted in a number of silent films for R. Padmanaban's Associate Film Company.[2] Many of his silent films had reformist social themes like Peyum pennum (1930), Nandhanar (1930), Anadhai Penn (1931), Pride of Hindustan (1931) and sathi usha sundari (1931).[13] After talking films were introduced with Alam Ara in 1931, he went back to Bombay and starred in many Hindi and Tamil talkies. He was often paired with the actresses Gohar and Sulochana (Ruby Myers).[2][9] Between 1932-35, he acted in many socially themed Hindi films like Shyam sundar (1932), Devaki (1934) and Indira MA (1935). In 1935, he was commissioned to direct his first Tamil film Menaka and returned to Madras. He continued directing and acting in films till his death in 1943. Vasantha Sena(1936), Chalak Chor (1936), Chandra kantha (1936), Vishnuleela (1938), Thiruneelakantar (1939) and Choodamani (1941) were some of the films he directed and starred in during that period. The last film he worked in was Sivakavi (1943).

Sandow suffered a heart attack and died at Coimbatore on 25 November 1943.[14]


Raja Sandow with Sulochana (Ruby Myers) in Indira M.A (1934)

Sandow was the first Tamil film director to adopt the practice of using names of actors in film titles. He was the first to introduce intimate kissing scenes and dancers in revealing costumes to the then conservative Tamil film industry.[15][16] He was also the first director and producer to move Tamil cinema from remaking mythological stories and into making social themed films. He even advertised his films as "Don't miss to see your own picture".[17] Sandow was also the first director to use Tamil literary works for film by directing Anadhai penn in 1931 based on Vai. Mu. Kothainayagi Ammal's novel of the same name.[14]

Writing about Sandow, film historian Theodore Baskaran says:

As a director, actor, scriptwriter and producer, his contribution to Tamil cinema is significant. Many of the stars of the Forties and Fifties have worked with him. He was very competent at coaching actors and maintained complete control over his films. He was a martinet on the sets and was often compared to a ringmaster in a circus. In his films, the emphasis shifted from songs to the spoken word.[2]

Film historian Randor Guy has also described him as a tough task master:

Raja Sandow was a tough and no-nonsense guy who would not hesitate to shout at and slap his crew and cast including women! Regretfully there are no such directors these days!.[16]

The Tamil Nadu Government has instituted an annual award in his name called Raja Sandow memorial Award, given for outstanding services to Tamil Cinema.[18] A Postage stamp has been in issued in recognition of his contributions to Indian cinema.[19]


Year Film Language Credits
1922 Bhaktha Bhodhana Silent film Actor
1922 Karna Silent film Actor
1922 Suryakumari Silent film Actor
1923 Veer Bhimsen Silent film Actor
1923 Vratrasoor Vadha Silent film Actor
1924 Ra Mandlik Silent film Actor
1924 Bismi Sadi Silent film Actor
1924 Razia Begum Silent film Actor
1924 Sadguni Sushila Silent film Actor
1924 Sati Sone Silent film Actor
1925 Deshna Dushman (The Divine Punishment) Silent film Actor
1925 Deva dasi Silent film Actor
1925 Indrasabha Silent film Actor
1925 Kala Chor(The Black Thief) Silent film Actor
1925 Khandani Khavis(The Noble Scamp) Silent film Actor
1925 Matri Prem(For Mother's Sake) Silent film Actor
1925 Mojili Mumbai(Slaves Of Luxury) Silent film Actor
1925 Panchdanda(Five Divine Wands) Silent film Actor
1925 Raja Yogi Silent film Actor
1925 Suvarna Silent film Actor
1925 Veer Kunal Silent film Actor
1925 Vimala Silent film Actor
1926 Madhav Kam Kundala Silent film Actor
1926 Mena Kumari Silent film Actor
1926 Muntaz Mahal Silent film Actor
1926 Neerajanam Silent film Actor
1926 Prithvi Putra Silent film Actor
1926 Ra Kawat Silent film Actor
1926 Samrat Shiladitya Silent film Actor
1926 Telephone Girl Silent film Actor
1926 Typist Girl Silent film Actor
1927 Bhaneli Bhamini Silent film Actor
1927 Sati Madri Silent film Actor
1927 Sindh Ni Sumari Silent film Actor
1927 The Mission Girl Silent film Actor
1927 Aladdin Aur Jadui Chirag(Aladdin & the Wonderful Lamp) Silent film Actor
1928 Grihalakshmi Silent film Actor
1928 Naag Padmini Silent film Actor
1928 Sneh Jyoti Silent film Actor, Director
1928 Up-to-date Silent film Actor
1928 Vishwamohini Silent film Actor
1929 Young India Silent film Actor
1929 Young India Silent film Actor
1930 Bhimsen The Mighty Silent film Actor
1930 Peyum pennum Silent film Actor, Director
1930 Rajlakshmi Silent film Actor
1930 Nandhanar (Elevation of the Downtrodden) Silent film Actor, Director
1930 Sri Valli Thirumanam Silent film Actor, Director
1930 Anadhai penn Silent film Actor, Director
1931 Taranhar (Pride of Hindustan) Silent film Actor, Director
1931 Sati Usha Sundari Silent film Director
1931 Rajeshwari Silent film Director
1931 Bhaktavatsala (Dhuruvanin Garvabangam) Silent film Director
1932 Parijaatha pushpaharanam Tamil Director
1932 Shyam sundar Hindi Actor
1933 Pardesi Preetam Hindi Actor
1933 Noor-E-Imaan Hindi Actor
1934 Devaki Hindi Actor
1934 Kashmeera Hindi Actor
1934 Toofani Taruni Hindi Actor
1934 Indira M.A Hindi Actor
1935 Toofani Taruni Hindi Actor
1935 Raat-Ki-Rani Hindi Actor, Director
1935 Barrister's wife Hindi Actor
1935 College Kanya Hindi Actor
1935 Desh Dasi Hindi Actor
1935 Menaka Tamil Director
1936 Prabhu Ka Pyara Hindi Actor
1936 Vasantha Sena Tamil Actor, Director
1936 Vasantha Sena Tamil Actor, Director
1936 Chalak Chor Hindi Actor, Director
1936 Chandrakantha Tamil Scriptwriter, Director
1936 Dil ka Daku Hindi Actor
1936 Matlabi Duniya Hindi Actor
1937 Toofani Tarzan Hindi Actor
1937 Minor Rajamani Tamil Director
1938 Nandha Kumar Tamil Actor
1938 Vishnuleela Tamil Actor, Director
1939 Thiruneelakantar Tamil Actor
1941 Choodamani Telugu Director
1942 Araichimani Tamil Director
1943 Sivakavi Tamil Director (replaced halfway)


  1. ^ Theodore Baskaran in his The eye of the serpent gives 1894 as the year of birth for Sandow. Randor Guy says he was born in 1895.
  2. ^ a b c d e Baskaran, S. Theodore (1996). The eye of the serpent: an introduction to Tamil cinema. Chennai: East West Books. pp. 194. http://books.google.com/books?id=PhFlAAAAMAAJ. 
  3. ^ Mylapore and movies, The Hindu 18 October 2001
  4. ^ Trendsetter from www.screenindia.com
  5. ^ Velayutham, Selvaraj (2008). Tamil cinema: the cultural politics of India's other film industry (Hardback ed.). New York: Routledge. pp. 3. ISBN 978-0-415-39680-6. http://books.google.com/books?id=65Aqrna4o5oC. 
  6. ^ Blazing new trails, The Hindu 2 May 2004
  7. ^ Baliga, B.S (1957). Madras District Gazetteers: Pudukkottai. Chennai: Superintendent, Govt. Press. pp. 274. http://books.google.com/books?id=_mJDAAAAYAAJ. 
  8. ^ Cinema vision India, Volume 1 Issue 1. Chennai. 1980. pp. 37. http://books.google.com/books?id=jL5ZAAAAMAAJ. 
  9. ^ a b Majumdar, Neepa (2009). Wanted Cultured Ladies Only!: Female Stardom and Cinema in India, 1930s-1950s. University of Illinois Press. pp. 111–2. ISBN 0252076281, ISBN 9780252076282. http://books.google.com/books?id=TdM2Ben3alIC. 
  10. ^ Randor Guy (20 August 2010). "A man with a vision". The Hindu. http://www.hindu.com/fr/2010/08/13/stories/2010081351210800.htm. Retrieved 20 August 2010. 
  11. ^ Majumdar, Neepa (2009). Wanted Cultured Ladies Only!: Female Stardom and Cinema in India, 1930s-1950s. University of Illinois Press. pp. 98. ISBN 0252076281, ISBN 9780252076282. http://books.google.com/books?id=TdM2Ben3alIC. 
  12. ^ Chabria, Suresh (1994). Light of Asia: Indian silent cinema, 1912-1934. Wiley Eastern. pp. 138. ISBN 8122406807, ISBN 9788122406801. http://books.google.com/books?id=CORkAAAAMAAJ. 
  13. ^ Baskaran, S Theodore (2004) (in Tamil). Em Thamizhar Seidha Padam (Paperback ed.). Chennai: Uyirmmai Padippagam. pp. 46–50. ISBN 81-88641-29-4. 
  14. ^ a b Baskaran, S Theodore (2004) (in Tamil). Em Thamizhar Seidha Padam (Paperback ed.). Chennai: Uyirmmai Padippagam. pp. 35–36. ISBN 81-88641-29-4. 
  15. ^ Blast from the past (Menaka 1935), The Hindu, 4 January 2008
  16. ^ a b From silents to sivaji ganesan
  17. ^ Journal of Tamil studies, Issues 8-13. International Institute of Tamil Studies. 1975. pp. 41. http://books.google.com/books?id=9U0HAQAAIAAJ. 
  18. ^ The stamp of honour, The Hindu 10 July 2000
  19. ^ Indianstampghar.com

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.