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 felicitated him in Madras for his contribution to its development, a good 43 years after he had left India!
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