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T.P. Rajalakshmi and P.G. Venkatesan in Kalidas
Directed by H. M. Reddy
Produced by Ardeshir Irani
Starring P.G. Venkatesan,
T. P. Rajalakshmi
L. V. Prasad
Release date(s) 31 October 1931
Language Tamil

Kalidas (Tamil: காளிதாஸ்) was the first talking film made in Tamil. It was produced on the sets of Alam Ara by Ardeshir Irani. The director was Irani's former assistant H.M. Reddy.[1] The film had dialogues and songs in Tamil and Telugu.[2]



After producing Alam Ara in 1931, Ardeshir Irani made many talkies in the same sets at Mumbai. In the same year Bhakta Prahlada, the first Telugu talking film and Kalidas were made in the sets of Alam Ara. Though it was a Tamil film, its characters spoke a variety of languages including Tamil (Princess Vidhyadhari), Telugu (Kalidas, Naradhar) and Hindi (Temple priest)[3][4]. The sound recording was done using the Vitaphone process, by German technicians using German equipment.[5] This film was produced under the banner of "Imperial Movie-Tone". Filming was completed in eight days.[6] In an interview given to Tamil Cinema (Deepavali Issue) in 1956, the heroine of Kalidas, T.P. Rajalakshmi said this about the film:

When the Imperial Company wanted to experiment with making a Tamil talking film they were looking for a Tamil actress. I got that opportunity. Do you know what i did in this film? I sang two keerthanais, two national songs and performed a kurathi dance[6]


Kalidas tells the story of the Fourth Century CE Classical Sanskrit poet Kālidāsa. Kalidas (P.G. Venkatesan) is an illiterate goat herd. Princess Vidhyadhari(T.P. Rajalakshmi) is tricked into marrying him by her father's minister. She prays to Goddess Kali for help and Kalidas is granted with knowledge and literary talent.


Advertisement for Kalidas that appeared in Sudesamitran on 29 October 1931
  • P.G. Venkatesan - Kalidas
  • T.P. Rajalakshmi - Princess Vidhyadhari
  • L. V. Prasad - Temple Priest
  • Thevaram Rajambal
  • J. Sushila
  • Sushila Devi
  • M.S. Santhanalakshmi


The film had around fifty songs.[7][8] Amongst them were the patriotic rattinamam Gandhi kai banamam [9] and indhiyargal nammavarkkul eno veen sandai.[10] Some of the songs even featured the nationalist slogan Vande Mataram[11] and one featured the hero singing songs on Gandhi while spinning the Charkha in prison.[12] The lyrics for the songs were written by Madhura kavi Bhaskara Das.


The film was released in Madras Kinema Central (currently Murugan talkies) on 31 October 1931. It was a big hit as it was a novelty. Produced at the cost of Rs.8000, the film grossed over Rs.75000.[6] When the film reels were brought to Madras, thousands gathered at Madras central railway station and followed the reel box to Kinema Central. Crowds showered rose petals, broke coconuts and burnt incense in the procession of the reels of the film, all along Walltax Road from the railway station[5][13] The heroine T.P. Rajalakshmi was called as "Cinema Rani" and the Tamil magazine Sudesamitran wrote a favourable review for Kalidas on 29 October 1931 even before the film was released.[10][14]


  1. ^ Kalidas IMDB Page
  2. ^ 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.  
  3. ^ Balan 1938 - The Hindu 7 September 2009
  4. ^ A pioneer speaks - The Hindu 12 December 2002
  5. ^ a b Romancing the reel, 25 November 2009
  6. ^ a b c Narayanan, Arandhai (2008) (in Tamil). Arambakala Tamil Cinema (1931-1941). Chennai: Vijaya Publications. pp. 10–11. ISBN.  
  7. ^ Nelmes, Jill (2003). An Introduction to Film Studies (Hardback ed.). New York: Routledge. pp. 371. ISBN 0415262690.  
  8. ^ Baskaran, S. Theodore (1996). The eye of the serpent: an introduction to Tamil cinema. Chennai: East West Books. pp. 42.  
  9. ^ Music for the people - The Hindu 6 January 2002
  10. ^ a b
  11. ^ Pandian, M.S.S (2008). The image trap: M.G. Ramachandran in film and politics (Hardback ed.). Sage. pp. 33. ISBN 0803994036.  
  12. ^ Trend of combining theatre and politics dates back to era of freedom struggle - The Hindu 16 August 2008
  13. ^ Celebrations in and on AIR - The Hindu 25 April 2008
  14. ^ T.P.Rajalakshmi Profile in


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