The world knows Indian movies as wholesome entertainers with songs, dance, action sequences, sentiments and comedy packages. The trend of such entertainment packages or masalas as it is rightly called was originally started by a spectacular production company called “Modern Theatres”.

Modern Theatres, a big wig production company from small town, Salem owned by TR Sundaram had only one aim – wholesome entertainment with the right dose of action, comedy, cheap thrills and glamour.

Vaduvur Duraisamy Iyengar is the first pulp fiction novelist in Tamil. Karunguil Kundrathur Kolai was the first pulp fiction novel. He created a sage detective, who solves crimes through his innovative ways. He used this detective in a series of novels.

So what happens when a big wig movie production house and a pulp fiction author join hands, you get an absolute masala movie which became a fore runner to many such masala movies of the future.

Digambara Samiyar (1950)

The story is about a evil lawyer, Sattanadha Pillai, who tries to get his usless brother, Masilamani married to a poor lady, Vadivambal. The evil lawyer is corrupt and does all his crimes partnering with a sub-judge by the name iyer. Vadivambal is in love with Kannappa.The lawyer who is a master in wily ways finds his foe in a saintly sage “Digambara Saamiyar”, who dons different disguises to expose the lawyer. After a lots of twists aDigambara Saamiyar digambara samiyarnd turns, the sage triumphs against the evil.

The cast included D.Balasubramaniam as the evil lawyer, P. V. Narasimha Bharathi as his brother, Draupathi as Vadivambal and the talented M. N. Nambiar as Digambara Saamiyar. The movie was directed and produced by TR Sundaram for his Modern Theatres. The music was composed by G. Ramanathan – S. M. Subbaiah Naidu with lyrics by Marudhakasi – Ka. Mu. Sherif – K. P. Kamakshi – Thanjai Ramaiah Das, and a relatively a newcomer by the name Kannadasan. The music was a run away hit although most of them were lift offs from Hindi movies (I hope it rings some bell in your mind)

Why it’s so special?

1. Sivaji’s Navarathri act (9 Roles) and even Kamal’s Dasavatharam (10 Roles) are spoken as acting master pieces, what about MN Nambiar’s 9 roles in Digambara Saamiyar. The only difference being all 9 are the same person and they are different people in the other two. But the 9 different disguises of MN Nambiar are nothing short of greatness and he did them with such a panache, that he was equal to the other two if not better.

The 9 roles include a deaf magician, Arab businessman, saunf trader, nadaswara musician, a wealthy landlord, postman etc.,

2. TR Sundaram didn’t take a run of the mill masala movie without any logic. The whole movie was based on a investigation technique widely used – keeping a person sleepless for 3 days will make him confess all the truth (remember the opening scene of “the lives of others”). Lalitha-Padmini duo’s dance sequence was used to keep Sattanadhan sleepless for 3 days in the movie.

3. The movie was a complete package with rehashed songs, excellent star cast, deft screenplay, wonderful acting which made it as a complete entertainer.

Why it’s in the list?

1. Although there were a lot of pulp fiction movies, which made it to the silver screen, it was Digambara Saamiyar, which created the right space for such movies. It went on to become a fore runner to all those masala movies. The only problem is most of them have forgotten what TR Sundaram was well aware of “Entertainment Quotient”.

2. For MN Nambiar, known only for his villainy, he has not been given the right place as an actor. If you get a chance to watch this movie, you will know what I am speaking about. (You may get a chance to watch it in Podhigai channel if you have luck)


digambara samiyar digambara samiyar1. A graduate from London, smitten by the cinema bug TR Sundaram entered filmdom in 1933. He was a partner in Angel Film Company, Salem and produced 2 movies. In 1937, he started the Modern Theatres with the sole aim of entertaining people. The first movie was Sadhi Agalya. He was the first one to bring actresses from abroad and even made promotions with swimsuits as early as 1937. Modern Theatres became one of the prime movie production companies in Tamil. They brought in the professionalism in to movie production. Monthly Salaries, equality for actors with respect to treatment,high production values etc. Some of the famous movies include 1000 Thalai Vangiya Aboorva Chinrhamani, Alibabavum 40 Thirudargalum, Vallavanaku Vallavan, CID Shankar ( a series of movies with Jai Shankar)

To know more about Modern Theatres, Check this link from The Hindu, A wonderful article by Randor Guy

2. MN Nambiar started his acting career in Nawab Rajamanickam’s Troupe at the age of 13. He became famous through his villainy portrayals opposite MG Ramachandran. His unique dialogue delivery has been his secret of success. A complete health conscious person,  I have heard him saying that he has never even taken a cup of milk in his life. He was a staunch Iyyappan follower and he made it to the temple for 65 consecutive years, hence he is called the “Maha Guruswamy”

3. I think Digambara Samiyar is a sect in Saivism. If anybody can more info on that, it would be great.

4. The songs were direct lift offs from Hindi movies like it always used to be at that era. Oosie Pattasey was from O Diwalo (Patanga), Parudappa from La Lappa (Ek Ti Ladki).


  1. The Hindu article on Digambara Samiyar by Randor Guy
  2. Pic Source – Wikipedia

YouTube link for the movie

Video Thumbnail digambara samiyar
Digambara Samiyar
Digambara Samiyar is a movie with MN Nambiar in lead - He disguises himself into 9 roles in the movie and the movie was directed by Modern theatres Sundaram.


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Posted by Sylvian

Marketing Analyst by profession, a quizzer by passion, a blogger by choice, a poet by chance, a non-conformist by gene and a rebel by birth


  1. nice theme… really cool dude. Keep the posts following!


    1. Thanks buddy..have to work on new articles


  2. Wonderful post! These are some good tips, but there’s better ones out there. I would definitely research it, Blackjack is by far the best game ever.


  3. rajuviswanathan November 2 at 5:08 pm

    thank you v much for this informative, interesting post! for some fans, Lalitha-Padmini dance&MNNambiar acting were the high points about the film!


    1. Thanks for the comment Raju. Will be starting back the series with my 14th movie tomorrow. Do continue to read the blog


  4. Good recalls, do you have the movie, please upload it to youtube.


  5. Accidentally landed on your page! very informative. Thanks. I have watched some of the movies already. Luckily Digambara Samiyar was available in youtube. courtesy of cramsingapore. Very nice performances by the cast. Nambiar had done very mature acting with ease. screenplay is so good it keeps you riveted. Not to be missed. Special mention should go for the antagonist lawyer played by D Subramaniam. He has lived the character. you genuinely hate him as Sattanadhampillai – such is his performance.
    Also refreshing to see performances of young Lalitha and Padmini before they went mainstream.
    The story locations are geographically accurate and all travel depicted in the movie is so realistic. Mannargudi, Kumbakonam, Thirukkannamangai, Ethakudi
    All in all very enjoyable movie with a great screenplay. Nice package of suspense, investigation, love story, villain and a subham ending! . Worth remaking today.

    On a side note, I read your tribute for Nagesh. It was missing Anubhavi Raja Anubhavi in which he played double role and he is the hero of the movie.


  6. Digambarasamiyar the Best film I have seen/Remarkable Act of M.N.Nambiyar/Detective Story of 1950s/Best Direction/Enjoyable Lalitha/Padmini Dances&Interesting to Watch the movie. 18.08.2014


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