J. C. Daniel

J. C. Daniel

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Category: Cinema

J. C. Daniel Profile

  • Name:
  • J. C. Daniel
  • Other Name:
  • Joseph Chellayya Daniel Nadar
  • Born:
  • November 28, 1900
  • Died:
  • April 29, 1975

J. C. Daniel Biography

J. C. Daniel, the first film maker from Kerala is considered as the ‘Father of Malayalam cinema’. He was the person behind first Malayalam cinema, Vigathakumaran which was exhibited in Thiruvananthapuram at the Capitol Theatre on 7 November 1928. He was its producer, director, screenwriter as well as its leading actor. Government of Kerala instituted the Kerala State Film Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1992 in his name to honour the achievements of Malayalam film artists. In 2013, a biopic was made by director Kamal titled, Celluloid which told the story of this forgotten hero. The movie won numerous awards including National award for best regional film and 7 Kerala state awards. This movie acted as an eye-opener for the state of Kerala and its people which gave due respect to this film maker after the release of the movie.


Daniel was born on 28 November 1900 in Agasteeswaram taluk of Kanyakumari District (then a part of Kerala), Tamil Nadu. He completed his graduation from Maharaja's College, Thiruvananthapuram. He was an expert of Kalaripayattu. He published an English book titled Indian Art of Fencing and Sword Play in 1915, when he was 15 years old. When Daniel started dreaming about cinema, it was not a popular medium among Keralites. He wanted to popularize the marital art form Kalaripayattu through the medium of cinema, as he found its true potential. He went to Chennai to study about its techniques and to buy its equipment. But he was not able to enter the film city and hence he moved to Mumbai. He entered the studios lying that he is a teacher who teachers about films to students.


In 1926, Daniel established the first film studio in Pattom, Thiruvananthapuram city and named The Travancore National Pictures. He sold his piece of land for 400,000 rupees to fulfill his dream. He wrote the script and titled it Vigathakumaran. It was the silent era of Indian cinema. P. K. Rosie, a girl belonging to a poor family became its heroine – The first heroine of Malayalam cinema. He chose a realistic story with social theme than the normal trend of mythological epics. The film was released on 7 November 1928 in the Thiruvananthapuram city.


It was a time when caste system and discrimination were ruling the stage. The orthodox sections could not approve the presence of a lady in the movie as the less aware society thought is as prostitution. High class Hindus couldn’t accept the fact that converted dalit played the role of a Nair woman in the film. So, it received protests from the society and Daniel couldn’t collect money equivalent to production cost. The movie was later screened in Alappuzha at the Star Theatre which was accepted by the liberal audience. The movie was later shown at several places. He had to sell his equipments and close down the studio to pay his debtors. His movie prints were also destroyed by some groups and now no prints available. He spent the rest of his life as a dentist at Palayamkottai, Tamil Nadu and led a poor life with lost memory. Kerala government even denied his pension stating that he was born in Tamil Nadu. But through campaigns of journalist Chelangatt Gopalakrishnan, J. C. Daniel was given the honour of ‘Father of Malayalam cinema’.

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Updated: September 26, 2017

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