Media Sandbox Michigan State University

Swarnavel Eswaran Pillai

Swarnavel Eswaran Pillai

Assistant Professor

Media & Information


TC 233: Documentary Technique and Problems of Reality-Based Arts

Dr. Swarnavel Eswaran Pillai is a graduate from the Film and Television Institute of India, at Pune, the premier Film School in Asia. He is an accomplished short filmmaker, whose award winning documentaries include Thangam, The Indian National Army, Villu (The Bow) and Quagmire. He received his PhD in Film Studies from the prestigious University of Iowa in May 2010, and his dissertation, “Tamil Cinema and the Major Madras Studios (1940-57),” traces the genealogy of Tamil cinema and the sources of its origins. His research areas include the history, theory, and production of documentaries, and the specificity of Tamil cinema, and its complex relationship with Hollywood as well as popular Hindi films.

He is currently working on the documentaries Waves from the Deep, which focuses on Tsunami relief and rehabilitation in Nagapattinam in Tamilnadu, and ALM, which addresses issues surrounding the high drop out rates of students in the public schools of Tamilnadu, and the administration’s introduction of the Active Learning Methodology to improve and revolutionize the way children learn. His latest documentary Kalagarh foregrounds the acute pollution due to illegal mining at Sundargarh, in Orissa, and focuses on its effect on agriculture, and the concomitant migration of the tribal youth population to Delhi. His recent essay “Iruvar: the Duo,” is published in The Cinema of India ed. by Lalitha Gopalan (London: Wallflower, 2009), and his current book project traces the history of the Madras studio system through rare primary materials, and theorizes the genealogy of Tamil cinema in the context of the discourses surrounding the Dravidian movement, and regional cinema and its sub-nationalist imperatives.

PhD in Film Studies, University of Iowa
D.C (Diploma in Cinema), FTII (The Film and Television Institute of India), Pune, India
B. Com., Bombay University

Michigan State UniversityCollege of Communication Arts and Sciences


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