P. U. Chinnappa

Pudukkottai Ulaganathan Pillai Chinnappa

P. U. Chinnappa
Born Pudukottai Ulaganathan Chinnaswamy Pillai
(1916-05-05)5 May 1916
Pudukkottai state, India
Died 23 September 1951(1951-09-23) (aged 36)
Madras, Madras State, India
Other names Nadigar Mannar
Spouse(s) A. Sakunthala
Children P. U. C. Raja Bahadur
Parent(s) Ulaga Nathan Pillai,Meenakshi Ammal

Pudukkottai Ulaganathan Pillai Chinnappa (5 May 1916 – 23 September 1951), also popularly known as P. U. Chinnappa, was a popular singer and Tamil movie actor during the 1930s and from Pudukottai, Tamil Nadu, India. He is also credited to be one of the first major influential actors of South Cinema. His notable movies include Uthama Puthiran, Aryamala, Kannagi, Manonmani, Kubera Kuchela and Jagathalaprathapan.

Despite attaining the super star status, his career was cut short by a sudden death.

Early life

P. U. Chinnappa was born to Ulaganathapillai and Meenakshi ammal on 5 May 1916. He had two sisters. His father was a stage artist and hence he made his way easily into stage acting. Chinnappa had education only till 4th grade, he was not much involved in academics, he was rather interested in acting. Even as a kid he acted in several stage shows, his acting as a thief in Sadaram stage play as a kid won applause from audiences. Not only in acting Chinnappa was interested in wrestling and Silambam. Since his family was poor, at an age of 5 he went to rope production work for 5 rupees per month. However he didn't work there for a long time.

By seeing his son's interest in acting his father decided to pursue a career in acting for him. At an age of 8, Chinnappa joined in Meenalokshani Vidvabala Sabha (Under Sankaradas Swamy, this sabha was run by Palaniyapillai). At that time T.K.S brothers were acting under this company and was very famous at that time. Chinnappa didn't last long there too, as he was not given significant roles. At that time Madurai Original Boys company were conducting stage play in Pudukkotai, Chinnappa was recruited for a salary of Rs.15 with a 3-year contract.


Even though Chinnappa was offered small roles in Madurai Original Boys company, he used to perform other characters during his free time. One day in the company's house he was singing Sathi Anusaya stage play songs, his songs were heard by Sachidanantha Pillai who was staying on the top floor of the company's house. Pillai started inquiring who has sung the songs and Chinnappa was asked to perform in front of him again. Pillai was very happy and instantly increased his salary from Rs.15 to Rs.75 at that moment and promoted Chinnappa as hero.

When Chinnappa acted as hero, M.G.Ramachandran, P.G.Venkatesan, Ponnusamy and Alagesan were acting as a female lead with him. Kali N Ratnam and M. G. Chakrapani were acting in supporting roles.[1]

Pathuga Pattabishekam was one of the very popular stage shows that generated good revenue for the Madurai Original Boys company. His performance as Bharathan character received rave reviews. Not only in historical stage acts, Chinnappa performed well in social stage acts like Chandrakantha Rajendran. Chinnappa was very prolific in singing too.

Switch from stage play to movies

In those days, Madurai Original Boys company used to celebrate boys with good talent and once done they used to throw them away. Chinnappa has criticized this several times, since he was singing for a long time, Chinnappa's voice was not as good as before. Knowing the fact that the company might throw him in future, Chinnappa quit the company secretly and came back to his native place Pudukkotai.

After quitting he acted in fewer stage plays, having interest in singing and classical music, he practiced with the help of Sundaresa Nayakkanar and Vedachala Baghavadar. He mastered all ragas and he almost became a Sangeetha Vidwan. However he didn't earn much from it, so he dropped the idea of becoming more affiliated to Classical music. On the other side he also focused on sword fighting and Silambam under the guidance of Ramanatha Aasari. He also practiced wrestling under the guidance of Sando Somasundaram Chettiar. In addition to that Chinnappa also did weight lifting, it was said that he lifted about 190 pounds in weight lifting and won various prizes in competitions. So Chinnapa tried various things, like acting in stage plays, participating in competitions like wrestling and Silambam. Also started his own gym as well as own drama company. Whatever the field he was in, he dived deep in it and mastered.

Chinnappa was still doing his stage plays, at that time he did a stage play under a company called Star theaters. He went to Rangoon and played several stage plays aside M.G.Ramachandran, M. G. Chakrapani and several other actors at that time. He also went to Sri Lanka with M.R Janaki and conducted several stage play's under Chinnappa Puliyampatti Company. Jupiter Pictures after seeing the Chandrakantha stage play and the performance of Chinnappa as Sundur prince, produced the movie with the same name and released in 1936 thus making Chinnappa debuting in mainstream movies.

Rise and superstardom

After the debut, Chinnappa acted in 5 films, Punjab Kesari, Raja Mohan, Anadhai Penn, Yayathi and Mathruboomi. All those movies were moderately successful, because of which Chinnappa stayed away from movies for a while and lost opportunities in several movies. During this time, Chinnappa's voice also was not as before, he also stayed fasting for 40 days which made him lose weight. At that time T.R.Sundaram, who provided chances for unsuccessful actors and introducing new faces to Tamil cinema gave an opportunity for Chinnappa in Uthama Puthiran became a block buster, thus reviving the career of Chinnappa. Later he acted in several movies like Dhayalan, Dharmaveeran, Pruthivirajan and Manonmani which ran very successful. It was during this time, the competition between M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar and Chinnappa intensified and their respective fans clashed.[1]

Chinnappa acted in several movies for the next few years, notably Aryamala and Kannagi, which made him as a box office hero. Vanasundari, Ratnakumar and Sudarshan were the movies that Chinnappa acted last. Sudharsan was released posthumously after his death which failed in the box office.

Personal life

Chinnappa fell in love with A Sakunthala when they acted together in the movie Prithvirajan. Chinnapa married Sakunthala on 5 July 1944. They both had one son P.U.C Raja Bahadur.[1]

Chinnappa spent his life being economical and invested a lot in buying houses. He brought about 30 houses in his home town Pudukkottai. At one time the Raja of Pudukkotai banned him from buying further houses in Pudukkotai and hence Chinnappa started buying houses in Madras (Present Chennai).[2]

However, when he died, his wife Sakunthala and son P.U.C. Rajabhadhur were left virtually penniless. To this day no one knows how his houses and other assets vanished. His son debuted as an actor in Kovil Pura which didn't run well, he later took up negative roles in few movies, then earned a modest living as a dubbing artist, and has worked with writer on a ‘dubbing' projects.[3]

Death [2]

Chinnappa and his friends went to see the movie Manamagal on 23 September 1951 which was produced and directed by N.S.Krishnan. After seeing the movie he came to his house by 10 p.m. While talking to his friends he fainted suddenly, vomited blood and died within few minutes. Chinnappa had the habit of smoking beedi and liquor, however he remained healthy and was not hospitalized for it.[2]

Chinnappa's funeral was held the next day, he was laid to rest in one of his farm. Thousands of people gathered and paid their last respects. Chinnappa's sudden death came as a shock to everyone in Tamil film industry.


Chinnappa was one of the top celebrities in Tamil cinema between the late 1930s and early 1950s. He was ranked next to the first superstar, M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar.[4] The dual domination of cinematic celebrities who attained demigod status in Tamil Nadu started with this pair.

Chinnappa's films are still in demand in the DVD format and some of them are also frequently aired on television.[3]


Year Film Language Director Banner Music Directors Co-Stars
1936 Chandrakantha Tamil P. K. Raja Sandow Jupiter Pictures Kali N. Rathnam
1937 Raja Mohan Tamil Prem Chethna National Movietone
1938 Punjab Kesari Tamil Jupiter Pictures
1938 Anadhai Penn Tamil Ragupathy S. Prakasam Jupiter Pictures M. K. Radha, T. A. Sundarambal, Kothamangalam Subbu
1938 Yayathi Tamil Manik Lal Tandon Mohan Movietone Papanasam Sivan P. B. Rangachari, M. V. Rajamma
1939 Mathruboomi Tamil H. M. Reddy Vel Pictures Papanasam Sivan T. S. Santhanam, T. V. Kumudhini, Kali N. Rathnam
1940 Uthama Puthiran Tamil T. R. Sundaram Modern Theatres M. V. Rajamma, N. S. Krishnan, T. A. Madhuram, T. S. Krishnaveni, Kali N. Rathnam, T. S. Balaiah, U. R. Jeevarathinam
1941 Dhayalan Tamil T. R. Sundaram Modern Theatres T. R. Mahalingam
1941 Dharma Veeran Tamil B. Sampathkumar Modern Theatres K. R. Kuppusamy K. K. Perumal, P. A. Kumar, C. S. D. Singh
1941 Aryamala Tamil T. C. Vadivelu Naicker Pakshiraja Films G. Ramanathan M. S. Sarojini, M. R. Santhanalakshmi, T. S. Balaiah, N. S. Krishnan, T. A. Madhuram, S. R. Janaki, A. Sakunthala
1942 Manonmani Tamil T. R. Sundaram Modern Theatres T. A. Kalyanam & K. V. Mahadevan T. R. Rajakumari, Serukulathur Sama, T. S. Balaiah, T. R. Mahalingam, N. S. Krishnan, T. A. Madhuram, Kali N. Rathnam, C. T. Rajakantham, R. Balasubramaniam, A. Sakunthala
1942 Prithivirajan Tamil B. Sampathkumar Central Studios and Haran Talkies G. Ramanathan A. Sakunthala, T. S. Balaiah, M. R. Santhanalakshmi, N. S. Krishnan, T. A. Mathuram, Kali N. Rathnam, C. T. Rajakantham
1942 Kannagi Tamil R. S. Mani Jupiter Pictures S. V. Venkatraman P. Kannamba, N. S. Saroja, N. S. Krishnan, T. A. Madhuram, M. Saroja, S. V. Sahasranamam, T. R. Ramachandran, U. R. Jeevarathinam
1943 Kubera Kuchela Tamil R. S. Mani Kunnakudi Venkatarama Iyer & N. S. Balakrishnan N. S. Krishnan, T. A. Madhuram, Papanasam Sivan, P. S. Govindan, T. R. Rajakumari, S. R. Janaki, R. Balasubramaniam, D. Balasubramaniam, T. S. Durairaj
1944 Harichandra Tamil K. B. Nagabhushanam Sri Rajarajeswari Films S. V. Venkatraman P. Kannamba, M. N. Nambiar, R. Balasubramaniam, M. R. Swaminathan, Yogam Mangalam, N. S. Krishnan, T. A. Madhuram, Loose Mohan, V. Gopalakrishnan
1944 Jagathalaprathapan Tamil K. S. Narayana Iyengar & S. M. Sriramulu Naidu Pakshiraja Films G. Ramanathan M. S. Sarojini, N. S. Krishnan, T. A. Madhuram, M. R. Santhanalakshmi, P. B. Rangachari, U. R. Jeevarathinam, S. Varalakshmi, T. A. Jayalakshmi, T. S. Balaiah, D. Balasubramaniam
1944 Mahamaya Tamil T. R. Raghunath Jupiter Pictures S. V. Venkatraman & Kunnakudi Venkatarama Iyer P. Kannamba, M. G. Chakrapani, N. S. Krishnan, T. A. Madhuram, M. S. Saroja, R. Balasubramaniam, D. Balasubramaniam, S. V. Sahasranamam
1946 Arthanari Tamil T. R. Raghunath Madras United Artists Corporation T. R. Ramachandran, M. S. Saroja, M. V. Rajamma, N. S. Krishnan, T. A. Madhuram, Kali N. Rathnam
1946 Vikadayogi Tamil K. Subramanyam Madras United Artists Corporation Mothibabu, Brother Lakshmanan & Radha Krishnan T. R. Rajakumari, S. M. Kumaresan, B. S. Saroja, T. R. Ramachandran, T. S. Dhamayanthi
1947 Pankaja Valli Tamil Krishnan-Panju Tamil Nadu Talkies T. R. Rajakumari, Rukmini, N. S. Krishnan, T. A. Madhuram
1947 Thulasi Jalandar Tamil K. B. Nagabushanam Sri Raja Rajeswari Films M. D. Parthasarathy Kothamangalam Seenu, T. S. Durairaj, R. Balasubramaniam, P. Kannamba, T. S. Jeya, Rushyendramani, S. Varalakshmi
1949 Krishna Bakthi Tamil R. S. Mani Krishna Pictures S. V. Venkatraman K. R. Ramaswamy, T. R. Rajakumari, C. T. Rajakantham, C. S. Jayaraman, S. P. L. Dhanalakshmi, D. Balasubramaniam, N. S. Krishnan, T. A. Madhuram
1949 Mangaiyarkarasi Tamil Jiten Bannerjee Pakshiraja Studios G. Ramanathan, C. R. Subburaman & Kunnakudi Venkatarama Iyer P. Kannamba, Anjali Devi, N. S. Krishnan, T. A. Madhuram, Kaka Radhakrishnan
1949 Rathnakumar Tamil Krishnan-Panju Murugan Talkies G. Ramanathan & C. R. Subburaman P. Bhanumathi, N. S. Krishnan, T. A. Madhuram, K. Malathi, M. G. Ramachandran, T. S. Durairaj, Kaka Radhakrishnan
1951 Vanasundari Tamil T. R. Raghunath Krishna Pictures S. V. Venkatraman & C. R. Subburaman T. R. Rajakumari, T. S. Balaiah, S. Varalakshmi, R. Balasubramaniam, M. G. Chakrapani, D. Balasubramaniam, N. S. Krishnan, T. A. Madhuram, Kaka Radhakrishnan
1951 Sudharsan Tamil Sundar Rao Nadkarni / A.S.A. Sami Royal Talky Distributors G. Ramanathan P. Kannamba, (Yogam) Mangalam, Lalitha, T. S. Balaiah, D. Balasubramaniam, P. B. Rangachari, C. K. Saraswathi, Master A. L. Raghavan


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