Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Department of English
Swarnavel Eswaran Pillai
Home > People > Faculty > Swarnavel Eswaran Pillai

Assistant Professor

Film Studies



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

C-643 Wells Hall
Phone: 517-8844446

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 film history and film theory, particularly 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.


Current Production Work


In the summer of 2012, he directed a book-trailer for Prof. Marcia Aldrich’s novel Companion to an Untold Story, which has been receiving positive responses in the new media. Alternative link: http://vimeo.com/49328730

Presently, he is working on the documentary Migrations of Islam, a feature length documentary, produced by Prof. Salah Hassan, and funded by the SSRC.


Selected Publications


Cinema: Sattagamum Saalaramum (Cinema: Frame and Window). Chennai: Nizhal Pathippagam, December 2012. This book is an anthology of scholarly essays on documentaries and experimental films.

Leena Manimekalai’s Poems and Documentaries: Participation and Performance” in Widescreen (Subaltern Media, UK: Leeds; December 2012), the peer-reviewed online journal, in the special issue on “Art and Music in Documentary,” edited by Veena Hariharan.

Eswaran Pillai, Swarnavel, “1970s Tamil Cinema and the Post-Classical Turn,” Eds, Priya Joshi and Rajinder Dudrah, South Asian Popular Culture (Routledge).Volume 10, Number 1, 1 April 2012, pp. 77-89.

 “Iruvar: the Duo” on Mani Ratnam’s Tamil Film, in the book The Cinema of India, edited byLalitha Gopalan (London: Wallflower press, 2009, pp 226-235).



Courses Taught


Eng 430: Seminar in Film and Media Theory, Authorship and Genre: Hitchcock and Chabrol

TC 491: Short Film, Writing and Directing

Eng 332: Historical Approaches to Film

TC 233: Documentary Technologies and Problems of Reality-based Arts