Nayakan (1987 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the 1987 Tamil film. For other uses, see Nayakan.
Nayagan poster.jpg
Promotional poster
Directed by Mani Ratnam
Produced by Muktha Srinivasan
Muktha V. Ramaswamy
G. Venkateswaran
Written by Mani Ratnam
Balakumaran (Dialogues)
Starring Kamal Haasan
Music by Ilaiyaraaja
Cinematography P. C. Sriram
Edited by B. Lenin
V. T. Vijayan
Muktha Films
Distributed by Muktha Films
Release dates
  • 21 October 1987 (1987-10-21)
Running time 145 minutes
Country India
Language Tamil

Nayakan (English: The Hero), also known as Nayagan, is a 1987 Indian Tamil crime film written and directed by Mani Ratnam and starring Kamal Haasan. It is based on the real-life Bombay underworld don Varadarajan Mudaliar, and sympathetically depicts the struggle of South Indians living in Bombay. The film also stars Saranya Ponvannan in her silver screen debut, Karthika, Nassar, Janagaraj, Delhi Ganesh and Tinnu Anand. The soundtrack of the film was composed by Ilaiyaraaja and met with a successful response after release. The film has been inspired from the 1972 American classic The Godfather.

The film was released on 21 October 1987 on Diwali day and received critical acclaim worldwide. Kamal Haasan's performance as Velu Naicker earned him a National Film Award for Best Actor. The film also earned the National Award for Best Cinematography (P. C. Sriram) and Best Art Direction (Thotta Tharani). The film was sent by India for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 60th Academy Awards. In 2005, the Time Magazine included Nayagan in its list of "All-Time 100 Best Films".[1][2] This has also been included in The Moving Arts Film Journal greatest films of all time.[3] Nayagan was also included as one of 20 greatest Indian films of all time. This list emerged from the 'T20 of Indian Cinema' poll in which 20 experts from around the country - 10 young filmmakers and 10 seasoned critics and scholars participated.[4] CNN-IBN included the film in its list of "100 greatest Indian films of all time".[5]

The film was dubbed in Telugu under the title Nayakudu. It was also remade in Hindi as Dayavan in 1988. A Hindi dub of the film was released in 1999 as Velu Nayakan.


Sakthivelu "Velu" Nayakan is born to an anti-government union leader (Kitty). The child, Velu, is tricked by the police into locating his father, and then witnesses his father's death in a police shootout. After doing the final death rites of his father, he kills the person who was the cause of his father's death and escapes to Bombay.

Stranded and homeless in the big city, he is rescued by a kind-hearted Muslim fisherman (M. V. Vasudeva Rao) who takes him to his home in the suburban slum area of Dharavi. His foster father is also a small-time smuggler known for his generosity in the slum. Upon his running afoul of a senior crime lord, the corrupt local police officer named Kelkar, arrests the fisherman on smuggling charges and subsequently murders him. Velu Nayakan, now a young man (Kamal Haasan) who has come into his own, goes in search of the officer and bludgeons him to death for revenge. As an act of remorse for his guilt, he decides to adopt Kelkar's mentally-challenged son Ajith, and raise him as his own.

With this act, he is seen as a saviour and a man to be feared amongst the slum residents. As their godfather and protector, he flourishes by resuming his late foster father's local smuggling activities. He marries a destitute school-girl-turned-prostitute Neela (Saranya Ponvannan) and has two children. Conflicts and power struggles occur in the smuggling world, in which Neela becomes a casualty. Velu's children are sent away to Chennai as a result and return some years later to their father's home, as young adults.

Velu's son Surya (Nizhalgal Ravi) is eager to join his father in his activities, despite his father's reluctance. For his first real test, he is required to eliminate a potential witness against his father; he does this by hiring outside thugs. They succeed in eliminating the witness, but their failure to cover their tracks leads police to him at a petrol bunk and an accident costs him his life. Velu is heartbroken. Velu's daughter, Charumathi (Karthika) is at odds with her father over his form of justice and killings, but Velu refuses to end his activities. As a last straw, she disowns him and leaves home.

Several years later, the newly appointed assistant police commissioner (Nassar) starts afresh to bring Velu Nayakan to justice over his alleged activities and manages to secure an arrest warrant. This commissioner is, unbeknownst to both, Velu's son-in-law. After a continued pursuit resulting in the thrashings by police and self-immolation of slum dwellers, Velu surrenders to the police to spare the lives of the residents of the slum. He is tried in court but is released due to the lack of adequate evidence. A supportive and emotional crowd gathers at the courthouse, awaiting his release. Velu is greeted by an excited crowd but their joy turns to sorrow when he is shot dead by a grown-up Ajith (Tinnu Anand), who has eventually learned the truth behind his biological father's murder.


Lead actors[edit]

Supporting actors[edit]



"The two years I studied in Bombay (1975-77), he was at his peak. People in the Matunga belt thought he was God. I used to wonder how anyone could treat a fellow human as God. I never understood why they would do this. It fascinated me. It was such a dramatic story, this man going from Tamil Nadu to Bombay and ruling the city. I outlined this thought to Kamal Haasan and he said fine."

 – Mani Ratnam on his inspiration to make the film, in an interview with film critic Baradwaj Rangan.

Producer Muktha V. Srinivasan had earlier narrated the story to Sivaji Ganesan who agreed to act in the film. Amala was roped in as heroine. However Ananthu, then an associate of Kamal Haasan, felt that it would be a Sivaji-focused film and not a Kamal Haasan movie. The project was dropped.[6] Kamal later told Srinivasan about the then upcoming director Mani Ratnam. Ratnam had previously wanted to cast Haasan as the protagonist in Pallavi Anupallavi (1983). The collaboration couldn't materialise then as Haasan was busy with Raja Paarvai (1981) at that time.[7]

In1986, producer Srinivasan then came to Ratnam's house and gave him an envelope, which contained a casette of a Hindi film, Pagla Kahin Ka (1970). Ratnam, after watching the film, met Haasan and initially rejected the offer on making a film based on Pagla Kahin Ka's story as he felt it was not his cup of tea. After Haasan asked him the kind of film he preferred to make, Ratnam suggested two stories. One was on the lines of Dirty Harry (1971) and Beverly Hills Cop (1984), while the other was based on the life of underworld don Varadarajan Mudaliar.[8] On September 1986, Haasan gave his schedule dates for the film to Srinivasan.[8]


Ratnam wanted Haasan to have as realistic a look as possible. He preferred Haasan in traditional Hindu attire. Haasan was intially hesitant regarding his look and wanted to sport a beard similar to that of his old-aged look in Sagara Sangamam (1983), as he felt it wouldn't give away his jaw line, which would reveal that the character was portrayed by a younger person. Ratnam, in turn, didn't want Haasan to sport a look similar to Sagara Sangamam or any of his other previous films.[9] Haasan sported dentures to provide some weight around his jaw for Velu Nayakan's old-age look.[10]

Neela, the wife of Velu Nayakan, played by Saranya Ponvannan, who made her debut in the film, was created by Muktha Srinivasan as he felt that without the character, the film would have had more violent content and that it would not cater to family audiences.[6] Ratnam wanted a 'new face' to portray Neela as he felt the character would have the required zest and gusto if it was done by a newbie.[11] Saranya sent her photograph to Ratnam to audition for the role. She was later added to the cast after a successful screen test. She was also the first and only person who auditioned for the role.[12] Nassar was suggested to Ratnam by Haasan. Raghuvaran was previously considered for the role of Charumati's husband.[13] Kuyili made a cameo appearance in the song "Nila Adhu Vanathumele" as a gypsy dancer.[14] Actress Tara featured in an extended cameo appearance as Shyla.[15]


Ratnam initially planned to complete the shooting in 60 days and 70 rolls of film. Kamal Haasan was paid INR1.75 million (about US$ 145,583 in 1987)[a] and the initial budget for the film was INR6 million (about US$ 500,000 in 1987)[a]. But soon, time and cost over-run had increased the budget to INR10 million (about US$ 830,000 in 1987).[6][a] Principal photography commenced in November 1986 and the first schedule lasted for 10 days. According to Ratnam, a 3 day test shoot, unbeknownst to the producer, was done in December 1986 as the script for the film wasn't finalized at that time. The test shoots featured Haasan in his get-ups seen in the film, but they did not make it to the final version of the film. The test shoots, however, helped to get the technical aspects of the film on the right track.[17]

Ratnam said the actual principal photography of Nayakan began in January 1987. 15 days of shooting took place in the slum areas of Dharavi.[17] Using photographs taken there, the film's art director Thota Tharani created a set at Venus Studios in Chennai. Thousands of junior artists were hired to recreate the atmosphere of the slum areas.[6][7] Additionally, Pigeons were brought for the same.[18] Haasan helped in the make-up for the other actors in the film and asked Janagaraj and Delhi Ganesh to cut their hair so as to make their characters in their old age scenes look convicing.[19] He used Ittar perfume for the female cast.[7] Haasan also brought his own gun, sparing Ratnam the usage of a dummy. In the scene where Haasan chases the inspector, he uses his own bottle of sugar glass, which he had brought from the United States.[19] Ratnam had marked around INR1.2 million (about US$ 100,000 in 1987)[a] for the film's action sequences. In order to make the sequences slick and entertaining, cinematographer and stunt sequence director Jim Allen, who was known for his work stunt sequences in Sholay (1975) was chosen. But after 3 days, he was removed from the film as he charged INR200,000 per day (about US$ 160,000 in 1987)[a] and Srinivasan could not afford the money.[6][7] The remaining portions were shot at Bombay, including the portions involving Velu Nayakan's childhood life in the city.[20][6][7] The scene featuring Neela studying for her Maths exams was suggested by Srinivasan.[7] Velu Nayakan's childhood portions before he moves to Bombay were canned in Old Mahabalipuram Road for one and a half days. This was also the last part of the principal photography.[20]

The song "Naan Sirithal Deepavali" was shot at the spot where the Taj Club House is located today. The old building previously located at that spot was called the "Indian Express Building" by film industrialists as it was adjacent to the Old office of the Indian Express. Thota Tharani converted the building's exterior into a brothel and used the opposite end of the building for Velu Nayakan's house location.[21] Nayakan was notable for using frame-within-the-frame technique of filmmaking.[22] Ratnam and Haasan met Varadaraja Mudaliar in person and it was Mudaliar who suggested to Ratnam that Velu Nayakan should die in the end when Ratnam asked Mudaliar how he would foresee his own death.[23][7]

The censor board at Chennai initially refused to permit the release of the movie, as it was based on a living person. When the film was completed and the first print was ready, it ran for 3 hours. G. Venkateswaran bought negative rights of the film after Mukhtha Srinivasan sold all the areas to distributors.[6][7]


The soundtrack was composed by Ilaiyaraaja, with lyrics by Pulamaipithan. It has the distinction of being Ilayaraja's 400th film soundtrack. The song "Nee Oru Kaadhal Sangeetham", which is based on the raga Kalyani,[24] is featured on both sides of the LP record.[25]

Tamil tracklisting
Side One
No. Title Lyrics Singer(s) Length
1. "Naan Sirithal Deepawali"   Pulamaipithan K. Jamuna Rani, M. S. Rajeswari and chorus  
2. "Nee Oru Kadhal Sangeetham"   Pulamaipithan Mano and K. S. Chitra  
3. "Andhi Mazhai Megam"   Pulamaipithan T. L. Maharajan, P. Susheela and chorus  
Side Two
No. Title Lyrics Singer(s) Length
1. "Nila Adhu Vanathumele"   Ilaiyaraaja Ilaiyaraaja  
2. "Nee Oru Kadhal Sangeetham"   Pulamaipithan Mano and K. S. Chitra  
3. "Thenpandi Cheemayile"   Pulamaipithan Ilaiyaraaja and Kamal Haasan  

Hindi tracklisting

For the Hindi dub, composer duo Deepak-Santosh were approached to replace 2 numbers. The song "Chaha Humne Tujhe" served as a replacement for "Nee Oru Kaadhal" from the Tamil original. However, the original song was dubbed in Hindi as "Jeevan Ka Sangeet" and is included in the version's soundtrack. "Sitam Ki Andhi Se" is another song that replaced "Thenpaandi Cheemayile" from the original.[26]

All lyrics written by P.K Mishra, unless noted. 

Hindi version
No. Title Lyrics Music Singer(s) Length
1. "Chaha Humne Tujhe"   Nawab Arzoo Deepak-Santhosh Kumar Sanu & Alka Yagnik  
2. "Haiya Ho Haiya Ho"   P.K Mishra Ilaiyaraaja Leonara Issac & Sudesh Bhosle  
3. "Hazir Hai Dilber Mere Kadmon"   P.K Mishra Ilaiyaraaja Anupama Deshpande & Mitali Chowdhury  
4. "Jeevan Ka Sangeet Ho Tum"   P.K Mishra Ilaiyaraaja Suresh Wadkar & Anupama Deshpande  
5. "Mastiyo Mein Dooba"   P.K Mishra Ilaiyaraaja Udit Narayan, Sadhana Sargam and chorus  
6. "Sitam Ki Andhi Se"   Nawab Arzoo Deepak-Santhosh Hariharan  


Among contemporary critics, Ananda Vikatan said, "After a long time we have seen such an intense film in Tamil Cinema... Congratulations Mani Ratnam. Kamal underplayed his role beautifully and demonstrated his histrionics as a godfather in the film well... The film stands out for its sets, taking, colour, richness and international quality camera work" and gave the film one of its highest marks of 60.[27]


The film was sent as India's official entry for the 1988 Academy Awards. However, it did not progress to the shortlist.[28]

It won the following awards: 1988 National Film Awards

In 2005, Time Magazine included Nayagan in its "All-Time 100 Best Films" list.


The film has been inspired from the influential and iconic American film The Godfather.[29] Post-release, it was considered as a "landmark" film in Indian cinema and attained an iconic status.[citation needed] As a part of its legacy, the film has been acclaimed for being a box-office success whilst containing the critic elements of art.[30] After the film was selected by the TIME magazine as one of the best, insiders of the magazine spoke about Ratnam's work in the film, saying "Ratnam has no such difficulty blending melodrama and music, violence and comedy, realism and delirium, into a two-and-a-half-hour demonstration that, when a gangster's miseries are mounting, the most natural solution is to sing in the rain."[31] The tagline given to the film by TIME was "A terrific gangster epic in the Godfather style."[32] The famous line in the film, "Neenga Nallavara Kettavara?" (Are you good or bad?) was used in "The Punch Song", a song from the film, Aaha Kalyanam (2014).[33] A poster of the film, designed by Abhinav Bhatt from Bangalore depicted Velu Nayakan being asked the line by his grandson.[34] When questioned by film critic Baradwaj Rangan about making a sequel to Nayakan, Ratnam said, "Never. When you finish a film, you're glad to be rid of it. You're happy you don't have to go back to that script again. Been there, done that."[35]


  1. ^ a b c d e The exchange rate in 1987 was 12.9658 Indian rupees (INR) per 1 US dollar (US$).[16]



  1. ^ "All-Time 100 Best Films" - Nayakan
  2. ^ "Mani Ratnam's inspiration for Nayagan". The Times of India. 2 August 2012. Archived from the original on 18 October 2014. Retrieved 22 October 2012. 
  3. ^ "TMA’s 100 Greatest Movies of All Time | The Moving Arts Film Journal". 2010-11-13. Retrieved 2013-04-05. 
  4. ^ "India's 20 greatest films". Retrieved 2013-04-05. 
  5. ^ "100 Years of Indian Cinema: The 100 greatest Indian films of all time". IBN Live. Retrieved 6 May 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g V. Srinivasan, Muktha (28 October 2012). "Living in past glory". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 28 March 2014. Retrieved 5 April 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Haasan, Kamal (20 October 2012). "'Of course Velu Nayakan doesn't dance'". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 2 March 2014. Retrieved 20 October 2012. 
  8. ^ a b Rangan 2012, p. 44.
  9. ^ Rangan 2012, pp. 46-47.
  10. ^ Rangan 2012, pp. 47.
  11. ^ Rangan 2012, p. 51.
  12. ^ Rangan 2012, p. 52.
  13. ^ Rangan 2012, p. 64.
  14. ^ Kumar, S. R. Ashok (29 April 2010). "Grill Mill - Kuyili". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 19 October 2014. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  15. ^ Kuhajane, Muralidhara (14 March 2012). "Time to give back to film industry: Tara". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 19 October 2014. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  16. ^ "Exchange Rate of the Indian Rupee Vis-a-Vis the SDR, US Dollar, Pound Sterling, D. M./Euro and Japanese Yen (Financial year — Annual average and end-year rates)" (PDF). p. 264. Archived from the original on 24 November 2013. Retrieved 20 October 2014. 
  17. ^ a b Rangan 2012, p. 45.
  18. ^ Rangan 2012, p. 59.
  19. ^ a b Rangan 2012, p. 46.
  20. ^ a b Rangan 2012, p. 60.
  21. ^ Rangan 2012, p. 54.
  22. ^ Rangan 2012, p. 58.
  23. ^ Dhananjayan 2011, p. 117.
  24. ^ Manigandan, K. R. (8 March 2012). "Shot Cuts: Blessing in disguise". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 19 October 2014. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  25. ^ Tamil version official tracklisting
  26. ^ "Hindi version official tracklisting". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 19 October 2014. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  27. ^ Dhananjayan 2011, p. 118.
  28. ^ "12 Indian films that would make great books". IBNLive. 12 February 2014. Archived from the original on 19 October 2014. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  29. ^ Burnett & Wray 2006, p. 177.
  30. ^ Joshi 2006, p. 72.
  31. ^ "Apu Trilogy, Pyasa, Nayakan in Time list of 100 great films". Outlook. 23 May 2005. Retrieved 18 April 2012. 
  32. ^ Moviebuzz (24 March 2005). "Mani Ratnam honoured!". Sify. Retrieved 18 April 2012. 
  33. ^ Lakshmi, V. (18 January 2014). "After punch dialogues, it's punch song in Kollywood". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 19 October 2014. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  34. ^ Devi Dundoo, Sangeetha (31 July 2012). "Poster boy". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 19 October 2014. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  35. ^ Rangan 2012, p. 66.


External links[edit]