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Nayakan (1987 film)

This article is about the 1987 Tamil film. For other uses, see [[Nayakan (disambiguation)#REDIRECTmw:Help:Magic words#Other
This page is a soft redirect.Nayakan]].

File:Nayagan poster.jpg
Theatrical release 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
135-148 minutes[a]
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 loosely 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 film debut. Karthika, Nassar, Janagaraj, Delhi Ganesh and Tinnu Anand play significant roles. The soundtrack and score of the film were composed by Ilaiyaraaja and was met with a successful response after release. The film has been inspired from the 1972 American film The Godfather.

Principal photography commenced in November 1986 with test shoots featuring Haasan. The film was released on 21 October 1987 on the occasion of Diwali and received critical acclaim worldwide. Kamal Haasan's performance as Velu Nayakan 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 India's official submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1988 at the 60th Academy Awards, but was not shortlisted among the final nominees.

In 2005, the magazine TIME included Nayagan in its list of "All-Time 100 Best Films". The film was also included in The Moving Arts Film Journal's list of greatest films of all time. Nayagan was also included in NDTV's list "India's 20 greatest films". CNN-IBN included the film in its list of "100 greatest Indian films of all time".

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


Sakthivelu alias "Velu" Nayakan is the son of 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; he later kills the person who was the cause of his father's death and escapes to Bombay.

Stranded and homeless in the big city, he meets two boys who take him to their home in the suburban slum area of Dharavi. Over there, a Muslim fisherman raises Velu; the former is also a small-time smuggler known for his generosity among the slum dwellers. Upon locking horns with a senior crime lord, a corrupt local police officer named Kelkar arrests the fisherman on smuggling charges and subsequently murders him. In revenge, Velu, now a young man (Kamal Haasan) kills the inspector, but as an act of remorse, he decides to adopt Kelkar's mentally challenged son Ajith, and raise him as his own. With this act, Velu soon becomes a godfather of that area, engaged in smuggling and at the same time, supporting those who are in need of help. When he visits a brothel, he meets Neela (Saranya Ponvannan), a destitute school-girl-turned-prostitute, and is impressed by her dedication to continue studying despite being a prostitute; he later marries her.

As his popularity increases, he starts eliminating rival gangs. Selva (Janakaraj) and Iyer (Delhi Ganesh) are his close associates in these activities. Once when nobody is able to bring a contraband parcel out of a ship, Velu brings it ashore with Selva's help by hoodwinking the Customs officials. The Reddy Brothers, who were unable to bring out the same contraband, lose to Velu as a result. Angered, they make an assassination attempt on him and his family; Neela dies in the attack. Velu retaliates by killing every member of the Reddy family. Worried about the safety of his son Surya and daughter Charumati, he sends them to Chennai.

Several years later, Velu becomes the biggest mafia leader of the city with a large number of followers, including a grown-up Ajith (Tinnu Anand). His children Surya (Nizhalgal Ravi) and Charumati (Karthika) return to Bombay as adults. Despite Velu's reluctance, Surya follows his father's profession. Charumati is upset about this development and expresses her anguish to her father but in vain. When one of Velu's associates turns approver, Surya hires an assassin who kills the approver in the court. In his excitement, the assassin comes to meet Surya personally at a petrol station to report his deed. When the police surround them, Surya burns the petrol station to destroy all the evidence and escape, but is killed in the process. A distraught Charumati blames Velu for her brother's death and leaves him.

Several years later, Velu continues to dominate the area. A new ACP (Nassar) takes charge of the area and starts taking severe action against Velu's activities. He arrests many of Velu's men. When Velu goes to the ACP's home to caution him, he discovers that Charumati is the ACP's wife and that they have a son. Understanding the situation, Velu leaves. The ACP continues his punitive actions against Velu; however, he is unable to arrest him since the people in the area protect him and even set themselves on fire when the police approach his hideout.

Worried about his people dying, Velu calls Charumati and advises her to ask the ACP to arrest him after he completes the ceremony relating to Neela's death anniversary the next day. By then, ACP comes to know that his wife is Velu's daughter. When he reaches home, Charumati advises him to arrest her father the next day. The ACP arrests Velu, but due to lack of evidence, he is acquitted by the court. An excited crowd greets Velu when they see him coming out of the court but their joy turns to sorrow when Ajith, now aware of the truth behind his biological father's death, shoots Velu, who dies on the spot.


Lead actors
Supporting actors



"The two years I studied in Bombay (1975-77), he [Varadarajan Mudaliar] 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. That's it. It was done. Decided."

 – Mani Ratnam on his inspiration to make the film, in an interview with film critic Baradwaj Rangan.[3]

Producer Muktha V. Srinivasan had earlier narrated the story to Sivaji Ganesan who agreed to act in the film. Amala was chosen as heroine. However Ananthu, then an associate of Kamal Haasan, felt that it would be a Ganesan-focused film and not a Kamal Haasan film as Ananthu thought that Haasan would fit the role better. The project was dropped.[4] Haasan later told Srinivasan about the then upcoming director Mani Ratnam. Ratnam had previously wanted to cast Haasan as the protagonist in his debut film as director, Pallavi Anupallavi (1983), but the collaboration could not materialise then as Haasan was committed to Raja Paarvai (1981) at that time.[5]

In 1986, Srinivasan came to Ratnam's house and gave him an envelope, which contained a cassette of Pagla Kahin Ka (1970). Ratnam, after watching the film, met Haasan and initially rejected the offer, citing that a story based on Pagla Kahin Ka 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.[3][6] In September 1986, Haasan gave his schedule dates for the film to Srinivasan.[3]


Ratnam wanted Haasan to have as realistic a look as possible. He preferred Haasan in traditional Hindu attire. Haasan was initially 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 would not give away his jaw line, which would reveal that the character was portrayed by a younger person. Ratnam, in turn, did not want Haasan to sport a look similar to Sagara Sangamam or any of his other previous films.[7] Haasan sported dentures to provide some weight around his jaw for Velu Nayakan's old-age look.[8]

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.[4] 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.[9] 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.[10] Ratnam believes that Nassar was suggested to him by Haasan, when Raghuvaran was being considered for the role of Charumati's husband.[11] Kuyili made a cameo appearance in the song "Nila Adhu Vanathumele" as a gypsy dancer.[12] Actress Tara featured in an extended cameo appearance as Shyla.[13]


Ratnam initially planned to complete the shooting in 60 days and 70 rolls of film. Haasan was paid 1.75 million (US$ 145,583 in 1987)[b] and the initial budget for the film was 6 million (US$ 500,000 in 1987).[b] But soon, time and cost overruns had increased the budget to 10 million (US$ 830,000 in 1987).[4][b] Principal photography commenced in November 1986 and the first schedule lasted for 10 days. According to Ratnam, a three-day test shoot, unbeknownst to the producer, was done in December 1986 as the script for the film was not finalised 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.[15]

Ratnam said the actual principal photography of Nayakan began in January 1987. 15 days of shooting took place in the slum areas of Dharavi.[15] 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.[4][5] Additionally, Pigeons were brought for the same.[16] 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 convincing.[17] He used Ittar perfume for the female cast.[5] 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.[17] Ratnam had marked around 1.2 million (US$ 100,000 in 1987)[b] 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 three days, he was removed from the film as he charged 200,000 per day (US$ 160,000 in 1987)[b] and Srinivasan could not afford the money.[4][5] The remaining portions were shot at Bombay, including the portions involving Velu Nayakan's childhood life in the city.[18][4][5] The scene featuring Neela studying for her Maths exams was suggested by Srinivasan.[5] 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.[18]

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.[19] Nayakan was notable for using frame-within-the-frame technique of filmmaking.[20] 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.[21][5]


The soundtrack was composed by Ilaiyaraaja,[22] this being his 400th film soundtrack.[21] Pulamaipithan wrote the lyrics for all the songs except "Nila Adhu Vanathumele", which Ilaiyaraaja wrote himself.[23]

The theme song "Thenpandi Cheemayile" plays for most of the film; during the introduction titles, it has the colloquial line "yaar adichaaro" (sung by Ilaiyaraaja), but when it plays later in the film, the line is altered to the more polished "yaar adithaaro" (sung by Haasan). Baradwaj Rangan asked Ratnam whether this change was an indication to the eventual refinement of Velu Nayakan. Ratnam said that Ilaiyaraaja's portions were recorded first, and that when they went for recording, they had this rustic version which lacked background music, and was of folk quality. Because the song was going to be repeated throughout the film, they also wanted a more orchestral version, and in this version sung by Haasan, the language became more sophisticated.[24] The song "Nee Oru Kaadhal Sangeetham", which is based on the raga Kalyani,[25] is featured on both sides of the original LP record as the second track.[23]

Tamil tracklisting
Side A
No. TitleLyricsSinger(s) Length
1. "Naan Sirithal Deepavali"  PulamaipithanK. Jamuna Rani, M. S. Rajeswari and chorus 4:46
2. "Nee Oru Kadhal Sangeetham"  PulamaipithanMano and K. S. Chitra 4:32
3. "Andhi Mazhai Megam"  PulamaipithanT. L. Maharajan, P. Susheela and chorus 4:46
Side B
No. TitleLyricsSinger(s) Length
1. "Nila Adhu Vanathumele"  IlaiyaraajaIlaiyaraaja 5:01
2. "Nee Oru Kadhal Sangeetham"  PulamaipithanMano and K. S. Chitra 4:32
3. "Thenpandi Cheemayile"  PulamaipithanIlaiyaraaja and Kamal Haasan 4:32
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. TitleLyricsMusicSinger(s) Length
1. "Chaha Humne Tujhe"  Nawab ArzooDeepak-SanthoshKumar Sanu & Alka Yagnik  
2. "Haiya Ho Haiya Ho"  P.K MishraIlaiyaraajaLeonara Issac & Sudesh Bhosle  
3. "Hazir Hai Dilber Mere Kadmon"  P.K MishraIlaiyaraajaAnupama Deshpande & Mitali Chowdhury  
4. "Jeevan Ka Sangeet Ho Tum"  P.K MishraIlaiyaraajaSuresh Wadkar & Anupama Deshpande  
5. "Mastiyo Mein Dooba"  P.K MishraIlaiyaraajaUdit Narayan, Sadhana Sargam and chorus  
6. "Sitam Ki Andhi Se"  Nawab ArzooDeepak-SanthoshHariharan  


The censor board at Chennai initially refused to permit the release of the film, as it was based on a living person. When the film was completed and the first print was ready, it ran for 3 hours. In order to tighten the screenplay to make the film entertaining, Srinivasan requested the film's editor Lenin to remove the scenes which were unnecessary.[4] G. Venkateswaran bought the rights of the film after Srinivasan distributed the film.[4][5]

Critical reception

On 1 November 1987, 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]


At the 1988 National Film Awards, Nayakan won the awards for Best Actor (Kamal Haasan), Best Cinematography (P. C. Sriram) and Best Art Direction (Thotta Tharani). The film was India's official submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1988 at the 60th Academy Awards; however, it was not shortlisted among the final nominees.[28][29]


The film has been inspired from the influential and iconic American film The Godfather.[30] 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.[31] In 2005, the magazine TIME included Nayakan in its list of "All-Time 100 Best Films".[32][33] After the film was selected by TIME 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."[34] The tagline given to the film by TIME was "A terrific gangster epic in the Godfather style."[35] The film was also included in The Moving Arts Film Journal list of greatest films of all time.[36] Nayakan was also included in NDTV's list "India's 20 greatest films".[37] CNN-IBN included the film in its list of "100 greatest Indian films of all time".[38] 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).[39] A poster of the film, designed by Abhinav Bhatt from Bangalore depicted Velu Nayakan being asked the line by his grandson.[40] 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."[41]

In popular culture

The scenes and dialogues from the film has been parodied in Dumm Dumm Dumm (2001),[42] Chellame (2004).[43] When stand-up comedian and television anchor Bosskey launched a quirky play titled Dada (Don) in October 2005, he named the cast after famous characters in Tamil films. Accordingly, Anniyan (one of Vikram's character in the film), Badshah (Rajinikanth in Baashha) and Velu Nayakkar (Kamal Haasan's role in Nayakan) play the central characters of a family of brothers.[44] Similarly, in the 2013 comedy film Onbadhule Guru, in which the characters were named after popular protagonists of Tamil cinema, a member of the supporting cast was christened Velu Nayakkar.[45]


  1. ^ Baradwaj Rangan's Conversations with Mani Ratnam gives the runtime as 135 minutes,[1] while G. Dhananjayan's The Best of Tamil Cinema gives the runtime as 148 minutes.[2]
  2. ^ a b c d e The exchange rate in 1987 was 12.9658 Indian rupees () per 1 US dollar (US$).[14]


  1. ^ Rangan 2012, p. 290.
  2. ^ Dhananjayan 2011, p. 108.
  3. ^ a b c Rangan 2012, p. 44.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h V. Srinivasan, Muktha (28 October 2012). "Living in past glory". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 28 March 2014. Retrieved 5 April 2013. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ "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. 
  7. ^ Rangan 2012, pp. 46-47.
  8. ^ Rangan 2012, pp. 47.
  9. ^ Rangan 2012, p. 51.
  10. ^ Rangan 2012, p. 52.
  11. ^ Rangan 2012, p. 64.
  12. ^ Kumar, S. R. Ashok (29 April 2010). "Grill Mill - Kuyili". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 19 October 2014. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  13. ^ 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. 
  14. ^ "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 (PDF) on 24 November 2013. Retrieved 20 October 2014. 
  15. ^ a b Rangan 2012, p. 45.
  16. ^ Rangan 2012, p. 59.
  17. ^ a b Rangan 2012, p. 46.
  18. ^ a b Rangan 2012, p. 60.
  19. ^ Rangan 2012, p. 54.
  20. ^ Rangan 2012, p. 58.
  21. ^ a b Dhananjayan 2011, p. 109.
  22. ^ "Nayagan songs tracklist". Archived from the original on 20 October 2014. Retrieved 20 October 2014. 
  23. ^ a b Ilaiyaraaja (1987). "Nayagan". Echo Audio Company. Archived from the original on 17 December 2013. 
  24. ^ Rangan 2012, p. 53.
  25. ^ 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. 
  26. ^ "Hindi version official tracklisting". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 23 October 2014. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  27. ^ Dhananjayan 2011, p. 110.
  28. ^ "List of Indian submissions for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film". Film Federation of India. p. 2. Archived from the original on 6 December 2013. Retrieved 23 October 2014. 
  29. ^ "12 Indian films that would make great books". IBNLive. 12 February 2014. Archived from the original on 19 October 2014. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  30. ^ Burnett & Wray 2006, p. 177.
  31. ^ Joshi 2006, p. 72.
  32. ^ Corliss, Richard (14 January 2010). "Nayakan". TIME. Archived from the original on 20 October 2014. Retrieved 20 October 2014. 
  33. ^ Corliss, Richard (25 May 2005). ""All-Time 100 Best Films" - Nayakan". TIME. Archived from the original on 20 October 2014. Retrieved 20 October 2014. 
  34. ^ "Apu Trilogy, Pyasa, Nayakan in Time list of 100 great films". Outlook. 23 May 2005. Retrieved 18 April 2012. 
  35. ^ Moviebuzz (24 March 2005). "Mani Ratnam honoured!". Sify. Retrieved 18 April 2012. 
  36. ^ "TMA’s 100 Greatest Movies of All Time | The Moving Arts Film Journal". 13 November 2010. Retrieved 5 April 2013. 
  37. ^ "India's 20 greatest films". NDTV. Archived from the original on 26 February 2012. Retrieved 5 April 2013. 
  38. ^ "100 Years of Indian Cinema: The 100 greatest Indian films of all time". IBNLive. Retrieved 6 May 2013. 
  39. ^ 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. 
  40. ^ Devi Dundoo, Sangeetha (31 July 2012). "Poster boy". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 19 October 2014. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  41. ^ Rangan 2012, p. 66.
  42. ^ Dumm Dumm Dumm (DVD): clip from 1.45.29 to 1.45.43
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^


External links