A movie made by India's finest director Mani Ratnam featuring the most talented actor Kamal Hassan and having its music composed by the one of the best music directors Illayaraja was very much high on expectations. The product was nothing short of sheer brilliance. Nayagan had got it all right!! It is almost fifteen years since the movie hit the big screen, but even today it is the most talked off movie in film circles. It was supposed to be filmed on the lines of another great English movie, Godfather starring Marlon Brando. A remake from any language is a difficult job, but Mani Ratnam had got the basic elements right to take the movie to the Indian masses. This movie is nothing short of a legend.
The movie starts off in dramatic style with the protagonist Velu's father, who is a union leader is short dead by the police. Velu has not even grown up beyond 10 maybe. He escapes off to Bombay not knowing what to expect from the big city. There he gets to meet his to be long term friend, Selva enacted brilliantly by Janagaraj. His tryst with the underworld dons and popularity with the poor people is the simple theme of this beautiful movie.
Mani Ratnam has chalked out the role of Velu in various phases - as a kid, as a youth, as a middle aged man and finally as the old man. It is easy to visualise Velu in all the roles. It sticks in memory for eternity. As a kid, he avenges his father's death. As a youth, he avenges the death of his father who adopted him and also, starts to grow in popularity among the poor people. He acquires the title of Nayakar. As a middle aged man, he takes charge completely to help the needy, while in his old age, his duels with a strict police commisioner, Nazar is a treat to watch.
There are various scenes in the movie that are unforgettable and some of the dialogues have gone on to become immortal.
Naalu perukku nalladhu seyyanumna edhuvumay thapilla!!! : If you want to help others, there is nothing wrong. This is the dialogue in which the entire theme of the movie revolves.
Avangalellam niruththa sollu, naan nirutharen!!! : Ask them to stop, I will stop. When his daughter confronts him and asks him to stop all the misdeeds, this dialogue is quoted.
There is a scene where everybody bear the brunt of the police to save Nayakar. When Nayakar is about to surrender to the police, Selva comes up with a statement Ippo poi surrender adaindha, ivvalavu per seththadukku arthamayilla(if you go and surrender now, there is no meaning for the death of all these people) for which Nayakar comes up with an equally stunning statement ippo poi surrender aalayna, iththana naal senjadhukku arthamayilla illama poidoonda(if I don't surrender now, then there is no meaning for what I have done all these days)
And of course, the dialogue at the very end of the movie, Nee nallavara kettavara requires no words to express the beauty of the dialogue, and this is so famous that even the English translation is not required.
According to me, it is very difficult even for a versatile actor like Kamal Hassan to beat his performance in Nayagan. The scene in which he cries when his son is dead is one of the most brilliant scenes. Even Sivaji Ganesan, another versatile actor of his era was stunned by the performance of Kamal Hassan. In every scene, one gets to witness his acting prowess. What can one say as far as Mani Ratnam's direction is concerned. His directorial skills was never questioned and as far as this movie was concerned, he had hit the pinnacle of glory. Only a skilled director like him can bring about such a beautiful sequence to stitch this masterpiece. Illayaraja's music is nothing short of sheer brilliance. The title track of the movie Thenpaandi Seemayile is nothing to beat. The background score of the movie entirely revolves around the backdrop of this title track and not once is it boring. This movie is an epic as far as Indian cinema is concerned. The pulse of the audience is tested to no limits during the flow of the movie. Even the ending of this movie is highly realistic.
Today we have seen many movies that revolves around mafia and the underworld, but I am not sure whether any of them can come close to this greatness crafted by Mani Ratnam. I have watched this movie close to a twenty times, and I try to catch glimpses of this movie even today, when it is played on tamil channels.