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Directed by Mani Ratnam
Produced by Mani Ratnam
G. Venkateswaran
Written by Mani Ratnam
Starring Kamal Haasan
Tinnu Anand
Delhi Ganesh
Nizhalgal Ravi
Music by Ilaiyaraaja
Cinematography P. C. Sriram
Distributed by Sujatha Films
Release date(s) 1987
Running time 145 mins
Language Tamil
Gross revenue $40 million

Nayagan (1987) (Tamil: நாயகன், a.k.a. Nayakan) is an Indian film written and directed by Mani Ratnam. Nayagan means 'The Hero' or 'The Leader' in Tamil.

Nayagan is based on real-life Bombay underworld don - Varada or Varadarajan Mudaliar, and sympathetically depicts the struggle of South Indians living in Bombay (now Mumbai). The lead character is played by Kamal Haasan, and the film also stars Saranya, Karthika, Nassar, Delhi Ganesh and Janagaraj. The soundtrack of the film was composed by Ilaiyaraaja.The film is considered as one of the greatest Indian films made.

Nayagan was a massive blockbuster also winning Kamal Haasan and Mani Ratnam recognition and many accolades throughout the whole nation; it helped Haasan secure a Indian National Award for his performance. The film was nominated by India as its entry for the Best Foreign Language Film for the Academy Awards in 1987. In 2005, Time Magazine included Nayagan in its "All-Time 100 Best Films" list.[1]

The Hindi (dubbed) version of the film was released as Velu Nayakan. The film was remade in Hindi as Dayavan with Vinod Khanna playing the part of Saktivelu.



Sakthivelu Nayakar (Kamal Hassan), the protagonist, is born to an anti-government union leader. The child Velu is tricked by the police into locating his father, and then witnesses his father's death in a police shootout. Then after doing the final rites for his father, he kills the person who was the cause for his father's death. Orphaned, he escapes to Bombay.

Stranded and homeless in the big city, he is rescued by a kind-hearted Muslim fisherman who takes him into his home in the sprawling suburban slums 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 Inspector Kelkar—the fisherman is arrested on smuggling charges, and later murdered. Velu Naiker, now a young man who has come into his own, goes in search of the officer and bludgeons him to death.

Kamal Hassan in a scene from the movie

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

The son, Surya (Nizhalgal Ravi) is eager to join his father in his activities. He hires outside thugs to eliminate a potential witness against his father. They succeed in eliminating the witness, but their failure to cover their tracks leads police to him at a gas station and an accident costs him his life. Velu is heartbroken. Velu's daughter (Karthika) is at odds with her father over his form of justice and killings. The death of her brother was the last straw for her and she cuts off her relationship with her father and leaves him.

A newly appointed Assistant Police Commissioner (Nassar) starts afresh the hunt to bring Velu Nayakar to justice over his alleged activities and manages to secure an arrest warrant. This Commissioner is unknowingly Velu's son-in-law, as his daughter had secretly married him. After continued pursuit resulting in the beatings by police and self-immolation of slum dwellers, Velu surrenders to the police to spare the lives of the residents of his slum. He is tried in court but is released due to the lack of adequate evidence for his alleged nefarious activities. A supportive and emotional crowd gathers at the courthouse, awaiting Velu's release. Velu emerges to greet the tumultuous crowd but unexpectedly gets shot by Inspector Kelkar's retarded son — whom Velu had adopted — after he learns that Velu had killed his father long ago.


Kamal Haasan Manikandan(Child Role) - Shaktivelu / Velu Naiker

Saranya - Neela

Janagaraj - Selvam

Tinnu Anand - Ajith Kelkar

Delhi Ganesh - Aiyyer

Nizhalgal Ravi - Surya

Karthika - Charumati / Charu

Nasser - Assistant Commissioner / Charu 's husband


Nominated as India's official entry for the 1988 Academy Awards. However, it wasn't among the five films shortlisted for the award.

The film has won the following awards since its release:

1988 National Film Awards (India)


The soundtrack features five songs composed by Ilaiyaraaja, with lyrics by Ilaiyaraja and Pulavar Pulamaipithan.

  • Naan Sirithal Deepawali - Jamunarani, Rajeswari and Chorus
  • Andhi Mazhai Megam - T. L. Maharajan and Chorus

Box office

  • The film grossed $12 million at the box office in INDIA which is now roughly equal to $40 million considering inflation in India.

See also


External links



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