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. 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.