Sunday, October 08, 2006
Nayagan - A Tamil Epic movie
I bought the VCD for this movie after a long time searching, back in the days of VHS its difficult to get a good copy of this. This movie moved me then and it moves me now, coming up to the 20th year since it came out, I had the house all to my self and made full use of it to blast the sound and lets emotions flow freely.
Nayagan...It is one of the few Indian movies to be listed in TIME magazine's ALL-TIME top 100 movies, issued in 2005:Nayagan means 'The Hero' or 'The Leader' in Tamil. Its a damm good and moving movie, Something out of the ordinary scope of films made. Even today this movie could stand on its own. I could watch it again and again... The film also went on to win an Indian National Award for Kamal Haasan for his brilliant performance. Nayagan was nominated by India as its entry for the Best Foreign Language Film for the Academy Awards in 1987.
In review - A small boy (Ratnavelu) from Tamilnadu sees his father, a labor leader, killed in cold blood by a policeman. He kills the policeman and runs away to the city of Bombay. From there, the story traces his ascent to become a mafia chief (Velu Naicker), the breakup and deaths in his family, and then till his assasination at the hands of the lunatic son of another policeman who he killed in a fight.
After having witnessed his dad being killed by the local police, and being orphaned and left homeless, Shakti Velu developes a hate, and distrust of the police. He is befriended by another homeless boy named Selva, who asks him to accompany him to the city's slumlands, where they live with a kind-hearted Muslim named Karim Lala, and his daughter, Shama. This is where Shakti and Selva spend their childhood. When they mature, they take to petty crime. Here too, Shakti witnesses police brutality and atrocities, especially at the hands of sadistic, alcoholic, and womanizing Police Inspector Ratan Singh. When Karim Lala is arrested, jailed, and found hanging by his neck in police custody, Shakti hunts down Ratan Singh, and kills him in broad daylight in front of the several hundred people. An investigation is launched, but no one comes forward as a witness. Thus Shakti gets his reputation as a Don with a good heart. Shakti marries local prostitute, Neelu, and has two children, Suraj and Sarita. He becomes even more powerful and influential all over the region, and his working partners are powerful criminal dons who have ruled the underground for eons. Velu grows into a Don and slowly the power of it takes him to a different world, where he is the command, but he slowly losses his dear ones and it finally ends with his death at an old age, with a moral message that one who lives by the sword(gun), dies by it.
This creates enemies for him and his family, but he believes since he has not really done any harm to anyone, he and his family will be safe. It is this belief that will take a heavy toll on his life and that of his family, when the truth dawns that he, himself, is responsible for being kind to a man, who will ultimately bring forward ruin to the Velu family. "
The dialogues are memorable and the dialogue between kamal and his grandson is something that i can never forget. ..."Are you a good man or a bad man?". So asks the grandson to his grandfather Velu Naicker, close to the end of this extraordinary movie from Manirathnam. "I don't know", replies Velu Naicker even as he is being led by the police to court to stand trial for his crimes. The answer seems strange, especially in the light of the thousands of people standing outside the court, hoping and praying for his release and well-being. But it is fully understandable.
Illayaraja's music is haunting. "Tenpaandi Cheemayile", sung by Kamal Hassan, is a classic. Even the accapela version a haunting that gives me goosebumps.. brilliant!!!!
The movie is successful in making me laugh as easily as it moves me to tears. It is impossible not to smile when Velu Naicker's son imitates his father in their courtyard. He offers his solutions to his friend's problems(he orders a 'hit' a teacher who beat one of them!) and then bumps into his father who has moved into the end of the line. Quickly recovering his senses, he asks his father what he wants. On the other hand, there are scenes, like when an old woman gives up her own life to save Naicker from the police, which melt our hearts. The scene where Naicker gives in to his son's desire to follow in his father's footsteps is an example of high-class filmmaking. Kamal calls his son "Naicker" for the first time and offers him betel leaves from his own box, which Ravi quickly tucks into his mouth after turning away from his father.(Utter classic)
Kamal embodied Velu Naicker himself and looks at home in all the different stages of his life captured here. Be it threatening a doctor to treat a poor boy or crying with a high-pitched shriek on seeing the body of his son, Kamal is outstanding. He ages convincingly, altering his whole posture and walk at each stage. Janakaraj stands him in good stead throughout, shining in the scene where he is caught between Kamal and his daughter, who detests the violence. Saranya, in her first film, earns our sympathy as the school-going girl thrown into the life of prostitution. Pradeep Shakti is memorable as the rogue police officer. Smaller characters like ARS(a police officer who is forced to come to Velu Naicker for justice) and 'Nizhalgal' Ravi(Velu Naicker's son) are powerful too.