Nayagan is the story of a Tamil youth who grows up amidst the slums of Dharavi in Bombay to become a gang leader of sorts. Directed by Mani Ratnam and Velu Nayakar played by Kamal Haasan, the film created waves in the film industry. It fetched Kamal Haasan the 2nd of his National Best Actor Awards as well as a Filmfare award (total 17 as of date !). The highlights of the movie are a superb performance by Kamal and good support from the others like Saranya (debut), Delhi Ganesh, Janakaraj, Nasser etc., superb sets by Thota Tharani, camerawork by P.C.Sriram, excellent score by Ilayaraja.
The movie is loosely based on Coppola's "The Godfather" and the life of Varadaraja Mudaliar, a don of the Bombay underworld. The film starts off with Kamal's father (a union leader, played by Kittu) shot dead by the police in Tuticorin. Kamal (then a lad of around 10 or so) kills the inspector at his father's funeral and escapes to Bombay on a train. Here he meets Janakaraj, whose father smuggles goods for a local don (Vijayan). After the titles the movie starts off when Inspector Kelkar launches a clean up of the slum area pavements. Kamal stands amidst the ruins and swears at Kelkar. Naturally Kamal is beaten up in jail and thrown back into the slum. It is here that the famous "Naa Adicchaa Nee Sethuduve" dialogue is spoken by Kamal. Kamal and Janakaraj soon settle into Vaapa's (as Janakaraj's adopted father is called) business and they outwit Vijayan by forcing him to pay them 10 times their normal pay. Vijayan retaliates by having a local police inspector kill Vaapa. Kamal goes about and commits the first of the deeds which would culminate in him becoming "Velu Nayakar". He smotes the inspector's head and when there is an investigation ordered by the IGP (or whatever !) , ARS (who else ?!), all the slum dwellers rise to a man and refuse to divulge the murderer.
Then a Seth buys over the slum land and this results in a situation whereby the people there have no place to live. Kamal responds by leading a mob which promptly goes to the Seth's house and demonstrates how it is when your belongings are thrown out of your house. The Seth has no other option but to cancel the plans.
Meanwhile Kamal comes into contact with Neela who becomes a prostitute to make ends meet so that she can continue her studies. Kamal decides to marry her. By this time Kamal is recognised as being a don of sorts and this is when he tries to prove himself by offering to release the goods caught up in a ship, which has been sealed by the customs. The other dons of Bombay agree but one or two are skeptical. But when Kamal and Janakaraj do manage to pull it off, the Rao brothers (who opposed the idea) plot to do away with Kamal and his family. Velu Nayakar and Neela have 2 kids (boy and girl) and even from his childhood days, the son imitates Kamal and sees himself as the next "Nayakar". Rao and his brothers have their revenge by killing Kamal's wife. Kamal decides that Bombay is not the place where his kids should study and sends them off to Madras. Delhi Ganesh is another of Kamal's close men.
The kids grow up and return to Bombay where by now Kamal has established himself as the most powerful fellow around. (Kamal's age change is shown excellently !). "Nizhalgal" Ravi plays the role of Kamal's son and in situations when "Nayakar" isn't around, he handles the situation of dispensing justice exactly as Velu "Nayakar" did in his younger days. Tinnu Anand is the mentally retarded son of the inspector Kelkar whom Kamal had killed to avenge Vaapa's death. Kamal has been financing his family all along and recruits him as a personal bodyguard when the police refuse to admit Tinnu because of his mental state.
Then follows an operation against a former Kamal henchman who was about to declare all of Velu Nayakar's past deeds, which would have resulted in Kamal's arrest. Kamal's son (Nizhalgal Ravi) persuades his father to give him the job but something goes wrong somewhere and Ravi perishes in a petrol bunk blast. Now Kamal's daughter speaks out against Kamal's work and how it was because of what he did that first her mother and now her brother died. But the final fuel is added to her flame when she witnesses Janakaraj and co. attempt to kill a local MLA's son who had raped ARS's daughter on the eve of her marriage. ARS approached Kamal to do something because the rapist was an MLA's son and he couldn't do anything. Kamal's daughter finally parts with him and asks him to forget her for good.
Enter Nasser as the new inspector in the area who is bent on clearing the area of all illegal activities. He issues arrest warrants against all of Kamal's men and they are all jailed. Kamal somehow keeps 2 steps ahead of Nasser all the time. But when he sees to what extents people went to save him (an old lady burned herself to help Kamal escape), he feels that it is high time he stopped all this. So he goes to Nasser's house to tell him that he can come and arrest him the next day. There he finds out that his daughter is married to Nasser. Nasser is also told of this by his chief and he suspects that his wife is the cause of Kamal somehow escaping all the time. Finally Kamal hands himself over and a case goes on against him. Tinnu Anand comes to know that Kamal killed his father and decides to take revenge
At the entrance of the court, Kamal meets his grandson, also named Sakthivel (which was his real name, shortened to Velu). The court announces that due to insufficient evidence all charges were being dropped. Everyone is happy until Tinnu Anand empties his revolver on Kamal and thus ended the life of "Velu Nayakar".
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