While watching Polladhavan, I realized that almost every other Tamil movie that releases today is based on underworld and organised crime. Gangwars, Hooligans in love, Rise to power of a henchman, common man pulled into violence and what not. We may even see a Dada learning bharatnatyam or a Gunda turning into a priest very soon. I then traced back to the movie that perhaps started it all, Mani Rathnam’s Nayakan. Released way back in 1986, the movie has inspired a whole new generation of filmmakers in the state.

Heavily inspired by the Coppola classic The Godfather (1972), no doubt, Nayakan still has the power to sweep you off the ground. This may not be Kamal Haasan‘s best performance or Mani Rathnam’s best venture, but Nayakan has provided something Tamil cinema has longed for – a milestone. Organized crime has never been shown before with such authority and vitality in Tamil cinema. A commoner who has the guts to stand up against the tyranny of the police, a boy-next-door growing to become the biggest don, a godfather you can rely upon for help – what more could the audience ask for? Velu standing against the water spray, Nayakar defending Selva after his daughter witnesses murder, the scene at the hospital where a child is to be treated, the death of Surya, the now-classic climax – these images will linger in minds of everyone who wants good Tamil movies.

No other “don movie” has even thrilled audience like Nayakan (excepting Basha, credits fully to Superstar), leave alone making an impact. This shows how stale the state of the Tamil cinema industry is. Why do the filmmakers go in search of another Nayakan? Why don’t they try reforming the present state? The answer, some may say, lies in the “Critical Vs Commercial” debate. But haven’t many other films been both critical and commercial success? So why are we stuck up with these gangstas? Are we lacking talent? Are we devoid of new ideas? I think not.

The present state of the industry may be attributed to the producers who want to play safe. The small ones want to use the time tested formulas (2 rooba pottu 3 rooba sambathikardhu) and are afraid to produce new ideas. The big players, on the other hand need stars who in turn do not want their image to be hurt by new ideas. So what is the solution? It is up to the veteran directors and actors who want to provide good cinema to persuade their producers to take a bold step forward. Shankar’s S-pictures, for one, is doing that. Also, if the small-timers can collaborate or if the senior directors can contribute for more such production houses, Tamil cinema can proudly give birth to new Nayakans.