VIENNA CHAPTER: Kuenstlerhaus, Vienna
May 22nd, 2005
9.00 pm

BERLIN CHAPTER: House of World Cultures, Berlin
August 13th, 2005
10.00 pm

Nayakan / The Hero

Director: Mani Ratnam
India 1987, 155 min, 35mm, colour, hindi/tamil, engl. subtitles, production: Sujatha Films, Mukta Films

The “Indianisation” of successful Western films is a speciality of Bollywood cinema. Rather than mere remakes in Hindu or Tamil, however, the films are enriched by various additional sub-plots, ‘song-and-dance scenes’ and ‘greater feeling’. In this sense, Bollywood remakes of Western films are usually more a transformation than imitation of original versions: Indian producers and directors often consider only extracts of Western box office hits as ‘useable’, and in this way have developped a highly original tradition of cultural appropriation of Western cinematography.
Mani Ratnam’s ‘Nayakan’ is inspired by ‘The godfather’ (USA 1971) by Francis Ford Coppola: the film portrays the life of legendary underworld chief Varadarajan Mudaliar, who was operating in the Bombay slums. He is played by the Tamil superstar Kamalhasan, whose acting bears strong references to that of Marlon Brando. Alias Velu Naicker, Mudaliar acquires enormous wealth by brute force and weapons. His generosity towards the poor and needy and his lavish donations at religious ceremonies, however, make him in the eyes of the Tamil minority in Bombay a ‘Nayakan’: a role model, hero and godfather with a particular understanding of justice.

Mani Ratnam is counted among the most important directors of Indian contemporary cinema. “Nayakan” was the breakthrough film for his career, which is singular in particular because the native of Tamil Nadu shot various of his films in Bombay, thereby successfully reaching out to both language regions.



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