The Bombay underworld, is full of stories fit to be made into movies and they have been – lots of them. One of these films unfailingly finds a place in the list of the best movies ever made in India – Maniratnam’s 1987 film Nayagan based on the life of Varda Bhai (Varadarajan Mudaliar) who was a part of the famed ganglord trio of Bombay of the 1970s. The other two were Haji Mastan and Karim Lala.

Nayagan‘s Hindi remake Feroz Khan’s Dayavan (1988) though, like most Feroz Khan films, wouldn’t find a place in any of the best film lists.

This May 1985 cover of The Illustrated Weekly of India presents Don Varadarajan Mudaliar as the “most feared man in Bombay.”

Varadarajan Mudaliar, the man who inspired Nayagan and Dayavan, on the cover of Illustrated Weekly of India
Godfather. Introducing: Don Varadarajan Mudaliar the most feared man in Bombay today (The Illustrated Weekly of India. May 12-18, 1985)

I watched the Maniratnam classic a decade later when it was released in dubbed in Hindi as Velu Nayakan.