Nayagan and the Indian Gangsterism 

Just like politics, gangsterism is a career option that does not require education or qualification. The poverty dilemma promotes the concept of gangsterism for survival. When you have nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose. That’s the reflection of the downtrodden Indians in Malaysia. 

Natesan Visnu 

The movie ‘Nayagan’ is an Indian crime film starring Kamalhassan and directed by Maniratnam. Nayagan was included in the 100 All time-best film list by the Time Magazine and top 20 greatest Indian film. The film was sent by India for the 60th Academy Awards under the Best Foreign Film Category. The movie also marked the rise of Mani Ratnnam as a film maker and it was Kamalhassan who suggested to producer Muktha V. Srinivasan to consider Maniratnam to direct the movie. The rest as they say is history and the film reached iconic status in Indian cinema. 

The story was loosely based on the life of Varadarajan Mudaliar (Vardhabhai) who was a powerful mob boss from 60’s to 80’s. He started off his career as a porter at VT Station, Mumbai. He started off his criminal life by bootlegging and ventured into contract killing, smuggling and drugs. The famous dialogue from the movie ‘Nayakan’; “Are you good or bad?”(Neenga Nallavara Illa Kettavara) and Velu’s reply, ”I don’t know”(Theriyallieppa).

The story of Vardhabhai has influenced Tamil society in general. The tale from rags to riches of a poor Tamil boy to one of the most powerful men in India has certainly impacted Tamil society in general. In life we have been inspired by many tales of rags to riches and most notably are Genghis Khan and Chandragupta Maurya.

Genghis Khan was a homeless boy with his mother who went on to conquer the world and Chandragupta Maurya with a humble beginning went on to create the Mauryan empire. The similarity among these men were their ambition and their rise despite all the social barriers. Poverty forces one to do whatever it takes to release oneself from its clutch.

Chandragupta Maurya and Genhis Khan killed in the name of expansion for their empire and Vardhabhai killed in order to stay the most powerful mob boss. Chandragupta and Genghis were hailed as historical heroes and Vardhabhai went down in history as a criminal lord. Many local Mumbai regarded Vardhabhai as their lord because of his social contribution to the poor Tamil slums in Mumbai. Vardhabhai contributed significantly to the downtrodden slum community of the slums and the writer would hail him as a ‘philanthropist’.  

The 71% of Malaysian gangsters who are Indian is the resemblance of Vardhabhai. Deprived of education and economic opportunity, the Indian gangsters were forced into criminal life. The story of Vardhabhai has influenced the Indian community directly or indirectly but the impact of such an iconic movie will definitely be remembered by society. If you were to ask any Indian on the street about the movie ‘Nayagan’, they will hail the movie as one of the best Tamil movies ever made.

An iconic movie at that large scale will have a profound impact on the community. The movie could be inspirational for many poverty strickened youth to change their life destiny. I would rather die receiving a bullet instead of hunger would be the appropriate line in this context for reflecting the Indian gangsters’ thought process. 

The current press statement by the leaders has certainly sparked national interest to curb gangsterism. The leaders and police force have made statements to combat gangsterism. One of the methods used by the police force is encounter. Encounter is an expression or term for killing the suspected gangsters in gun battle. The method has been used to eradicate the suspected gangsters. The practice of encounter is famous in India and a similar method has been applied in Malaysia based on recent news. On that note, the encounter method will only provide temporary relief of the gangsters, but sooner or later 100 Vardhabhais will rise again. Poverty is a serious social disease and encounter is not a permanent resolution for gangsterism.

The Indian political leaders of this country should be made responsible for the rise of gangsterism. Just like politics, gangsterism is a career option that does not require education or qualification. The poverty dilemma promotes the concept of gangsterism for survival. When you have nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose. That’s the reflection of the downtrodden Indians in Malaysia. The political system of the country has failed them and the Indians are left with very little options but to pursue the crime life. It’s not by choice but by ‘force’ of the poor Indian leadership. 

The past and present leadership should view gangsterism as a national threat. The resolution or action plan should be a long term solution. It’s a shame for the nation with so many political parties representing the Indians, the Indian leaders have failed to address the issue. On that note, past leaders should be made responsible for the failure of the community and the present leaders have not shown any progress in addressing the issue apart from the Hindraf blueprint promising to curb gangsterism among Indian youths. P. Waythammorthy has raised the matter but only to be criticized by the Home Minister and Defense Minister. On that note, the writer views the lack of credibility and unity displayed by the two most senior leaders in addressing the issue for a comprehensive resolution. 

Do we have a solution? The way of the Malaysian political system is just like ‘hangat-hangat tahi ayam’. In a few months, after killing hundreds of gangsters, the police will issue a press statement that Malaysia is safe from criminal threat. The gangsters will resume their business as usual until the next cycle. The Indians will continue to be poor and new Vardhabhais will emerge to replace the old Vardhabhais. Just like the economic cycle of rise and decline, gangsterism will rise again sooner or later. It’s just a matter of time. 

The Indians in this country are living in exile. The social and political dynamics of the nation will not improve the community living standard. The rich Indians will continue to strive and educate their children to have the best education money can buy. The rich Indians will continue to consume Blue Labels. The poor Indian will continue to become poor and ensures his children drop out from school as early as possible to start working. The poor Indian will continue to drink cheap liquor and toddy. There will be only a handful of Ananda Krishnas, Tony Fernandeses and the like. The Muthusamys, Karuppusamys, and the like will continue to exist, not live. 

Vardhabhai’s story is the continuation of the Indian legacy in this country. The country will be blessed with more Vardhabhais in future instead of Tony Fernandeses or Ananthakrishnas. There is nothing that will be done to resolve the Indian issues. The educated class will continue to become keyboard warriors slamming the government on the Internet with little effect. The Indian leaders will implement programs that burn millions of ringgits but will not have any impact on the community. 

The Indians in this country remind us of the Jews of times long past where the community was forced to live in exile and poverty. It took them hundreds of years to return to Israel and reclaim their land and rights. The Indians were brought here to benefit the British. The British deserted us and took the wealth generated with them. 

The Chinese community had good leaders to lead them and prosper as a society. The Malays had good leaders to shape them to become one of the most prospering communities in the world. The Indians had lousy leaders that drove us to socio-economic plights. We have no one to blame but our past and present leaders. The trust we had in them has been exploited by the political leaders for their own benefit. 

To continue our existence, the little things that we can do are as follows:

– Assist your cousins, nephews, relatives, etc with education. Spend the extra money for their education. The chances for public university is relatively low and the option to send them to private sectors is still possible. Spend that money on them. 

– Assist them during schooling by paying their tuition fees. The Tamil school system is a failure. Send them to a good tuition center that will provide them with decent education to survive in future. At least they will have a decent command of English and Bahasa Malaysia. 

– Encourage your relatives to send them to national schools so that they can have Malay and Chinese friends that would be helpful to them in future. 

Only education can liberate the Indian community. If all the educated Indians in Malaysia would help one or two of their cousins, relatives, neighbours, etc. the chances for them to continue their education is relatively high. That would increase the quantity of educated Indians and this will indirectly uplift the community. The cycle would continue and the community could be liberated from poverty through education. Maybe we could name it ‘Educate Family Members’ program that is initiated by us without any political interference. 

We live in an age of uncertainty. The community will continue to exist without much progress in years to come. The only hope we have is to work hard and look after our family members. Always remember, the Indian leaders will never do anything for you.