Billa (1980 film)
Billa is a 1980 Indian Tamil-language action thriller film directed by R. Krishnamurthy and produced by Suresh Balaje. The film stars Rajinikanth, Sripriya, K. Balaji, Major Sundarrajan, R. S. Manohar, Thengai Srinivasan and A. V. M. Rajan. It was a remake of Don, a 1978 Hindi film written by Salim-Javed and starring Amitabh Bachchan. In turn, Billa went on to have its own remake, the 2007 Tamil film Billa.
|Directed by||R. Krishnamurthy|
|Produced by||Suresh Balaje|
by Chandra Barot
|Music by||M. S. Viswanathan|
|Cinematography||G. Or. Nathan|
|Edited by||V. Chakrapani|
|26 January 1980|
The film revolves around Billa (Rajinikanth), a fearless and ruthless Mafia don in Madras, who is fatally wounded during an encounter with the police. Wanting to uncover Billa's accomplices, the police commissioner Alexander (Balaji) trains a lookalike village bumpkin Rajappa (also Rajinikanth) to pose as Billa and infiltrate the gang. The rest of the film deals with how Rajappa learns more about Billa's gang, and tries to get all of them arrested.
Billa was released on 26 January 1980, and became commercial success, running for over 25 weeks in theatres. It was a turning point in Rajinikanth's career, disproving detractors that claimed he was "finished" and which saw him accepted as a full-fledged hero. He was subsequently cast in a series of roles modelled after Bachchan's "angry young man" persona, in various Tamil remakes of Hindi films written by Salim-Javed and starring Bachchan, who Rajinikanth has credited as his inspiration. The success of Billa established Rajinikanth as one of the top stars of South Indian cinema.
Billa is a powerful ganglord, who in spite of being one of the most wanted on the list of Interpol, remains elusive to the police. Along with the police, he makes a few other enemies through his merciless approach in running his organisation, especially when he kills one of his own men, Rajesh, when Rajesh decides to leave the business. This introduces Billa to two new enemies: Reena (Rajesh's fiancée) and Rajesh's sister Radha. When Reena seduces Billa and attempts to have the police arrest him, her plan backfires, as Billa outsmarts her and escapes, and in the process Reena is killed.
A shattered, revenge-seeking Radha cuts her hair short, trains in judo and karate,and then enters Billa's gang after deceiving them into thinking that she too is on the wrong side of the law. Billa is impressed with her fighting skills and allows her to work for him, without realising her true intentions. Meanwhile, after a couple of unsuccessful attempts at nabbing Billa, the police finally succeed, but Billa dies during the pursuit, botching DSP Alexander's plan to reach the source of all crime—the man Billa reported to — by capturing Billa alive. DSP buries Billa's body, ensuring that people believe that he is still be alive. Alexander remembers his chance encounter with Rajappa, a simpleton trying to survive in the hustle and bustle of Chennai to support two small foster children, who is a doppelgänger of Billa. Alexander hatches a plan to transform Rajappa into Billa and place him back into the crime nexus, but this time as a police informer.
Around the time Rajappa "returns" to Billa's gang as Billa under the guise of amnesia, former circus man JJ, just released from prison, begins his mission of revenge against Alexander (for his wife's death) and his search for his children who had been saved and taken care off by Rajappa. Rajappa manages to replace the red diary with a blank one, and tells his gang that he is going to take revenge on Alexander, but is actually going there to give him the red diary. Radha goes after him, but Rajappa survives the attack and he tries to explain to her that he is not Billa. She refuses to believe him at first but Alexander intervenes and tells her that the man she is trying to kill is indeed Rajappa.
Meanwhile, as Rajappa learns more and more about Billa through the discovery of his diary and Radha's help, he announces to his colleagues that his memory is back. Celebrations ensue, as "Billa" announces his return to the underworld, but things take a drastic turn when the police raid the celebrations, acting upon Rajappa's information. Rajappa's only witness to his true identity, Alexander, dies in the crossfire and Rajappa is arrested.
Tangled in a web of confusion when the police refused to believe that he is Rajappa, whereas his underworld gang realise that he is indeed not Billa, Rajappa becomes not only hated by the police, but also by Billa's right-hand and the rest of his gang. To add to Rajappa's woes, Billa's diary which he had handed over to Alexander – his last hope of proving his innocence – is stolen by JJ in an attempt to track down his lost children, without realising that Rajappa is the one man who can reunite them. Rajappa escapes the clutches of the police and the underworld with Radha's help and returns to his old self though he struggles to prove his identity and innocence. He eventually discovers that the interpol officer Gokulnath is Jagdish, the real underworld crime boss who had killed Alexander, and after a long fight against Jagdish's men, Radha ends up getting the diary and one of the gangster's snatches it and burns it. The end reveals that the diary which was burnt was, in fact, the fake diary and Rajappa had the real one in order to trick Jagdish. He gives the proof to the police and cleared of all charges against him, Jagdish is arrested and Rajappa returns to his old life.
By the end of the 1970s, Rajinikanth had become a popular actor in South Indian cinema. During this phase of his career, he abruptly chose to quit acting, but was coaxed back. He made a comeback with the R. Krishnamurthy-directed Billa, which was a remake of the Hindi film Don (1978) written by Salim-Javed. The film was named after Billa, a real criminal. For the first time in his career, Rajinikanth was cast in dual roles: the eponymous gangster and the street entertainer Rajappa. Although the film was a shot-for-shot adaptation of Don, Rajinikanth avoided aping Amitabh Bachchan, the lead actor of the original, and instead interpreted the roles in his own unique style. K. Balaji played the role of the Deputy Superintendent of Police Alexander, while Sripriya was signed to play the female lead which Zeenat Aman had portrayed in the original Don. Jayalalithaa was earlier offered the role, but declined. Thengai Srinivasan was selected to play the role originally portrayed by Pran in Don, while A. V. M. Rajan and Major Sundarrajan played inspector Varma and interpol officer Gokulnath, respectively. Helen, who appeared in Don, reprised her role in this remake. Cinematography was handled by G. Or. Nathan, and the editing by V. Chakrapani. The film was produced by Balaji's son Suresh Balaje under Suresh Arts, while K. Balaji was credited as presenter.
The film's original soundtrack was composed by M. S. Viswanathan, while the lyrics were written by Kannadasan. The song "Vethalayai Potendi" replaces "Khaike Paan Banaras Wala" from Don. That, and "My Name is Billa" attained popularity.
|1.||"My Name Is Billa"||S. P. Balasubrahmanyam||04:26|
|2.||"Iravum Pagalum"||Malaysia Vasudevan, Vani Jairam||04:39|
|3.||"Veththalaya Pottendi"||Malaysia Vasudevan||04:48|
|4.||"Nattukulla Enakkoru"||S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, L. R. Anjali||04:38|
|5.||"Ninaithale Inikkum Sugame"||L. R. Eswari||04:23|
Release and receptionEdit
Billa was released on 26 January 1980, the same day as India's Republic Day. It ran for over 25 weeks in theatres, and became Rajinikanth's biggest commercial success to that point. The film was a turning point in his career, disproving detractors that claimed he was "finished" and which saw him accepted as a full-fledged hero. He was subsequently cast in a series of roles modelled after Amitabh Bachchan's "angry young man" persona, in various Tamil remakes of Hindi films written by Salim-Javed and starring Bachchan, who Rajinikanth has credited as his inspiration. The success of Billa established Rajinikanth as one of the top stars of South Indian cinema. However, film historian G. Dhananjayan noted that it also started the trend in Tamil cinema where the protagonist enjoys being a gangster and the audience is not shown the character's backstory, in contrast to earlier films where the protagonist takes to crime due to societal issues. Billa's dialogue "En kodi parakavendiya yedathula vera yevan kodi da parakum" (How can another man's flag fly in a place where my flag should fly?) attained popularity. Krishnamurthy became popularly known as 'Billa' Krishnamurthy after this film's release. Venkateswaran Narayanan, the deputy editor at The Times of India, said, "I would think [Rajinikanth's] road to superstardom began with the steps he took in Billa. You can make a clear distinction between the roles he did before and after Billa."
Billa was remade again in 2007 under the same title by Vishnuvardhan, with Ajith Kumar portraying Billa. This remake featured remixes of the songs "Vethalayai Potendi" and "My Name is Billa". After its commercial success, Vishnuvardhan decided to launch a prequel – Billa II with Ajith Kumar reprising his role. But due to date issues, Vishnuvardhan left the project, leaving it to Chakri Toleti. The film was released on 13 July 2012.
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