With a few more hours to go for the release of Gautham Vasudev Menon's highly-anticipated film Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu starring Silambarasan TR, one cannot help but get hyped for it. The film will focus on STR's character as a youngster from humble beginnings who makes his way up the ladder to become a major don. This is not the Tamil cinema's first rodeo when it comes to portraying the rise of a don as it has been done multiple times in the past. To commemorate the release of VTK, let us look at some films that illustrate the theme of 'Rise of a Don' in Tamil cinema. 

1) NAYAKAN (1987):

The film's plot revolves around the transformation of Velu Nayakan (Kamal Haasan), an ordinary slum dweller who witnesses the brutal murder of his father, in various stages of his life and then escapes to Mumbai after killing a policeman only to become a feared gangster. 

2) THALAPATHI (1991):

The film tells the tale of Surya (Rajinikanth), an orphan, and his rise from there to a gangster with his friend Deva (Mammootty). The two rule the town and things go well until new the district collector (Aravind Swami) takes charge to apprehend them. 

3) BAASHHA (1995):

The film revolves around an auto driver named Manickam (Rajinikanth) who has a dark past but conceals it from his family and instead maintains a humble exterior and stays away from violence. However, when his brother, a cop, gets into trouble with some goons, it triggers a set of events that revive Manickam's old self - Manick Baashha. 

4) AMARKALAM (1999):

The film follows the story of Vasu (Ajith Kumar) and his rise to a gangster from being a low-level crook. We see his journey from where he was to meeting Tulasi Das (Raghuvaran), who orders him to hold the commissioner's daughter Mohana (Shalini Ajith) hostage for two days to ruin the family's honor. But things go astray when the two fall in love unexpectedly and he rejects her when she comes forth with her advances.  

5) DHEENA (2001):

The film tells the story of Dheena (Ajith Kumar) who works for his brother Adhikesavan (Suresh Gopi), a gangster. The two seem very close to one another in the beginning, but things start to turn sour after a misunderstanding between them leads to the death of their sister.

6) PUDHUPETTAI (2006):

The film shows the journey of Kokki Kumar (Dhanush), a normal boy living in Pudhupettai, and his rise into a prolific gangster after witnessing the death of his mother. We see his early days as the right-hand man of his employer Anbu (Bala Singh) and learn the way of being a killer while making dangerous enemies along the way. 


The film tells the rise of five friends into prominent gangsters after being employed by a political man. We get to see their journey and the hardships they face along the way. But after being betrayed by one of them after an almost perfect crime leads to the downfall of their reign. The story starts off with a flashback and ends with the polio-stricken physically challenged Dumka (Maari) seeking revenge for the deaths of Azhagar (Jai) and Paraman (Sasikumar) by killing Kaasi (Ganja Karuppu). 

8) BILLA 2 (2012):

Billa 2 is the prequel to the 2007 film Billa and shows the transformation of a Sri Lankan Tamil refugee, David Billa (Ajith Kumar), into one of the most feared underworld dons in the world. While corruption and bureaucracy take away his innocence and push him into the world of arms and drugs, his life gets worse when his friends from the underworld also turn out to be untrustworthy.

9) THALAIVAA (2013):

The film tells the story of Vishwa (Vijay), a dancer who runs a small business in Sydney, and is unaware that his father is a gangster in Mumbai. Following his death at the hands of a rival and distraught about it, Vishwa stays back in Mumbai and takes over his father's empire, and grows to be a feared crime boss with revenge on his mind. 

10) JIGARTHANDA (2014):

The concept of 'Rise of a Don' in this film is when Karthik (Siddharth), a budding director goes around researching and interviewing people on a merciless gangster Sethu (Bobby Simha) to make a film on gangsterism. He pieces together all the information given to him which he interprets as the gangster's transformation in his very own rendition of it

11) KABALI (2016):

The film follows Kabali (Rajinikanth), an aged gangster, who attempts to protect his family from enemies after being released from 25 years of imprisonment under false charges. He backtracks his early days and recalls his rise as a don in order to seek revenge on the ones who wronged him. 

12) VIKRAM VEDHA (2017):

During the film's run, we get to see flashbacks as we hear Vedha (Vijay Sethupathi) talk about various instances in his past that led him to become the gangster he is today. When pieced together, we get to see his rise as a don, while also avenging the death of his brother (Kathir) by involuntarily inviting Vikram (Madhavan) and the entire police force after him to reveal the true criminals and the bigger picture. 

13) VADA CHENNAI (2018):

The story tells us about an expert carrom player Anbu (Dhanush), who gets involved with gangsters and sets foot into the world of crime to settle their feuds. We get to see his transformation from a mere simpleton to a big don when he decides to stand up against them and take them down when they plan to wipe out his locality. 

14) MAARI (2015) and MAARI 2 (2018):

While the first part shows the local playful but feared don Maari (Dhanush) going up against the big and powerful in his locality, we get to see a small backstory that tells us what he did to be in the position that he is in. But in Maari 2, we see Sanikkizhamai (Robo Shankar) narrate the story of Maari's uprising as a don in his own humorous way. 


The film follows Suruli (Dhanush), a carefree gangster in Madurai, who is recruited to help an overseas crime lord Peter (James Cosmo) in London to take down a rival Sivadoss (Joju George) but is later caught off guard by the moral dilemmas that follow. During these obstacles, his past is shared which reveals his transformation from a small town layman to the don he is today.

Since there are a lot more movies to consider, here are some honorable mentions: 

1) BAGAVATHI (2002):

In order to protect his son from his enemies, Bagavathi (Vijay) transforms from a normal tea shop owner to a don. 

2) VATTARAM (2006):

When a ganglord kicks out his driver due to certain accusations, the driver's son Burma (Arya) grows up, joins the boss's gang, climbs up the ranks to turn into a don to avenge his father. 

3) PATTIYAL (2006):

Two best friends Kosi (Arya) and Selva (Bharath) turn from small-league crooks to feared contract killers. 

4) ATTAHASAM (2004):

When Guru (Ajith Kumar) witnesses his father's murder at a very young age, he is sent off to a family that is willing to adopt him. He flees from the family, moves to Thoothukudi, and grows to become a gangster there named 'Thala'. 

5) BHEEMA (2008):

When Sekar (Vikram) helps Chinna (Prakash Raj) escape death while still a kid, he is raised by the latter as his mentor and role model to become a feared don. 


After being impressed by the power of a rowdy at a young age, we see Pondy Pandi (Vijay Sethupathi) embark on the journey to become a don, which ends up forming the crux of the story.

7) JUNGA (2018):

Junga (Vijay Sethupathi) transforms from a normal bus conductor to a don in order to save his father's theatre. 

8) MASTER (2021):

After witnessing the murder of his parents and later being thrown into juvenile prison, Bhavani (Vijay Sethupathi) plots at getting back at the killers to avenge his parents and in turn becomes a fearful don.