Payanam (English: Journey) is a 2011 Indian Tamil thriller —drama film written and directed by Radha Mohan. Being made simultaneously in Telugu as Gaganam, the film deals with aflight hijacking incident. It stars Nagarjuna in the lead along with Prakash Raj, Poonam Kaur, Sana Khan, Iqbal Yaqub, Brahmanandam and Bharath Reddy amongst others. Produced by Prakash Raj himself, Payanam was released on 11 February 2011.
The film opens with passengers preparing to board a flight to Delhi. A married couple, a mimicry artiste, a little girl and her parents who have to return to Karachi after her operation in Chennai, a young couple and one man who injects drugs are among them. Inside the plane a group of people go to the toilet and load weapons and hijack the plane. While struggling with the pilots, one of the engines is damaged and an emergency landing is made at Tirupathi Airport. Government authorities and National Security guards NSG arrive at the airport. The hijackers demand 100 Crore, release of their leader Yusuf Khan and a new flight for their escape.
National Security Guard Ravi (Nagarjuna) and his friend regret for not killing Yusuf Khan on a previous occasion. They make fun of an actor who played Yusuf Khan in a recent movie. Ravi insists for commando operation but officials fear risking passengers' life not trusting Ravi's team. Inside the flight one of the terrorists is becomes sentimental with a little girl. One passenger frequently questions terrorists and one Christian priest requests to read Bible. Government agrees to release Yusuf Khan who dies in an accident while being transported to the airport. Despite attempt to contain the news, the media leak it and a terrorist kills a passenger seeking proof that Yusuf is alive, failing which one passenger will be killed every half-an-hour. Ravi arranges for a scared civilian to pose as Yusuf to make the terrorists believe that Yusuf is alive and getting treated at the hospital. Meanwhile Ravi plans operation 'Garuda' to rescue the victims. He secretly sends a mobile phone in a food packet onto the plane and contacts Colonel Jagadish to know about the terrorists and their weapons. Ravi plans to shoot the terrorists during their transit to a new flight by asking the passengers to bend down when they get a signal. The firing succeeds and 4 of the 5 terrorists are killed. The last terrorist who was affectionate to the little girl is killed with help of the young guy. The plastic explosive is found in the girl's bag. Ravi throws it away which explodes. Operation Garuda ends with the Prime Minister appreciating Ravi and the passengers heading to their destination.
- Nagarjuna Akkineni as Major Raveendra
- Prakash Raj as N. Viswanath
- Sana Khan as Sandhya
- Rishi as Vinod
- Sricharan as Yusuf Khan and Ranganathan
- Poonam Kaur as Air Hostess Vimala Gupta
- Iqbal Yaqub
- Bharath Reddy as Nawaz Khan
- Ravi Prakash
- M. S. Bhaskar as Rev. Fr. Alphonse
- Manobala as Narayana Shastry
- Prithviraj as Shining Star Chandrakanth
- Thalaivasal Vijay as Col. Jagadeesh
- Elango Kumaravel as Subash
- Badava Gopi as Gopinath
- Mohan Ram as Venkat Ram
- Chaams as Balaji
Radha Mohan, after directing the family-oriented romance and drama films Azhagiya Theeye, Mozhi and Abhiyum Naanum, decided to make a shift and produce an action thriller based on flight hijacking. He approached actor-producer Prakash Raj, a close friend and producer of all his earlier ventures, who agreed to fund this film as well, marking the fourth collaboration of the duo. Prakash Raj renamed his Duet Movies banner to Silent Movies, the logo and name of which were designed by Radha Mohan himself. Radha Mohan also decided to make it a bilingual venture, shooting the film in both Tamil and Telugu languages simultaneously, and was able to convince noted Telugu film producer Dil Raju to produce the Telugu version, titled Gaganam, whilst roping in Nagarjuna, who is a known name in both film industries, to enact the lead role of a NSG commando. Speaking about his role, Nagarjuna revealed that the film turned out to be "one of the easiest" he had worked in as he didn't had to prepare much for the role, since Radha Mohan and Prakash Raj had done "so much research", spoken to army officers and had "everything about the role on paper — how commandos behave and dress." Nagarjuna, starring in his first direct Tamil film after 13 years, was part of an ensemble cast that featured around 45 known artists from both Tamil and Telugu industries, with the cast being retained for both versions. Prakash Raj himself, who had also previously starred in all Radha Mohan films, was cast in a pivotal role.
Depsite widespread report that the film was based on the 1999 Kandahar hijacking incident of the Indian Airlines Flight 814,Prakash Raj had denied the reports, making clear that it was about a hijack that takes place at the Tirupati Airport. A grand set resembling the Tirupati airport was errected at the Ramoji Film City in Hyderabad, Andra Pradesh by art director Kathir. The airport set was constructed within one month and reportedly costed three crores, which was almost twenty per cent of the films' entire budget and included runway, traffic, ATC room and two planes with "perfect interiors". The film was shot using the RED camera, handled by cinematographer K. V. Guhan. Pravin Mani was assigned as the film composer, who worked on the film's background score. The film would feature only one solo song, which too was composed by Pravin and was written by Vairamuthu's son Madhan Karky. The trailer of the film was launched on 14 January 2011.
The movie opened to mainly positive reviews. The story and screenplay by Radhamohan were well appreciated. Rediff.com gave the film 3.5 on 5 and stated that "The sequences are logical, even while allowing for dashes of humour, soul-searching and feel-good factors; the whole setting has a realistic feel that draws you in." Behindwoods gave it 2 on 5 and said that "Although humor shares equal space with action and suspense, a slight swaying on the lighter side dilutes the serious effect a wee bit which could have been taken care of."
The film was a huge success at the box office grossing almost $3million in over 7weeks.