Krishnan Nair (25 July 1939 – 16 November 1980), better known by his stage name Jayan, was an Indian film actor, naval officer, stunt performer and cultural icon of the 1970s. He starred in over 120 Malayalam films. During his film career, he was primarily an action star and was particularly famous for his macho image and unique style. He was reputed for his chauvinistic appeal and well known for performing stunts of a dangerous nature on his own. By the late 1970s, he became the most popular lead actor and bankable star of Malayalam cinema and has been acclaimed as the first action hero of Malayalam cinema.
Jayan was a Master Chief Petty Officer in the Indian Navy, before he came to films and rose to fame as an actor in a very short time, appearing as an action hero in numerous films during the 1970s. He died at the age of 41, at the peak of his popularity, as a result of an accident while filming a dangerous stunt involving a flying helicopter that crashed while he was hanging on to it. He has since then become a legendary symbol of daredevilry and masculinity with numerous inspirations, imitations, his unfading popularity being widely used to promote new-age movies, actors and brands and an ever-growing fan-base spanning generations.
His superhuman image has also transformed him into an iconic figure of popular culture among Malayalis around the world with widespread impersonation on stage and television programs based on his screen persona. It was accompanied by a cartoon, email and SMS phenomenon in the early 2000s, portraying him as a comic superhero with unique quotes of superhuman strength attributed to the action star becoming widespread. These movements were fuelled by a renewed fascination with his style of dialogue delivery and his machismo image. These were claimed to honour his memories but were also criticised for parodying the legendary actor years after his death.
On 16 November 1980, Jayan was killed in an accident on the set of the movie Kolilakkam (English: Shockwave). The climactic scene of the movie was being filmed in Sholavaram, near Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Jayan always performed his own stunts, and for this movie he was performing a particularly dangerous stunt that involved him boarding an airborne helicopter from a moving motorbike. The shot was accepted by the director in the first take; altogether three shots were filmed.
According to the film's production executive, Jayan insisted on yet another re-take as he was not satisfied with its perfection. During the re-take, the helicopter lost its balance and crashed along with Jayan who was hanging onto the landing skids, and later succumbed to his injuries.