A novel that had its inception as the weekly story in a magazine that later had its transcendence as the novel, which eventually became a popular audiobook, has finally obtained its visual adaptation through Mani Ratnam… Ponniyin Selvan 1 produced by Lyca Productions and Madras Talkies has a huge star cast – Vikram, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Jayam Ravi, Karthi, Trisha, Jayaraman, Prabhu, Sarathkumar, and many more prominent actors.
The story is about Vanthiyadevan (Karthi), who on the request of his friend-King Aditha Karikalan (Vikram) departs to Tanjore with a couple of messages bundled for Emperor Sundar Chola (Prakash Raj) and his younger sister Kundavai (Trisha) that indicates the evil plans hatched the kings of princely states to bring down the Chola dynasty.
There are a couple of things, you’ll have to consider before watching Ponniyin Selvan 1. If you’ve already been thorough with the novel, then you shouldn’t be sticking to the comparisons and if you belong to the category of non-readers of this epic, then you’ll have to be patient to get used to the characters and premise, where the clear picture will be offered by the open ending climax.
The ensemble star cast itself is a delight to watch. The smartness of Mani Ratnam has to be appreciated when it comes to brilliant casting. Say, for instance, the character of Chinna Pazhuvettaiyar, played by Radhakrishnan Parthiban appears in not more than 2-3 scenes in this movie. It’s the same with actors Prabhu, Jayaram, and other supporting actors including Prakash Raj, but you’ll feel their presence throughout the movie. Actor Vikram is the first to steal our attention with his unceasing enthusiasm. He has neatly conveyed the emotions of Aditha Karikalan. His angst, infuriated thoughts, and kind-heartedness are excellently delivered. Jayam Ravi owns a charismatic look that adds more points to his attempts in bringing Arulmozhi Varman’s character to life. He appears only in the second half, and still, he keeps winning our attention. Karthi as Vanthiyadevan adds up the cuteness that the character demands, especially for his flirtiest shade. His hilarious episodes with Jayaraman are enjoyable as well. Nandini’s character is the spine of this movie, and Aishwarya Rai escalates the role with her exceeding charisma and expressions. Her appearance as Oomai Rani in the final credit is an incredulous surprise. Trisha as Kundavai has done what is required for the role. Of course, she owns the exquisite appeal of a princess. The only scene that exhibits her utmost efforts is her interaction with Vikram as the sibling sort out their differences. The other actors in the star cast add more substantiality to the movie. To be precise, the complete potential of these actors will be witnessed only in the second part. If you’ve already gone through the novel, there are more situations, where Periya Pazhuvettaiyar scores more than the actors, especially by the end portions, which we need to wait and watch if it’s available in the second part.
The musical score by AR Rahman with some additional songs as background for Nandini’s portions and a few more sequences are amazing. The Ponni Nadhi song could have been filmed yet more finely, and it’s disappointing to see a couple of melodious hit numbers ‘Alai Kadal’ and ‘Sol’ deleted. ‘Devaralan Aattam’ and ‘Ratchasa Maamane’ are choreographed extraordinarily and beautifully shot. Ravi Varman’s camera work gives a grand appeal along with the set works of Thotta Tharani.
The entire movie is invested in establishing the depth of characters, premise, and conflicts. As the first part comes to end with a surprise twist involving Oomai Rani, it assures us that there are lots of drama, action, twists, and turns in Ponniyin Selvan Part 2.
Overall, Ponniyin Selvan 1 offers a phenomenal theatrical experience for audiences from all age groups. The movie doesn’t disappoint us anywhere, and the open ending elevates our inquisitiveness about the second part.
Verdict: Hats off to Mani Ratnam for cherry-picking the best moments from the 5-part novel and adapting it with brilliance.