Ponniyin Selvan Movie Review - The Emperor Strikes Back
Updated: Oct 3
Veteran ace film maker Mani Ratnam is back in style with his most ambitious and a dream come true project and oh boy he fired on all cylinders with this epic rambling plot. Its a beautifully narrated story with a finesse directorial power, mostly through a messenger's journey who unravels various plot elements on the way.
I can't stop comparing the messengers coordination part and kings dilemma on whom to believe to the famous Two General's Problem in computing world. MR captured everything that a historic novel typically covers; a delicate plot, power politics , romance, war, conspiracies and revenge. The story happens during medieval Chola period, under the rule of Sundara Cholan and how his family deals with internal and external conflicts to revenge and betrayal for throne.
I recommend you read some facts (The three ruling houses of Tamil India, the Pandyas, Cheras, and Cholas) before watching this as that will help understand the flow of the story. Its densely packed and before you get immersed into a character arc, the story and scene shifts to a different mood. So keeping up with the fast paced structure becomes a challenge. This should filmed like Ben-Hur epic with 3.5 hr run time each spit into two parts as the scope of the novel is so vast.
There are no words to describe ARR magnificent pulsating score and Ravi Varman's scintillating cinematography. It truly elevates this magnum opus. Talking about star-studded cast performance, Vikram as Aditha Karikalan did looked aged but still delivered a gold. He is only one whom i felt like having a warrior get up. Karthi as Vandhiyathevan (the messenger) was a fun watch though there are few cartoon acts in between. Jayam Ravi as Arunmozhi Varman felt bit weak in comparison and his intro didn't appeal to me much. Thanks to all visceral overdrive in my head from watching epics from Rajamouli films, i felt all these required a mass intro. Same goes with battle field actions. It did lack the energy which i was expecting to see. Having said that, all the characters here are strong, dynamic and have an ulterior motive. Then comes the beauty queens Aishawarya Rai and Trisha who spoke mostly through their eyes and body language. Its difficult to take our eyes away when they were on screen. They were truly empowering and not just mere spectators. MR redeployed his famous 360 degree angle shot to the maximum, the Vikram interval block monologue story telling reminded me of Iruvar shot. Its a powerful one too.
I am sure there are so many other hidden historic gem of novels out there which needs to be told with equal style and substance. In the end, 50+ yrs to recreate this magic is a long wait but a worthy one. The curiosity is doubled with how it ended with Oomai Rani. Interestingly both Rajini and Kamal were keen to be part of this, but MR decided against that indicating he is not trying for superhero adaptation but wanted stay true to Kalki's novel. Looking at various reviews out there, the book lovers seems divided. As there is nothing for me to compare against, i came out fully satisfied with this show. May be the title make more sense in second part as the first half truly set the stage.
Verdict - 4/5(Justice Served)