Ratnam again proves why he is a master filmmaker as he showcases the tale of the Chola kingdom, which is riddled with myriad political conspiracies, ruthless ambition, and subtle love stories
A still from Ponniyin Selvan 2
Movie: Ponniyin Selvan 2
U: Historical, action, drama
Dir: Mani Ratnam
Cast: Vikram, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Jayam Ravi, Trisha Krishnan, Karthi
With the release of Ponniyin Selvan: 2 (PS:2), seven months after the first instalment, director Mani Ratnam fulfils his long-cherished dream. The auteur had earlier spoken about how budget constraints prevented his desire to adapt Kalki Krishnamurthy’s five-volume novel, Ponniyin Selvan (1955), into a movie, first in 1994 and then in 2011. Watching the epic period drama, one can understand why.
One would expect the sequel to pick up where PS:1 ended, with Arunmozhi Varman, aka Ponniyin Selvan (Jayam Ravi), falling into the stormy sea, but the narrative opens with Aditha Karikalan (Vikram) and Nandini’s (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) backstory. As the story progresses, you realise that going back into the story helps you understand the root cause of everything, be it betrayal, war, or vengeance.
Ratnam again proves why he is a master filmmaker as he showcases the tale of the Chola kingdom, which is riddled with myriad political conspiracies, ruthless ambition, and subtle love stories. He is an ace at chronicling the various character arcs without digressing from the main plot, and also presents the twists and turns in his trademark brilliant manner. The pre-interval action sequence, Aditha-Nandini’s face-off, and Vandhiyadevan-Kundavai’s subtle romantic track are some of the many high points of this magnum opus.
Rai is in fine form as both Nandini and her mother, Mandakini, aka Oomai Rani. While Oomai Rani has limited screen time in the narrative, as Nandini, the actor confidently portrays the cold and calculative side of the character, driven by vengeance for being ousted from the kingdom. Vikram brilliantly portrays Aditha, compelled to do right by the Chola dynasty as a crown prince, even as he suffers internal turmoil. The scenes where he reveals his knowledge of the conspiracies and face-off with Nandini are but a few of the examples. Together, Vikram and Rai steal the scene in this instalment. Karthi is a treat to watch as he plays Vallavaraiyan Vandiyadevan with his trademark finesse. Trisha Krishnan essays the role of Princess Kundavai with grace and dignity. Her subtle romantic scene with Vandiyadevan leaves you yearning for more. Ravi does justice to the role of Arunmozhi Varman, but one wishes he had more prominence in keeping with film name. Prakash Raj, Sobhita Dhulipala, Aishwarya Lekshmi, K Sarathkumar, and Vikram Prabhu are also effective in their respective parts.
Given the significance of visuals in a genre like this, credit also goes to production designer Thotta Tharani and cinematographer Ravi Varman for making this film such an extravaganza. Tharani’s sets are grand and the production values are high, while Varman has shot the epic drama like a dream. Ratnam’s frequent collaborator AR Rahman has created a perfect soundtrack for the film, but his background score is a couple of notches higher, giving audiences a feel of a real orchestra as the drama heightens.
At the onset, the filmmaker said that the film is his interpretation and presentation of the story in the way it impacted him. So those saddened by Ratnam straying off Krishnamurthy’s book in the concluding part cannot grudge him for that.