One thing people were sure of as soon as Maniratnam announced his Magnum Opus was that it would be visually a feast. As Vikram had pointed out in an interview, Maniratnam brings a certain humidity into the visuals, and there is always that cool and watery vibe to the frames. Ponniyin Selvan 1 tops his previous projects in terms of how it looks.
The longing we get when we watch the Game of Thrones or Peaky Blinders, wishing we get something similar from our own creators, has been satisfied. I know I sound very excited but the film does deliver what it promised. There is drama, there is realistic acting, there is the visual ecstasy, and there is intrigue.
Story And Performances
The film sticks to the narrative direction of the novel and doesn't try to rearrange the sequences much and I loved that. The journey begins with Vanthiyathevan starting off with messages from Aditha Karikalan, the Crown Prince of the Chola Kingdom, to his siblings, Kundavai and Arulmozhi, and his father, and King Sundara Chola. The film pretty much covers this part, and by the time it's done, part 1 comes to an end.
Karthi as Vanthiyathevan brings the enthusiasm and kiddish charm of the character perfectly. He is the boyish flirt that is smart and energetic, and always ready to be there when he is needed. Jayam Ravi as Arulmozhi AKA Ponniyin Selvan brings the majestic and stoic air that the prince carries. Vikram as Karikalan is convincing as the frustrated and angry Crown Prince who can't wait to burn the world in rage.
Aishwarya Lekshmi as Poonguzhali is adorable. She plays the role in all its glory. Her feelings for the prince Arulmozhi, her natural tomboyish vibe, and how she interacts with Vanthiyathevan, have all come out really well, and she finds a way to your heart comfortably.
Trisha as Kundavai, and Aishwarya Rai as Nandhini have managed to bring the princess-y air quite well. Trisha succeeds in portraying the ambitious Kundavai with all her flaws and pride while Aishwarya Rai manages to thrill you with her magic like a sorceress.
Like the typical Marvel fan, I was waiting for a post-credit scene. The crowd pushed me around so much that I could not stay until the credits ended. I hope I did not miss one if there was any.
Every frame is literally a potential wallpaper. The tone, and the angles and the geography suck you into the screen, and you could almost watch the film just for the locations they have explored.
The editing is mature, without unnecessary cuts and prolonged scenes. The pace of the film takes us into the more relaxed and calmer reality of the era.
Ravi Varman behind the camera needs to take a bow for his breathtaking visuals, and Mani Ratnam definitely deserves monumental praise for the way the film looks.
What Works And What Doesn't
Story obviously works. It's one of the greatest pieces of Tamil literature. Screenplay works too, as it maintains the narrative of the novel quite sincerely. Performances work very well. The making is gorgeous and steals your attention.
What doesn't work is that the film doesn't have the space to breathe and take it slow. That's probably because 5 volumes of the novel are being squished into two installments.
There is also the fact that some of the actors are much older than the characters that they have played. Although this is something only those who have read the novel would feel, it does affect the way the interactions play out.
A masterpiece that manages to quench our thirst for a historical fiction feature film rooted in Tamil history, and it also gets onto the list of the flagship works in the genre globally. You can't afford to miss this beauty. Watch in the theatres!