Maniratnam turned Ponniyin Selvan novel of Kalki Krishnamurthy into a film, Ponniyin Selvan, his dream project with a whopping budget of Rs 500crs. the film got a tremendous craze and the film's OTT rights have been bagged by the renowned digital platform Amazon Prime Video and the film will be streamed after the end of its theatrical run. The film's first part Ponniyin Selvan 1 is released amidst huge expectations on September 30, 2022, across the world. The film has a star-studded cast of Vikram, Aishwarya Rai, Jayam Ravi, Karthi, Trisha, Aishwarya Lekshmi, Shobhita Dhulipala, and is based on the popular Tamil novel Ponniyin Selvan written by Kalki Krishnamurthy in 1950s. Let us find out whether Maniratnam created magic to mesmerize all with Ponniyin Selvan.
Ponniyin Selvan 1 story is all about the historical happenings in the Chola Kingdom. Adithya Karikalan (Vikram), the crown prince of the Chola Empire goes on waging wars to expand the kingdom. After defeating Rashtrakutas, Adithya Karikalan, gets information from the spies that everything is not right in the Capital Tanjore where his ailing dad emperor Sundara Cholan alias Parantaka Chola II (Prakash Raj) is put up. Aditya Karikalan sends his trusted lieutenant Vallavaraiyan Vanthiyathevan (Karthi) to get first-hand information.
Where this leads to, What are the secret happenings and why Adithya Karikalan is warmongering and the changing dynamics with sister Kundavai, also known as Ilaiya Piratti(Trisha), brother Arulmozhi Varman aka Ponniyin Selvan (Jayam Ravi), another brother Madurantaka Uttama Chola(Rahman), Pazhuvoor queen Nandini (Aishwarya Rai), her husband, treasurer Periya Pazhuvettaraiyar (Sarath Kumar) from the crux.
The story of Ponniyin Selvan is inspired by the popular novel Ponniyin Selvan authored by Kalki Krishnamurthy. Star director Maniratnam fine-tuned the novel by putting in a lot of effort and hard work. He realized his dream of turning Ponniyin Selvan into a film after multiple attempts failed. Ponniyin Selvan story starts with the Cholas defeating Rashtrakutas and Vikram and Karthi are introduced as Aditya Karikalan and Vanthiayathevan with interesting war sequences. This sets the pace for the proceedings to take forward. The narration picks up pace once Karthi goes on a mission to find out the real happenings in the Chola Kingdom on his way to Tanjore.
The first half proceedings in a slow but interesting manner with the introduction of various important characters like actors Jayaram, Sarathkumar, Prakash Raj, Rahman, and actresses Aishwarya Rai, Trisha, and Sobhita Dhulipala. However, in between all the exuberance of Karthi and interesting action sequences and hilarious scenes involving Karthi Jayaram, and dialogues between Karthi and Aishwarya Rai and Sarathkumar, the pace turns out to be slow before the interval twist. The first half ends on an interesting note and the entry of Jayam Ravi as Arulmozhi Varman increases the interest levels.
The second half picks up pace and with various forces like Pandyas, Sri Lankans, and also a few internal enemies of Cholas trying to weaken the Chola Kingdom and bring down its regime, excitement increases. The action sequences involving Jayam Ravi, and Karthi fascinates all. Aishwarya Lekshmi is also introduced and the pre-climax and intense climax action episode bring down the curtains to the Ponniyin Selvan I setting the stage for the second part.
For all his hard work, Maniratnam's story, script, and direction have Tamil flavor. One cannot find fault with Maniratnam as the story is a Tamil historical drama showing the rise of the Chola Kingdom. With all the star cast mostly Tamil actors, people may get disconnected from the Tamil Kings' names. Maniratnam spent the entire first half introducing various characters and it gives a feeling like watching a documentary except for a few scenes which increase the curiosity levels. The energy of the viewers gets dissipated at the end of the first half but the second half twists and turns keep them excited to some extent. Overall, it's a proud moment for the Tamil industry as Maniratnam did full justice to Ponniyin Selvan's novel.
Vikram as Aditya Karikalan came up with an intense performance. He showcased his feelings and emoted strongly as a heartbroken person. He looked apt for the role of Aditya Karikalan. After the grand introduction, Vikram disappears only to appear in a few scenes here and there for the rest of the film. Karthi got the all-important role and most of the screen presence in Ponniyin Selvan I. He showed variations in his expressions and toned his body language accordingly. He excelled in hilarious scenes, heroic scenes, and also romantic scenes.
Jayam Ravi stole the show elevating the proceedings since his introduction. He made a lasting impression with his expressions and emotions and showcased it accordingly. Jayam Ravi and Karthi powered the film together with their performances. Jayaram did well in an important role while Sarathkumar, Prakash Raj, Prabhu, Rahman, Parthiban, and others made their presence felt. Aishwarya Rai looked royal and Trisha looked regal and both made an impact with their majestic screen presence. Mani Ratnam elevated their roles in a beautiful and appealing manner. Shobhita Dhulipala and Aishwarya Lekshmi made an impact on the screen. Others performed accordingly.
Everyone knows that double oscar winner Rahman longtime back lost his sheen. His songs unlike his early days are failing to create any magic cutting across all sections. However, he did justice to the songs by coming up with tunes suited to the Chola Kingdom and the historical backdrop. The songs are well picturized and choreographed. His background music too followed the same pattern but he however livened up the proceedings elevating the scenes with the intense score during the pre-climax and climax. Ravi Varman's cinematography showcased the grandness of the Chola Kingdom in a natural and realistic manner. The art director also worked thoroughly to bring reality to the sets and art designs. Visual effects are decent and the ship sequence during the climax, though resembles that of Karthikeya 2 and Radhe Shyam, is far better and done extravagantly than Radhe Shyam. Sreekar Prasad's editing is good but could have been fine-tuned as there are few drags. Dialogues of the Telugu version are alright and especially the dialogues dubbed for Jayaram by Tanikella Bharani made a good impact. Production values are grand.
Ponniyin Selvan 1 with the star-studded cast turned out to be a historical ride to the Tamil culture. If people watch the film without comparisons, few of them may get interested. However unknown names of the characters, Tamil cast, lack of real emotions, twists, and turns, and also missing elevations, heroic elements, and hair-raising action sequences, put off the viewers. Credit should be given to Maniratnam for finishing the entire film's first and second parts in just 180 days and coming up with a quality product and giving a good cinematic experience. But with Tollywood viewers after getting the Baahubali, Magadheera, and RRR experience, will find nothing new in it. Maniratnam's story, screenplay, and direction progress at an even pace, and at the same time, it has many lows and few highs. Altogether, Ponniyin Selvan turns out to be the Saga of Cholas. Considering all these aspects, Cinejosh goes with a 2.5 rating for Ponniyin Selvan 1.