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FILM REVIEW: Ponniyin Selvan: Part One

A big screen visual spectacle Starring: Vikram, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Karthi, Jayam Ravi, Prakash Raj, Trisha, Sarath Kumar, Radhakrishn...

A big screen visual spectacle

Starring: Vikram, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Karthi, Jayam Ravi, Prakash Raj, Trisha, Sarath Kumar,Radhakrishna Parthiban

Rating: 3.5*

Ponniyin Selvan: Part One, proves Mani Ratnam he is one of the best filmmakers working in India today.

The film starts with Adithya Karikalan just having won a battle against the Rashtrakutas up in the North. He sends his friend Vanthiyathevan to deliver a message for his sister Princess Kundhavai and his father Sundara Chola. What follows is the adventure Vanthiyathevan undertakes and the subsequent duties he is assigned by Kundhavai and Arunmozhi Varman aka Ponniyin Selvan. Parallel to these is a conspiracy brewing in Tanjore regarding the Chola throne headed by the chieftain Periya Parzhuvettaraiyar (a solid Sarath Kumar and his brother Chinna Pazhuvettaraiyar (the dependable Radhakrishna Parthiban). The brain behind the conspiracy is none other than Adhithya’s childhood love the ethereal Nandini.

Ratnam has given to Indian cinema some of the best films in recent history including Dil Se and Nayakan and Bombay. With Ponniyin Selvan: Part One, he proves that he is the master of all genres, including historical drama. The film features excellent direction from Ratnam and some great cinematography from Ravi Varman which is a lot like the cinematography from the Polish auteur Andrzej Żuławski done by Andrzej Jaroszewicz.

Ratnam knew he was directing a historical war film but decided to make it as a drama by focusing more on the characters’ faces and letting them express their emotions, thus bringing out the best in each performance. The performances are excellent all around with the highlights being Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as the scheming Nandini out for revenge and Karthi who is excellent as Vallavaraiyan Vandiyadevan. The performance from Vikram as Aditya Karikalan and Jayam Ravi as Ponniyin Selvan are great as well, so is Prakash Raj’s who portrays the emperor Sundara Chola. Trisha as Princess Kundavai looks stunning. The film’s only loose end is the VFX which seems like it was done back in the 90’s. This has been Mani Ratnam’s dream project for a long time and it doesn’t fail in any single way.

The action scenes are excellently choreographed and the set pieces and costumes are marvellous to look at. This is no doubt one of the best-looking films of this decade with every frame looking like an ancient painting from the time of the Chola dynasty.

Adapting what is considered to be the greatest piece of Tamil literature is hard and it’s even harder to get it right, but Mani Ratnam has got it bang on.  A visual experience from start to finish Ponniyin Selvan: Part One deserves to be seen on the biggest screen and doesn’t disappoint at all.

The great twist at the end of PS-1 will leave waiting with bated breathe for PS-2.

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