Ponniyin Selvan Part 2 by Mani Ratnam – Maestro’s magic gets the perfect canvas with this legendary story that has become part of culture for Tamil Nadu
The most popular novel in Tamil literary history Kalki’s ‘Ponniyin Selvan’ (translation by Indra Neelameggham, 1993) begins with describing the amazing monsoon months in Tamil Nadu and the Veera Narayan Lake reservoir. And, along what the author describes as the ocean like reservoir with seventy-four flood gates, the valiant Vallavarayan Vandiya Devan rides along enjoying the beautiful sights and sounds of the country side. A scene that is one of the most resplendently shot ones in the film by the master at his game –Maniratnam.
Ponniyin Selvan 1 the first part in the iconic two part movie series introduces the characters, places and the story line which takes precedence over story itself. However the maestro’s magic gets the perfect canvas with this legendary story that has become part of culture for Tamil Nadu.
Part 2 starts with a back story of the princes of Chola empire learning their war craft . Meanwhile Aditya Karikalan who grows up to be this dashing youngster, falls in love with an orphan girl Nandini much against sister Kundavai’s wishes. The commander of the army played by Prabhu ensures she leaves the city but love lives on, taking a turn for worse.
Nandini is plotting Adithya, his brother Arul Mozhi and father Sundara Chola’s murder along with Pandyans to avenge Veerapandyan; Sundara Chola’s brother Madhurantakan is eyeing the throne and teams up with enemies the Rashtrakutas and Chola kingdom is in trouble as the vassal kings plot to support Madhuratakan while the allies Vallavarayan, the Boudhavirama in Lanka, the mysterious older woman who saves Arul Mozhi the second time, the vaishnava spy Nambi are all working to protect the reign of the Cholas.
The story is about how Aditya Karikalan finds solution to Nandini and his guilt, how Ponniyan Selvan becomes the Raja Raja Chola, and most of it is not a history lesson. It is a historical fiction story of unrequited love, passions, emotions and human conflict- all of which that Mani Ratnam is master at showcasing and you get to witness the mastery in all its glory. The tender moments of romance, the playful banter, the fierce battle scenes and intense confrontations set against beautiful locations and resplendent sets, beautiful people and their finery, great camera work, last but the crucial background score that can on its own become a lesson in history make Ponniyin Selvan Part 2 a delight to watch.
To watch Chiyaan Vikram in action is amazing. Karthi is endearing. Aishwarya Rai aces her role. ARRahman’s best songs were reserved for Part 1, yet his music gives that edge to the story – the highs, lows and the silences all play a role in elevating the scenes.
India needs such films to be made by sensible directors like Maniratnam and perhaps preserved as valuable heritage for all times to come.