Ponniyin Selvan 2
Onto the final release of the weekend and I finished watching the much awaited film Ponninyin Selvan 2 or better known as PS-2. Now it was last year that I had watched the fabulous PS-1 which was a perfect blend of world building and etching out characters with their motives. Coming from a visionary director Mani Ratnam, I was bowled over by the narrative style in general which was not in the ‘Entertaining’ zone but more cerebral and immersive in its storytelling.
But one of the major criticism that the film was privy to was that many people went in with the anticipation of a ‘Bahubali’ but instead they were left disappointed with the outcome of PS-1. Many people(from the North belt) had a hard time following the sequence of events that did have them lost in the narrative. And this had majorly to do with the very little information that was exposed to us in our History textbooks about the Chola Kingdom. But the people from Tamil Nadu did lap up the film considering how well they were exposed to the literature revolving the Cholas and the Pandyas. In fact, the history was tranferred from one generation to another, and to see it transform on the big screen did make for a momentous occasion! And who better that Mani Ratnam bringing his dream story to life onscreen.
While PS-1 did end on a tantalizing note, I did have ample of expectations from PS-2. And in between, I did my homework of reading about the Cholas and Pandyas(I am a fan of History and Culture) in what was quite a fascinating world and a breath of fresh from the Rajputs and the Mughals that had dominated our history textbooks. So then does PS-2 manage to impress, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Based on a novel by Kalki, Ponniyin Selvan 2 aka PS-2 picks up from the same point where PS-1 had ended and it revolves around the fight for survival of the Cholas from the Pandyas headed by a vengeful Nandini. The story here is a flourishing conclusion to the first part. In fact, the one criticism of large chunks of PS-1 being uneventful have been taken off in PS-2 which is much more of a flowing narrative as opposed to a stagnated one. A word of caution to my readers – I would plead you to read about the Cholas and the different characters that did exist in that era to better understand the context and the politics of the drama. The screenplay here standing at a daunting runtime of about a 165 minutes does make for yet another immersive experience like no other.
The drama does begin with a flashback of Nandini and the then Prince Adithya which is essentially the core of the second part as their shifting equations did ultimately have an impact on the history of the kingdom. Soon, you are transported to the current era(of Vanthiyathevan and Arunmozhi being rescued by Mandakini) where the power tussle to the throne has begun. It was almost indulgent to witness the politics of the era with the added character motivations that were often changing thus making this drama textured and layered.
The proceedings are engrossing and utterly immersive in its narration. Make no mistake, this drama is a slow burn and it does rely on the conversations between characters to fuel its narrative. So if you are expecting it to be a Bahubali type entertaining film, then this isn’t your cup of tea. You need undivided focus yet again to sit through the narrative wherein it is again easy to get lost. But if you are willing to apply yourself, then there are rewards to be had. There is a sense of the drama being grounded even with the action sequences. So the interval block that features a sequence doesn’t feel over the top and is always subdued. In between, the representation of culture(of Buddhism and the Tamilian culture) was beautifully portrayed onscreen and it did make for a solid impact.
But at its core, it is an incomplete love story that does shape the film eventually. The conflict between the characters of Nandini and Adithya, along with a massive revelation does make for a compelling viewing. One criticism about the film would be that the finale action sequence did fall flat and it didn’t quite translate into a massive impact. And it had much to do with its choppy editing(much on that in my next section). Also, dare I say that this epic saga was condensed for the medium of a motion picture. It may have been far more impactful had this been a webseries. Yet, taking nothing away from the writing, it was no mean task to convert a lot of text on celluloid over two films and for that the writing does deserve distinction marks! And it was brave of the filmmaker to change its ending from the novel which would be discussed over the years!
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The film is dialogues heavy and you do need to pay attention on what the lines have in store for you. And if you are willing to do that, there are rewards to be had as the lines make for a solid impact. The music is pretty good and it does compliment the film pretty well. However, the real deal is the BGM which is pulsating with a heavy use of Dhols that does pump up the audience before any action sequence. The cinematography is wonderful and it did help that sequences were shot in live locations with minimalistic VFX. The issue was in the editing department and restricted only to the action sequences which were choppy. As a result, the impact of the sequences was reduced. Director Mani Ratnam is in its truest sense a visionary. He did have a tall mountain to climb in having to make his dream project come to life onscreen. And he does it with flying colours. The direction by Mani Ratnam is simply brilliant here although it is more of an acquired taste much like his other films. But like it or hate it, you cannot ignore it!
The performances are outstanding here. Prakash Raj as Sundara Chozhar does show his vulnerability so well. R. Parthiban as Chinna Pazhuvettarayar has his moments to shine. Vikram Prabhu as Parthibendran is first rate, Rahman as Madhurantakan is outstanding and both do a swell job. Kishore as Ravidasan is fabulous to watch, Ashwin Kakumanu as Sendhan is sedate and sincere. Jayaram as Nambi does a wonderful job in contributing to the lighter moments of the film. Aishwarya Lekshmi as Poonguzhali is terrific despite a limited screentime. Sobhita Dhulipala as Vanathi is a character who can speak a mind of her own and she pulls that off with aplomb!
Trisha as Kundavai is such a well written character who understands the politics around her and is a glue to keeping the family together and how well has she performed. She was just so brilliant! Jayam Ravi as Ponniyin Selvan has a sense of calmness to his character mixed with assurity and he does a wonderful job. Karthi as Venthiyathevan is a quietly charming and a cheeky character with a sense of playfulness and he does an astonishingly good job.
My heart skipped a beat every time Aishwarya Rai Bachchan was onscreen. Not only did she look beautiful as Nandini(and as Mandakini, well portrayed but underwritten), she has such expressive eyes that make you feel she is piercing your soul through them. She is immaculate in every frame and her conflicts are beautifully portrayed in a towering act! Vikram is one of my favourite actors around at the moment. His calm and cool demeanor offscreen is diabolically opposite to a sense of eccentricity that he brings to his character onscreen(as Adithya). But despite that, he does shine in emotional scenes in a towering performance of the highest order!
Ponniyin Selvan 2 aka PS-2 is a flourishing conclusion of an epic saga with brilliant performances that makes for a spectacular watch. Available in a theatre near you and Highly Recommended!