Photo: ‘Ponniyin Selvan: 1’
‘PS-1’ A Journey Through India
‘PS-1‘ is making waves throughout the film world. This epic Tamil historical journey comes from a novel written in 1955. The novel was a hit since it was released, but it had a hard time finding funding for a film version. Over the years Mani Ratnam has been trying to get this film made the way it is supposed to be and now it is finally here, and the wait was well worth it.
This film was initially supposed to be just one movie, but they ended up cutting it into two due to the length of the material. This was a smart thing for the producers to do considering the film is now the highest-grossing Tamil film in 2022, and the fourth highest-grossing film in all of Tamil history. Not only did the novel by Kalki Krishnamurthy set the bar, but the film adaptation is smashing records.
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Breaking it Down
This epic follows Vallavaraiyan Vandiyadevan (Karthik Sivakumar,) on a journey across India on direct orders from his Chola Prince, Aditha Karikalan (Kennedy John Victor or Vikram.) Vallavaraiyan discovers a plot to take over the throne in the great city of Kadamboor. The scheming treasurers want Madurantaka Chola (Rashin Rahman,) to usurp his brother and become the King, instead of crown Prince Aditha taking the throne.
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As Vallavaraiyan breaks his way out of the fortress city of Kadamboor, he encounters Nandini (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan,) and she gives him a ring to get into the palace. He shows this ring to the chief in charge, Chinna Pazhuvettaraiyar (R. Parthiban,) to get a presence with the emperor. After exposing the plot to the emperor Sundara Chozar (Prakash Raj,) the emperor orders his sons back to solve the dilemma. Vallavaraiyan then embarks to find Ponniyin Selvan and bring him back to the emperor in order to protect the kingdom. Along the way Vallavaraiyan runs into many beautiful women, enamored, but remains a gentleman. This is something I found to be a powerful message from the director. It is a shout-out to Indian culture and how women should be regarded as powerful and beautiful.
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‘Ponniyin Selvan: 1’ – Action, Dance, and Cinematography
All of this happens with some fantastic action scenes, dance/song, and a great sense of camera movement. They cue the action scenes very well, taking lessons from a variety of genres including martial art films and American action. The cutting in some of the scenes lends to a fast action pulsating film tempo.
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The music numbers and dancing complements the music in this film, and they incorporate the songs in a way that meshes perfectly with the storyline. The music was created by Mani’s longtime friend A. R. Rahman. The soundtrack has a total of six songs written in multiple languages. These songs don’t just appear out of nowhere and they fit right into the story arch. Sometimes the placement of these musical numbers can be a distraction in Bollywood films, but this is done with such taste that I was waiting for more!
This has a ton of great moving shots, that are not just used to look good, but to get us into each scene in an emotionally drawn way. The cinematography was done by Ravi Varman. He uses the camera moves to not only motivate characters, but to help push dialogue as well. The more the camera has a journey, the more our characters can too.
Source Content is King
The background of this story is based on historical matters regarding the Chola reign in the kingdom around the 14th century C.E. It was a tumultuous time in India and the throne was under constant attack from family conflicts and outsiders. The book’s popularity in Tamil is a testament to the reason it was chosen for adaptation several times. Mani has considered this a passion project since the early 1980s and finally got the funding together to create this wonderful film.
Source content can be tricky as we all know. The novel has over fifty characters, so including all of them would have been a heavy load. Adaptations can be hit or miss for a few reasons. Each individual has their own experiences and their own imagination. This can cause a difference in visual representation when creating a film because everyone sees a scene or moment differently when they read it. Another reason is that a film of this length typically has about one hundred and eighty pages. The novel had over 2,400 pages, and so the ability to tell the story has to be shrunken into the most important parts.
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In order for the show to narrow its focus for film, the filmmakers smartly decided to revolve the film’s plot around the king, Sundara Chozar. Pulling the main plotlines and characters into a smaller piece seems almost impossible. I commend these men for taking such a long piece of intellectual property and forming it in a way that adheres to the cultures inside Tamil and Bollywood films in their current state.
Epic Passion is Epic Adventure
The filmmakers did a wonderful job putting this piece together with extreme passion.. Not only does the viewer get to see some real history take place, they get to see it with the grandeur that Bollywood is known for. The film never gets too over the top and fits perfectly into the vein of epic Cinema. Once again, the success of source material drove a film into production. India craved something at the time that shouted independence, and we may see a resurgence in this type of work coming from southern India. Although it took almost seventy years to happen, it happened at a perfect time in Cinema. Grand-scale projects are needed to woo audiences back into theater seats, and this is one of them!
‘PS-2‘ is slated to come out next year as the second half of the story is waiting to be told. ‘PS-1’ left the audience with a cliffhanger that only the readers of the novel or a history buff would know the result of. Be ready for the release of Mani’s second half of Vallavaraiyan’s arduous journey across India in 2023. My guess is that after the success of the first installment, we are bound to see more records being broken by the second film. Intellectual property is once again showing the world how strong a story can be when told correctly. That combined with the passion to continue this project, Mani has bloomed a precious Tamil flower of a film. Check out ‘PS-1” now in select theaters.
Director: Mani Ratnam
Writers: Mani Ratnam, Elango Kumaravel, and B. Jeyamohan
Novel Author: Kalki Krishnamurthy
Producers: Mani Ratnam and Subaskaran Allirajah under the companies Madras Talkies and Lyca Productions
Cast Listed Above: Karthik Sivakumar, Kennedy John Victor or Vikram, Rashin Rahman, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, R. Parthiban, Prakash Raj
Music: A. R. Rahman
Cinematography: Ravi Varman
By Nathan Paul Pasquale
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