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Ponniyin Selvan 2: Why Mani Ratnam's epic is a turning point for Tamil filmmaking

Filmmaker Mani Ratnam's Ponniyin Selvan 2 is more than just a movie. It is a symbol of the new era of Tamil cinema. 

Ponniyin Selvan 2: Why Mani Ratnam's epic is a turning point for Tamil filmmaking
Vikram and Aishwarya Rai in Ponniyin Selvan 2.

Last Updated: 04.30 PM, Apr 26, 2023


The release of Ponniyin Selvan 2 this week is a highly- anticipated event for Tamil cinema fans, and for good reason. The first part of the film, Ponniyin Selvan 1 which was released last September, was a critical and commercial success, and the sequel is expected to build on that success and take the franchise to new heights.

But the significance of Ponniyin Selvan 2 goes beyond just its box office potential. As legendary actor Kamal Haasan suggested the film represents a new era of Tamil cinema. To put it like Kamal, "It's Tamil cinema's golden era." It's a phase of being more ambitious, more creative, and more willing to take risks than ever before.

Ponniyin Selvan 1 is itself a pathbreaking film among the modern-day tentpole movies. That film was a piece of anamorphic art. From a distance, the film may seem like a typical star-driven spectacle movie in sync with the popular mood — given that period movies with historical relevance seem to be in demand in the Indian film industry. Like other big mainstream movies, it has larger-than-life characters, a huge budget, a sprawling star cast and is split into two parts. But, when you look at it closer, this movie is a world away from the typical big-budget blockbusters. It is not an all-out adrenaline fest filled with thunderous beats, breathtaking stunts, and non-stop action. 


Ponniyin Selvan 1 was the opposite of all the adrenaline fest blockbusters. The movie didn't offer the same heart-pumping thrills as some action-packed movies, but it was a thoughtful and engrossing film that tries to captures the literary richness and depth of Kalki's vision for Ponniyin Selvan. With nuanced performances and a carefully crafted story, the movie draws you in and keeps you engaged with its complex characters, intricate plot, and deep themes. It's a movie that rewards careful attention and intellectual curiosity and offers a deeply satisfying experience for those willing to take the journey.

In a world where formulaic movies and commercial considerations often drive filmmaking, Mani Ratnam's Ponniyin Selvan 1 stands out as a bold and courageous work of art. As Kamal Haasan pointed out, it takes an extraordinary filmmaker to have the courage and conviction to tell a story the way he wants to, rather than pandering to market trends or audience expectations. Mani Ratnam's unwavering commitment to his vision is what makes Ponniyin Selvan 1 such a remarkable and impactful movie.

And as always fortune favors the bold. Mani Ratnam's vision and courage were handsomely rewarded by the audience across the world. Ponniyin Selvan 1 became one of the highest-grossing films in Tamil cinema history, catapulting it to the top of Mani Ratnam's career as his biggest hit to date.

What makes Ponniyin Selvan 2 so significant is not just its ambition, but also its potential impact on the industry and its audiences. If the film succeeds, it will show that there is an appetite for ambitious and artistically-minded Tamil cinema, and it will encourage other filmmakers to follow in its footsteps. Since the 1980s, Mani Ratnam has been a constant reminder that mainstream cinema is not just about entertainment, but also about art and that filmmakers have a responsibility to challenge and provoke their audiences.

Of course, the success of Ponniyin Selvan 2 is not guaranteed. But even if the film fails to live up to the box office expectations, its mere existence is a victory for Tamil cinema, and a sign that the industry is evolving and growing in exciting new directions.

Ponniyin Selvan 2 is more than just a movie. It is a symbol of the new era of Tamil cinema. Its success could have a transformative effect on the industry. 

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