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Ponniyin Selvan inspired me even before I became a filmmaker: Mani Ratnam

Based on Kalki Krishnamurthy’s renowned novel on the life of Raja Raja Chozhan, PS-1 has a screenplay written by Mani Ratnam, Jeyamohan and Kumaravel.

Ponniyin Selvan inspired me even before I became a filmmaker: Mani Ratnam
Mani Ratnam discusses Ponniyin Selvan-1/Twitter
  • Team OTTplay

Last Updated: 07.27 PM, Sep 27, 2022

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Ponniyin Selvan-1, directed by Mani Ratnam, will be the first Tamil project to be released in the IMAX format. The director, whose historical drama is scheduled for September 30, experiences an odd sense of joy and contentment.

Mani Ratnam had made two attempts to adapt Kalki Krishnamurthy's novel into a film. Both—the first in the 1990s and the second in the 2010s—failed to materialise as films for whatever reason. “In a way, I'm relieved. Thanks to technological advancements; we are now much more prepared to handle such a subject. Ponniyin Selvan-1 is made for the big screen as it has an expansive set design, action, costumes, photography and pretty much everything.”

The multilingual movie, which is set in the ninth century and centres on the Chola dynasty, portrays a significant time in Indian history and finds meaning in the universal themes of politics, power, and ambition.

Kalki's Ponniyin Selvan looked like a film to Mani Ratnam even before he considered filmmaking as a career. When he was in class 10, he remembered reading the novel and being enthralled by its setting and characters. “I was reading my first major Tamil adventure, and it was fascinating. The manner Kalki wrote made it a spectacle and quite vivid. As I read it, I could picture it!”

PS-1 tells the story of Arulmozhivarman, one of the most powerful kings in the south, who went on to become the great Chola emperor. Mani Ratnam, who made Mouna Ragam, Kannathil Muthamittal, Guru, and Raavanan, found it difficult to adapt the book into a film. Naturally, the idea was to opt for a sequel.

In Ponniyin Selvan, the first actor to come on board was Vikram, who earlier collaborated with Mani Ratnam on Raavan. He essays the role of Aditha Karikalan, the elder brother of Arulmozhivarman.

“We had Vikram first; it was a difficult role. It is important to have actors who believe in the director's vision and the film. If you have the right cast in place, your job is almost done.”

The Roja director claimed that despite primarily relying on technology developments of the time, he intended Ponniyin Selvan to be as authentic as possible. “The writing changed. Had I done this in the 1980s or 1990s, I would have had to travel to the sites of long-gone civilizations. Our ability to use technology today liberates us. Architecture can be altered to fit the era. We can design a largely realistic universe.”

Before him, veteran actors like the late MGR and Kamal Haasan attempted the film adaptation, but nothing came of it.

Roja poster
Roja poster

Mani Ratnam rose to fame for skillfully blending the aesthetic and commercial facets of cinema without being bound by linguistic limitations. “You don't make a film just to address issues; you should feel them. They should bother you and then manifest in some way or other into a film.”

The 66-year-old filmmaker is optimistic the new crop of directors will carry the torch forward by further exploring 'real problems fantastically'. “We haven’t found any solution… I think it is not easy to solve a problem in a complex country like India. But, amazingly, we keep running ahead so well with all these complexities.”

When questioned about his longevity, Mani Ratnam said, “You go through different phases in life and there are some periods when only those issues matter to you. If you can, you try to convert those into films. There are lots of issues, which I couldn't find a platform to talk about. Hence those were not made (into films) at all.”

Team Ponniyin Selvan at AR Rahman's Mumbai Studio
Team Ponniyin Selvan at AR Rahman's Mumbai Studio

How does Mani Ratnam feel as the release date approaches? “I have been a big fan of the epic novel. Now that both parts had been shot, I can sit back and relax!”

Bankrolled by Mani Ratnam's production house, Madras Talkies and Allirajah Subaskaran's banner Lyca Productions, Ponniyin Selvan-1, will be released in Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada, and Malayalam.

Ponniyin Selvan-1 boasts a powerhouse cast including Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Vikram, Jayam Ravi, Karthi, Trisha Krishnan, Aishwarya Lekshmi, Sobhita Dhulipala, Prabhu, Sarath Kumar, Jayaram, Prakash Raj, Jayachitra, Rahman, Vikram Prabhu, Ashwin Kakumanu, Lal, Parthiban and Riyaz Khan.

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