What Is the Film About?
Vallavaraya (Karthi), upon the instruction of Aditha Karikalan (Vikram), starts his journey across the Chola Kingdom to find out about the conspiracy to kill the Chola heir. Who hatches the sinister plan and did Vallavaraya and others save Arunmozhi (Jayam Ravi) is the Ponniyin Selvan’s core plotline.
Vikram essaying the role of true warrior king Aditha Karikalan is terrific screen presence-wise. However, he has a smaller part in the movie and appears only intermittently. The actor does his role with intensity and ease as he usually does.
Karthi has a real meaty role in the movie. He is the one hogging the limelight from the start to almost the end. What’s more, it is a less serious and fun part that is easy to connect. His is perfect casting as Karthi naturally comes across as Vallavaraya. The body language and demeanour are there, and all he has to do is make the action believable. He does it with ease.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as Nandini is another crucial role in Ponniyin Selvan -1. Again, the action she is part of more than the run time drives the narrative at key moments. She does well in those moments. And not to forget, Aishwarya looks ethereal, elegance personification, as the queen.
And finally, Trisha has a weaker part compared to others. Still, she holds her own in whatever little that’s given. More than the presence and performance, which is fine, the lack of meat to the role in driving the proceedings is felt throughout.
Legendary filmmaker Mani Ratnam directs Ponniyin Selvan -1. He has cited it as a dream project many times through the years and finally gets to make it. Ponniyin Selvan is based on the book of the same name by Kalki Krishnamurthy.
First thing first that one needs to understand is that Ponniyin Selvan is rooted in Tamil culture and nativity. The character names, places and dressing everything reflects that. It makes it miss the universal appeal of, say, the Bahubali movies or other such period or historical dramas.
One hopes to be engaged through the story and the politics and little twists and turns, which have a universal appeal. Luckily, the story here is intriguing, and it has enough meat to hold the attention.
However, the problem comes in Ponniyin Selvan -1 courtesy of its narration and writing. While the story intrigues, the scenes lack the impact that one expects. The writing gets the blame here, but also the directorial style of Mani Ratnam. It looks a little out of place for the historical context.
What happens as a result is a missing gripping narrative. One is never invested in the characters or the proceedings. The plot moves from one place to another and from one situation to another, but the sense of involvement is missing.
By the time one reaches the interval mark, it feels like watching an entire movie. It feels so long and tiring once the drama starts. The slow pace and lack of exciting action or drama is the culprit.
After a decent interval revealing a crucial flashback, the second half gets back to the way things were for the most part in the first half. They have content but lack the wow factor or engagement. In the age of Baahubali and Game Of Thrones (a visual spectacle or drama behemoth), when one offers none, the result is easily understood.
It is only towards the final half an hour that some energy is generated. It is more to do with the ending and the potential cliffhanger on cards. It works alright and sets things up for part two.
The real issue with Ponniyin Selvan -1 (in Telugu) is the lack of memorable characters. Despite so many actors and known faces, there is hardly anyone who makes the desired impression.
Overall, Ponniyin Selvan -1 sticks to the story and relies on it to carry through with no highs. A combination of tiring narrative and weak writing further mars its experience. If you have the right expectations, the epic is a decent watch at best; otherwise, its a snoozefest.
Performances by Others Actors
Jayam Ravi is the third male lead in the movie playing the heir to the Chola Kingdom. He appears late in the story but is crucial to the rest of the proceedings. He is a bit stiff compared to other actors but is alright in action parts.
Ponniyin Selvan -1 is filled with artists. A notable name plays even a small side role. Sharath Kumar, Parthiban and Rahman stand out among the many supporting castes. They are antagonists and scheming guys. They do their parts adequately. Jayaram is okay. Tanikella Bharani’s dubbing feels a little odd initially for him but sets fine overall. Prakash Raj as an aged king, does his usual like a walk in the park. The rest of the cast is acceptable and does the necessary, even if there is not much to talk about.
Music and Other Departments?
The songs may not have worked in Telugu, but AR Rahman does enough to make up for it with the background score. It has an international appeal and, at the same time, keeps the Chola period in mind. The combination gives a unique appeal.
Technically the movie is superb with excellent cinematography. Ravi Varman’s lens gives a naturalism to the proceedings despite being a period film. The editing, too, is alright, considering the mammoth scale and cast involved. It could have easily turned into a mess. The visual effects are limited but well done. The opening war sequence involving ships is a prime example. The writing lost its impact in translation in Telugu.
Did I Enjoy It?
Yes, in parts
Will You Recommend It?
Yes, if you have lot of patience
Ponniyin Selvan: I Telugu Movie Review by Mirchi9