Ponniyin Selvan: I Movie Review - Despite a few stumbles, Mani Ratnam's epic period drama is a rewarding experience
Mani Ratnam has often said that a live-action adaption of a classic Tamil novel was his dream project, the novel by Kalki Krishnamurthy written in 1955 has inspired many writers and directors and is considered the greatest novel in Tamil literature.
The first part of the movie which follows the lives of The Chola dynasty and is set during the 10th century and focuses on crown prince Aditha Karikalan played by Vikram who tasks his closest friend Vallavaraiyan Vanthiyathevan played by Karthi to stop a conspiracy that threatens the empire.
The trailers for this movie have been a bit misleading as they made the movie out to be some sort of epic war movie between kingdoms like Baahubali but instead stayed faithful to the source material Mani Ratnam, who co-wrote it with Elango Kumaravel and B. Jeyamohan has crafted a movie with genuinely interesting court intrigue.
The movie does have its share of battle sequences and action set pieces but where the movie truly shines is when it skillfully manages to show the political scheming and backstabbing that takes place.
In fact, it is when the movie tries to add commercial elements into the plot that the pacing of the movie suffers as most of the time the contract between these two elements is jarring and holds the movie back from achieving its true potential.
Especially since most of the action sequences feel average and at times very poorly edited, there is only one sequence that stood out which was at the start of the second half when Arulmozhi Varman and his troops invade Srilanka and there is a battle that is very reminiscent of the battle of Normandy beach from Saving Private Ryan.
Thankfully, the excellent acting on display distracts you from the movie's issues and is a highlight of the movie, this movie has a great ensemble cast, however, the standouts have to be Aishwarya Rai as Nandini is a treat to watch and is one the best performances of her career, speaking too much about her role in the movie will be spoiling the experience but it does feel good to see the actress in top form again.
Karthi as the lovable and sarcastic Vallavaraiyan Vanthiyathevan is the true heart of the movie as Karthi's effortless performance elevated every scene he is in.
Trisha as princess Kundavai was stunning, the actress did a great job and is a scene stealer thanks to a very nuanced and subtle performance.
Vikram as the crown prince Aditha Karikalan was solid but he never really stood out, Jayram Ravi Arulmozhi Varman also fits the part perfectly and it is clear that he will play a much bigger role in part two.
And finally, Jayram as Azhwarkadiyan Nambi added some much-needed levity to the movie, his on-screen chemistry with Karthiwas a standout.
The music by A. R. Rahman never really stood out and most of the background score felt like rehashes of different Hollywood movies, the Cinematography by Ravi Varman was fine except for some of the action set pieces.
Overall Ponniyin Selvan is a faithful and enjoyable adaption that needs to be experienced on the screen.