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Ponniyin Selvan 2: Don’t  Try This  At  Home Without Guidance



Ponniyin Selvan 2

Ponniyin Selvan 2

Rating: ** ½

Mani Ratnam’s sprawling visually plush  two-part  Ponniyin Selvan has ended.I say this with a  sigh of  relief. The  downpour of  plot  twists  and  torrent of   characters, all  abiding by no  fixed  law  of  existence, left me exhausted, in a good way.

Where  but in Mani Ratnam’s  epic excursion would  you get such a  torrent  of  events. It is  as though the  Gods have conspired to  lay bare a treasury  of  lost  events  from a time when  dynasties fought  their battles with the sword and didn’t mind  squandering their might in a game of  thorns plucked from man’s(and in this case woman’s) very basic need to  possess what is rightfully not theirs.

From the  cornucopia of characters it is  Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s  Nandini, the Queen designate whose hunger for power is  matched by her anger at  the loss  of  love , which stands  out. Aishwarya looks every  inch the regal presence she is meant to. She is not just  right  visually, she  also imbues  her enigmatic  character with  a supple and subtle  sensuality.

Sadly the  other  female characters  who had  a  strong  presence in Part 1, like Trisha  and Aishwarya  Lekshmi are reduced to mere props. Sobhita Dhulipala  barely gets  a word in edgewise, and  I am not  complaining.

There is little room for  characters  to grow beyond their greed and ambitious in this epic saga, so textured in design that  every costume and jewellery seems to say something about director Mani Ratnam’s  commitment to filling  up spaces with  a splendor  and grace that ,for once, doesn’t remind us of Sanjay Leela Bhansali.

Ponnyin Selvan 1 and now  2  are a feast for the  senses. The real hero of the  film, besides the maverick Mani Ratnam, are the cinematographer Ravi Varman and the art director Thota Tharani.

Legends  of  the sprawl,  the two technicians  bring to life Ratnam’s dreamscape. The  horses gallop with a  stunning  swag . The women as they  move  across landscapes  that  speak of centuries of bloodshed and  plunder , rustle in their secretive silks as  if to temper  the torrent of virile validation.

But A R Rahman’s music is  a massive letdown. It is  soul-less and worse,  pointless, generating music and songs that are as period as vinyl record players.

I wish Mani Ratnam would have allowed the  characters  to  breathe  more easily. This  could have  only been possible  if there were less of them. The film is populated with  enough  characters  to fill up a  large village. A  majority of them  don’t get to  register as  people. A  blur of  large-scale  intrigue  ignites the film’s populous predilection but doesn’t really give the  canvas  the burnished brilliance that rightfully belongs to the storytelling.

 A word  on the male actors. They are either  grimacing or repenting, depending on whom they are with , or what they are without. Karthi’s  flirty  Vallavaraiyan Vandiyadevan actually tells  Aishwarya’s Nandini, ‘Even when you are crying you are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.’ Whoa!

Vikram as  Nandini’s long-suffering love interest Aditha Karikalan  seems  to be caught in an emoting expedition that sadly  takes him nowhere.

It is  Jayam Ravi in  the  title role who shoots  the breeze with manly grace.A  lot of the characters could have been  cut out from the crowded canvas  without  making making a difference to  the core romance. The war for the  kingdoms are ever-renewable. But an endless love  like the one shared by Nandini and Aditha is  hard to find. Even in cinema.

A  warning:  don’t try watching  Ponniyin Selvan at home on  the digital platform. It would be like watching  a storm in a teacup.Also, if possible read  the  original novel by Kalki  Krishnamurthy before  getting into this  dynastic quandary.

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