Ponniyin Selvan 1(Hindi dubbed)
Starring Vikram, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Jayam Ravi, Karthi, Trisha, Aishwarya Lekshmi, Sobhita Dhulipala
Directed by Mani Ratnam
I wish I could say, this film does full justice to the original 1955 Tamil novel , that it brings the mighty Mani Ratnam back into the race after fall from grace, etc etc.
Tragically Ponnyin Selvan 1(PS1) is a huge disappointment . It is a wretchedly dull lifeless literary adaptation .Picture-perfect , but lifeless. A strange disturbing stillness resides at the soul of the film. It is as if Mani Ratnam could visualize the novel in his mindscape. But when it came to actually painting the images in his head on celluloid he concentrated all his energy on the visuals,thereby forfeiting the vital soul, without which the work is like the Taj Mahal without the moonlight.
There are dozens and dozens of characters swarming in this historical-mythological tale with tongue-twisting names. By the time you memorize the first bunch of names, the narration moves to another part of the fight for the throne in the Chola dynasty. The first-half is majorly focused on, let me get this right, Vanthiyathevan,played by Karthi who prances and skips around in a highly undignified way.
One minute he is flirting with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan(whom we can’t take our eyes off) , the next minute he laying it on thick with Trisha, then Trisha’s friend played by Sobhita Dhulipala who , we understand,is in love with the titular character played by Jayam Ravi who strikes a weak note in a cast filled with stalwarts , none more so than Vikram who is seen at battle in the beginning and then vanishes as Karthi takes over the narration.
(Please note the inordinate length of the above sentence. I am trying to mimic the mood of the movie).
We then get various other characters galloping into the horizon.But we are left with nothing but a muddle of a plot with nothing to hold on to except acres of enrapturing but dry unyielding expanse . Mani’s screenplay should have cut down on the hyper-activity and multiple characters from the original.In a book , readers have the luxury to go back and identify characters.In the film the network of relations among the characters remains hazy.
The storytelling is enjoyable only if you stop trying to figure out who’s who.
For those who don’t mind their patience tested beyond endurance Ponniyin Selvan 1 is a solid testing ground for how far one can go in pursuit of the centre of a plot. I didn’t find it. Best of luck with that to you.