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Ponniyin Selvan Is A Pain In The  You-Know-What

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Ponniyin Selvan

Ponniyin Selvan 1(Hindi dubbed)

Starring Vikram, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Jayam Ravi, Karthi, Trisha, Aishwarya Lekshmi, Sobhita Dhulipala

Directed by Mani Ratnam

Rating: **

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.

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(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.

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