Ponniyin Selvan-I: There is no guidebook to make a Chola period movie, researchers say – ThePrint
Mani Ratnam’s PS-1 has motivated senior citizens who had grown up listening to their parents read the novel trek over to cinema theatres after years.
It has been five decades since M.Kaveri first read Kalki Krishnamurthy’s novel Ponniyin Selvan in college, and her version of ‘who will play Vanthiyathevan on screen’ changed, as did her preference for Tamil cinema heroes..
Actor Karthi plays the colourful, flamboyant chieftain in the Chola Army in Mani Ratnam’s Ponniyin Selvan-1, which released on 30 September to much excitement..
The film has come at a time of a huge surge in interest and reclamation of the stories of the Chola kings in popular imagination and the celebration of the Chola period as the Golden Age of Tamils..
A theatre in Canada’s Oakville had said that the film was shaping up to be a “massive hit” and the “#1 best-selling film” in its 30-year history, with over 3,000 tickets sold for just the first four days of showtimes..
The character of Vanthiyathevan had captured Kaveri’s heart when she was only six years old.
She would listen to her mother read the novel out loud to the neighbourhood women in their village in Madurai and hang around when they discussed the different shades of the character Nandini, played by Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in the film..
Kaveri has read the whole novel, which runs to five volumes and when combined 2,300 pages, “at least 4-5 times.”.
Also read: Mani Ratnam’s magnum opus ‘Ponniyin Selvan -2’ release date set for 2023.
From 1950 to 1954, Ponniyin Selvan was serialised in the Kalki magazine, leaving an indelible mark on the minds of many readers in Tamil Nadu.
Many wondered for years who’d play their favourite characters if the story was ever adapted for screen.
It was no surprise then that director Mani Ratnam’s PS-1 motivated senior citizens who had grown up listening to their parents tell them the story trek over to cinema theatres after years.
“I loved the film!” exclaimed Kaveri, who quietly complained about the IMAX prices in Bengaluru where she now lives with her son and daughter-in-law.
“Mani Ratnam must have loved the story too since whoever is on screen at any given point fully occupies our heart.”.
Sriram said in a video on his YouTube channel.
By 1950, when the Ponniyin Selvan story, a historical fiction, began to be printed, that number had shot up to 73,000 for every issue.
“That was the impact of the novel on the magazine and the reading public,” said Sriram.
“At the end of the novel, when Kalki showed Rajaraja not ascending the throne but handing it over to Madurantaka Uttama Chola, the public was angry and disappointed.
They even wrote letters to Kalki and he had to explain to them, but that was history.”.
Post-independent India was looking for heroes, and role models it could take to, and Rajaraja became that role model,” he said..
In one of the promotions ahead of the film’s release, actor Sobhita Dhulipala was hailed for schooling an India Today journalist, when he said he was “shocked” to know that there was such “little information” on the Chola Dynasty..
To his question on why it has taken so long to discover a dynasty that is part of “our history”, Dhulipala countered: “What does it mean when you say, ‘our history’?”.
She said that the British presence in India was also a part of Indian history, as much as Cholas, Pallavas or the Mughals..
“Borders are porous and history has proved that stories that become immortal are stories that must be taken forward and celebrated,” said the actress.
“This is one such story.”.
Literary translator Suchitra Ramachandran, who had watched the film twice with elderly family members, said the Ponniyin Selvan story was about “people, ideals and values.”.
It presents the conflicts of the Mahabharata with the earnestness of the Ramayana,” she wrote, adding that the story keeps the “conflict of values alive.”.
They are the values of Tamil culture as we know it today,” she wrote..
Many who had read the books and were invested in the story had strong opinions on what they saw on screen: some mesmerised, some critical..
Historian Nivedita Louis said the scene where Kundavai meets Vanthiyathevan for the first time, etched vividly in her “teenage imagination.”.
It was a “classic love at first sight” scene, Louis said, sculpted to “perfection” by Kalki.
“His describing the beauty of Kundavai and how a flower came between her delicate face and Vanthiyathevan’s vision,” she said.
“Mani Ratnam’s PS-1 fails miserably as this scene has been weeded out from the movie,” she complained..
“The movie gives a feel as if there is a Royal ball in some North Indian kingdom and all are dressed to the hilt for it!” she said..
It was definitely quite the task to recreate furniture, jewellery, food, clothes and even armoury from the Chola period, said research consultant S.
“There is no ‘one book’ that can be a guidebook to make a Chola period movie,” he said..
There are historical references on the kings, their importance, the lineage and the chronology, all recorded meticulously by the historian K.A. Nilakanta Sastri, “but he does not speak about food, clothes, vessels, furniture in detail, these are important for the movie,” said Jayakumar.
Jayakumar spoke about one of the challenges: “We have inscriptions and copper plates of the Cholas talking about the battles, but you don’t have any data on the kind of army that they had at the time that Ponniyin Selvan story was taking place.” The discussions involved identifying references to the kind of weapon used, the kinds of battle formation in place and so on..
For that, we had to go to some literary sources either from contemporary times or time before that,” he said..
As for Kaveri, sixty years after she first heard the story, she is excited for part-two.
“The next big mystery is how will they combine the remaining three parts into one film,” she said.
This is my next big wait.”.
Now, Rani is looking for the right time to ask her daughter: “Can we watch the film again?”.
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