‘We have kept Ponniyin Selvan as real and authentic as possible’

In the presence of the filmmaker Mani Ratnam, the lead cast of Ponniyin Selvan-1 open up on what went behind the making of the biggest ever Tamil movie. The actors comment on their characters and the challenges that came with it, while the maverick filmmaker explains why the film will be much more than the glimpses that we have seen so far.
(L-R) Rahman, Jayam Ravi, Mani Ratnam, Trisha Krishnan, Karthi, and Vikram Prabhu
(L-R) Rahman, Jayam Ravi, Mani Ratnam, Trisha Krishnan, Karthi, and Vikram Prabhu

CHENNAI: The venue of Ponniyin Selvan-1 press meet was lit with the presence of Tamil cinema’s biggest names. Not because of their market value or the magnanimity of the budget the magnum opus was made.

The camaraderie between the lead actors who have put together a huge show for Mani Ratnam were seen pulling each other’s leg and cracking jokes.

Jayam Ravi, Karthi and Vikram Prabhu were seen in long kurtas while Trisha Krishnan was spotted in a green gown and actor Rahman was wearing a red shirt.

However, things came to a standstill and there was silence all around as Mani Ratnam entered from the lift and the team walked in for a chat with us. For the unversed, Karthi plays Vandhiyathevan, Jayam Ravi plays the titular role of Ponniyin Selvan aka Rajaraja Cholan, Trisha plays Kundavai, Vikram Prabhu plays Parthibendra Pallavan and Rahman plays Madurantaka aka Uttama Cholan. Here are some excerpts from the interview.

Mani Ratnam: When I first read the book, I had not visualised any of the characters and was blank. Also at that point in time I did not have an idea of converting the book into a movie. However, when these actors came on board, they put their best foot forward in bringing those characters into life. We travelled together easily. Also, the movie is completely based on Kalki’s version. We did an intense research before we made the movie. Making a five volume book into a two-part movie isn’t an easy thing. The teaser and the trailer are only the glimpses. The film has much more in it.

Karthi: I put my faith behind Mani sir to play Vandhiyathevan. Before I entered the sets, I presumed that dialogues would be the most difficult part. Mani sir guided me and it wasn’t. When it comes to epic films, Sivaji sir’s Raja Raja Cholan stands out and there will be comparisons. We have stayed true to what we have done and have kept it as real as it could be. Characters in the novel have unique traits and we have gone by that. They speak in specific tone and have modulations. We adapted to it and haven’t exaggerated or gone beyond the meter.

Jayam Ravi: Growing my hair for the film for over two years, is something unforgettable. During the lockdown I was putting out videos on social media playing with my hair. I was emptying my wife Aarthi’s shampoos and conditioners. Also, maintaining it was a huge difficulty. I have curly hair and it grows straight and not sideways. I also had to spend a lot of time in the vanity van in setting it right

Trisha: When Mani sir first narrated the script, the Tamil in it was quite difficult for me ‘vaai laye nozhayala edhume’. When we started off the shoot, there was a lot of prep that happened. We sat with Mani sir and gave a lot of readings. For instance, if I had a scene with Karthi, Mani sir, me, and Karthi will sit together and read it several times. At a point in time, even I was convinced with the ‘Senthamizh’ that I have spoken for my role of Kundavai. All thanks to his rehearsals, we were able to pull it off. When the lockdown happened, we had enough time to practice as well. It was half a year of workshop we all were put in to look and play the part.

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