Ponniyin Selvan films have retained book’s core content: Mani Ratnam

The man behind the magnum opus, Ponniyin Selvan-1 in a tête-à-tête with DT Next talks about how Kalki's five-volume epic novel has been packed into two parts and how a good cast helps in getting half the job done.
A scene from 'Ponniyin Selvan' set
A scene from 'Ponniyin Selvan' set

CHENNAI: With less than 36 hours left for what is touted to be one of the biggest Indian films ever made, the man behind it, Mani Ratnam is calm and composed as always when he meets us at his Madras Talkies office in the city. We tell him about the demand for tickets, he smiles and keeps it short, "I'm glad. I'm glad that it is doing well."

Finally the jinx of Tamil cinema's dream project that has been attempted several times for the last six and a half decades has been broken by the filmmaker. "I don't believe in jinx. If it was to be made, it would have been definitely made. Good that it wasn't made before as it gave me an opportunity to make."

Mani Ratnam himself had attempted thrice to make the film before things fell in place for him 2019. "Be it the 90s and 2019, the politics, the issues and the characters in it are relevant even today. The story, which is 1,000 years old was written by Kalki 60 years ago. It is one of the best sellers in book fairs all these years. It has been relevant through several decades, which is why Ponniyin Selvan is a classic. We did not have much to do when it came to the on-screen adaptation of the novel. That gave me the confidence to go ahead with the film. Also, for people who have watched it, they will know that we have retained the heart of the book and the rhythm is maintained. For people who haven't read it, PS-1 will open up on a new adventure and the journey," the filmmaker opens up.

The crew shot predominantly during the third wave of the pandemic from January to March 2021. On the availability of props and other set work that the team needed, Mani Ratnam says that they were practical when it came to work. "This was one of the first offices that closed when the lockdown was announced. We resumed shoot when there were relaxations and took off to Hyderabad. We took all precautions and everyone in the unit was suited with PPE kit as our actors had to shoot without them. Having said that pandemic is not an excuse for us to deliver a product with even the least of compromises," he adds.

The film has as many as 15 lead characters, who Mani Ratnam believes made his work easier. "Getting the right cast is half the job done. Casting is really important that cannot be done in one go. I needed the right artiste and their availability. It was a process of finding the right one who can deliver," he says.

Even when reading the novel for the first time, Mani Ratnam felt that Kalki has written it for the big screen. "Be it the location or the adventures, everything is out there and I felt it has been written for the big screen experience. The audience may have consumed a lot of OTT content in the last two years. But people would want to watch PS-1 on the big screen," he concludes.

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