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How Ponniyin Selvan: I, Made Me Curious About The Chola Empire

Ponniyin Selvan: I, based on the mighty Chola Empire, is successful in throwing some light on one of the most well-established kingdoms of our nation. Here are some facts you should know about!

The Chola, and Pandya dynasties of southern India were two of the longest-ruling dynasties in the world history, with their individual total ruling span ranging for around 1500 years!

About the Chola empire

• Established in 300s BCE
• Rise of the medieval Cholas took place in 848 CE
• Empire was at its greatest extent in 1030 CE
• Disestablished in 1279 CE

Chalukyas, Cheras and Rashtrakutas were other prominent dynasties that existed in southern India during the aforementioned time span.

Sadly, there is just a passing mention of these dynasties in our history syllabus at school and the nation in general is in the dark about their glory!

Thanks to the sheer guts and mammoth efforts of Mani Ratnam, the director and producer of Ponniyin Selvan: I and his team, who chose to dive deep into 1000 years plus old history and created the celluloid representation of Kalki Krishnamurthy’s 1955 novel with the same name.

My observations while watching the film

  • It has top of the line cast and crew and everyone has performed quite well, but don’t expect it to be a pulsating CGI rich film like Baahubali 1 (2015), and Baahubali 2 (2017).

The approach of making this film is different from that of Baahubali series. It is based around the 10th century, when the rise of the medieval Cholas was in progress amidst myriad challenges.

  • Within the first hour, in order to introduce all the prime characters and their locations, the film throws in your face a spate of difficult to pronounce and understand names of people and unheard of places. It confuses you like crazy; but eventually you get the hang of it.

Personally, upon returning home, I googled all the places in the film and scouted their position on an Indian map, for better understanding.

I also googled the political maps of Cholas, as well as, Pandyas and Rashtrakutas, the other two dynasties which play a prominent part in the film.

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Please consider it as the limitations of a North Indian. However, I loved the learning process, and it gave me a lot of clarity.

  • Please don’t watch the film with the expectation of seeing the Aishwarya of Jodhaa Akbar (2008).

She is still the alluring queen, and adorns heavy and exquisite Jadau jewellery, albeit the karigiri here is South Indian and not Mughal. And no one can wear such jewels better than her.

In both the movies, she is wise, dignified, but she as Mandakini here is not coy or romantic, but secretive and strategic. Also, there is a gap of 10 plus years between both the movies. A slice of youth has the tendency to slide away in a decade.

  • The women appear more confident and tactful in the film than men.

However, Karthi as Vallavaraiyan Vanthiyathevan has the best role, and he performs it with good energy and comic timing.

  • In spite of svelte and strong presences of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Trisha, Aishwarya Lekshmi, and Sobhita Dhulipala, the film is devoid of romance.

All of them love someone. But though apparent, it’s basically in their heart and mind, and yet to bloom in full!

Whenever possible, Karthi alone flirts harmlessly with everyone!

  • The film has 6 songs. A couple of screen frames are quite big scale and impactful.
  • Cinematography, art direction and editing of the film are quite impressive.
  • At the end of it all, the film does not look complete. So what if it’s a prequel? A prequel in itself should be a complete package of sensible entertainment.

The plot

Chola Emperor, Sundara Chozhar (Prakash Raj), is ill and bedridden. For kingdom expansion, he sends his elder son, Prince Aditha Karikalan (Vikram), to Kanchi via the land route, and younger son, Prince Arulmozhi Varman (Jayam Ravi), to Lanka via the sea route.

Both the gallant princes are successful in their respective conquests, but all of their lives and kingdom are in danger from multiple sources.

They are –

  • The devout bodyguards of King Veerapandiyan (Nassar) of Pandya dynasty, who was beheaded in a battle by Prince Aditha, are in constant look out to avenge their dead king.
  • Led by Chola Treasurer Periya Pazhuvettaraiyar (R. Sarathkumar), a group of Chola chieftains are conspiring to usurp Prince Aditha’s right to ascend to the throne.

Instead, they want to make his uncle, Madurantakan (Rahman), the immediate next king.

  • Post Prince Arulmozhi conquest of Lanka, though he declines the throne, King Mihindu V (Shyam Fernando) of Lanka sees him as a dire threat and sends his men to sabotage and kill him on his way back to his father.

Amidst all this, Karthi, who plays the part of Prince Aditha’s detective-cum-messenger, sent to find out about the conspiracy in progress, and inform the same to Princess Kundavai (Trisha), and Emperor Sundar. The princess further sends him to Prince Arulmozhi for an update on affairs, and his safe return.

In the meantime, the intelligent and politically active princess keeps the civil unrest and plotting at rest, while Mandakini is busy influencing her husband, the Chola Treasure’s political decisions, and her own pursuit of justice.

Given the complexity of the subject, the film is quite well-made, though it has its limitations.

Am I looking forward to the sequel?

Hell yes, I am!

I am very much interested to see the chain of events that led to the golden period of Chola dynasty. Also, how will such golden period be depicted?

I want to see the evident mysteries being solved. I want to see the romance and chemistry between 4 evident pairs and I hope they transform on screen in true blue Mani Ratnam style, that is soulful and passionate, like Roja (1992), Bombay (1995), and Dil Se (1998).

Also, I want to see how their royal food table looked like? For some reason, no such scene was present in the entire film.

Image source: Still from the film, Ponniyin Selvan: I, edited on CanvaPro

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Prity Poddar

Prity Poddar is the leading vegetarian Food Blogger of Kolkata. She pens her food posts on her food blog and thirty plus local, national and international food groups and multi social media platforms, like – Facebook, read more...

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