Hava Nagila!

Everything does pass, and we can endure and we can survive!! – Rahul Dravid

Mani’s mistakes in Ponniyin Selvan

There are very few people who havent been mesmerised by these lines. “ஆதி அந்தமில்லாத கால வெள்ளத்தில் கற்பனை ஓடத்தில் ஏறி நம்முடன் சிறிது நேரம் பிரயாணம் செய்யுமாறு நேயர்களை அழைக்கிறோம்.விநாடிக்கு ஒரு நூற்றாண்டு வீதம் எளிதில் கடந்து இன்றைக்குத் தொள்ளாயிரத்து எண்பத்திரண்டு (1950ல் எழுதியது) ஆண்டுகளுக்கு முந்திய காலத்துக்குச் செல்வோமாக.” They mark the beginning of an epic – Ponniyin Selvan!

MGR, Kamalahasan and now Maniratnam have tried and then shelved it. What is it about Ponniyin Selvan that makes such big names, including an ace director like Mani shelve it?

The reason that Mani gave was that it is financially an unfeasible film. A film about a South Indian hero would surely not fetch much in North Indian and worldwide markets. Essentially Ponniyin Selvan only has the Tamil audience and to depend mainly on one ethnic group of audience for a film’s success would be irrational and is a risky affair. While this reason is very much plausible, I sense that it is not complete.

I very strongly feel that it is not only the financial aspect that made Mani shelve it. Among Tamils, Ponniyin Selvan is a rage; it is a cult – for both readers and listeners. I have not known anyone who has heard or read it and says that they do not like it. For anyone who is associated with Ponniyin Selvan, it is a part of their lives. The characters are more like our friends, some like our enemies and in a movie we want justification to every incident that Kalki wrote. When a director like Mani announces the movie, expectations reach Pluto and beyond. It is very difficult even for someone like Mani to live closely up to this. One simply cannot swim in the Niagara. Mani is no Poonguzhali. 🙂

Ponniyin Selvan demands very aggressive and perfect casting. It requires someone of the caliber of Gufi Paintal (the one who did the casting for the epic serial Mahabharat) or a team like Susie Figgis, Janet Hirshenson, Jane Jenkins and Karen Lindsay-Stewart (those who did the casting for Harry Potter Part 1) to do the casting. Mani’s major mistake was that he cast Vijay in the role of Vanthiyathevan. No, I am not against Vijay and I am someone who firmly believes that Mani can make anyone act. In Ponnyin Selvan, though Vanthiyathevan is the central character, it is Arulmozhi Varman (later Rajaraja chozhan) who is larger than life. Although unstated, the story revolves around him. If Mani intended casting Vijay as Vanthiyathevan, he needed to cast someone larger than Vijay as Arulmozhi Varman. The only actors who are larger than Vijay in Tamil industry are Rajini and Kamal. Now, imagine that! Imagine the problems in that! No one in their right mind can accept either Rajini or Kamal as Arulmozhi Varman. We can accept them like we accepted Sivaji in Rajaraja chozhan – as the matured Rajaja Chozhan, not as the young and dashing Arulmozhi Varman.

Even better must be the casting of Kundavai. Tamil cinema currently does not possess a Poonguzhali. And where in the world do we search for Nandini? In the history of Tamil cinema, Neelambari of Padyappa is a pivotal landmark essayed by Ramya Krishnan. Azhagum thimurum serndha character! Which is why they wanted Aiswarya Rai for the role! Neelambari was only a small figment of inspiration from Nandini. Imagine portraying Nandini herself!! Much of Ponniyin Selvan revolves around the duels between Nandini and Kundavai. The fights between a female snake and a tigress should be brought out brilliantly. Arulmozhi Varman stands on Nandini’s villainy. The better the portrayal of Nandini, the better Arulmozhi Varman will be.

Now all these people must be actors who are larger than Vijay. Mani surely will struggle for such actors and their images. Casting for a film like Ponniyin Selvan should be done on the likes of Harry Potter. An auditioning and choosing of lesser known actors can make Ponniyin Selvan successful. Actors should be born out of Ponniyin Selvan! This is something that Mani did for Roja and Alaipayuthey. He unearthed Arvind Saamy and Madhavan. But he doesn’t want to take the risk for Ponniyin Selvan – the miseries of ageing!

Nothing can be missed! Readers are extremely aware of even the most intricate details of the 5 part novel. If this movie came out, people would evaluate Maniratnam on this! Mani is not someone who is used to such evaluation. He has set his own standard and cannot move into a new sphere at this stage.

Also, the task of making a five part novel into a 3 hour movie is, more than anything else – injustice. Ponniyin Selvan can be successful if it is attempted in parts, like Harry Potter or The Lord of The Rings. Or Mani can even attempt smaller parts of it. Like he made Thalapathy. Thalapathy is an offshoot of a story from The Mahabharata. It is an inspiration of the character called Karna. Thalapathy was a contemporary flick. A period film on the same lines can be attempted. A part of Ponniyin Selvan can be made into a movie by a director of the caliber of Mani.

Add to this the regional phenomenon, the financial constraints, the toil in creating really large sets, involvement of extremely skilled swordsmanship, horse riding, the struggle in recreating forests and very strenuous stunt scenes, the list extends by a few more elements.  Amidst all these factors making such a magnum opus a success is quite a tough task; read impossible.

 Walking across the Niagara on a tightrope is talent, not doing it is intelligence! 🙂 Mani is intelligent.

Advertisements

14 comments on “Mani’s mistakes in Ponniyin Selvan

  1. Vaspre
    June 28, 2011

    Very well written. I agree with you a 100%. While it is true that period films, specific to one region of the country will have limited audience making it an unprofitable business, another huge hurdle in making such films is the casting…The characters in Ponniyin selvan are so powerful, that it might be difficult for people to accept well established actors who have already been stereotyped. Also, it requires actors who are very fluent in ‘good’ tamil…ponniyin selvan is known for it sharp dialogues that haunt you long after you’ve read the book…and the anglicized tamil of today will just not do any justice…. not to mention many actors don’t even know tamil, let alone the ‘pure’ tamil of yester years. I think if this film was deemed impossible in the days of MGR, Shivaji Ganesan, Savitri, Gemini Ganesan, K.R. Vijaya, Padmini, Ragini, Ranga Rao, Nambiar and a whole lot of other superb actors of that time, who spoke impeccable tamil, and were actors par excellence, it is highly unlikely that it will realize today, or in the future. Some books are probably best left alone, and enjoyed reading…Another biggest hurdle in making it successful is the fact that when a book has been read and re-read for over 60 years, it gets internalized and every character, place and situation in the book has already been visualized by the reader in his/her imagination. It is next to impossible to recreate the imagination of every reader/viewer.

  2. Meenakshi
    February 10, 2012

    Agreed Vaspre that some books are best left alone. 🙂 But I dont agree that people cant speak Tamil these days. Now a days, actors work very hard to get into the skin of the character. People learn Kungfu, Kalari and all. Tamil also, they will learn. 🙂 I will surely like to see Ponniyin Selvan like Harry Potter essentially because it showcases our great culture. The world will know it, if we make the movie.

  3. Aarthi Raghavan
    November 30, 2012

    Hi, I totally agree with you. But I also thought how it would be if it was made into an animated series. Wouldn’t that be nice? We could make the characters look perfect and have people who know tamil very well to dub it. Right?

    • Meenakshi
      November 30, 2012

      that is a nice idea as well…. but how many elders would actually watch it? wouldnt it be limited to children?

      • Aarthi Raghavan
        May 16, 2013

        You never know! Probably they would also watch just because it is Ponniyin Selvan. Also, Rajnikanth is doing an animated movie. Isn’t everyone – childern to adults – waiting to watch it?

    • Meenakshi
      May 17, 2013

      People are waiting to and will watch Kochadayaan because it is a Rajini movie…. not because it is animated…. 🙂 🙂 But it is a good idea to make Ponniyin Selvan animated…. perhaps some studio will read this post and your idea and will start thinking…. 🙂 🙂

      • Aarthi Raghavan
        June 24, 2013

        Yep! Probably!

  4. Arun Annamalai
    January 4, 2013

    Happened to see ur blog on ur colleague’s recommendation and was pleasantly surprised on seeing an article on Ponnyin Selvan.
    U hit the nail right on its head, to compress an epic of this standard to a 3hrs movie is injustice to the epic and also about the choice of actors. I too had the same thoughts, but not in finer details as yours.

    Happy Blogging.

  5. sruthi
    April 29, 2014

    I am huge fan of ponniyin selvan.and always wondered why it was not made as a movie.what i feel is sivakarthikeyan will suit perfectecly the role of vandiyathevan as he is charming as well as witty

    • Venkat
      June 15, 2014

      That was nice Hook.. LOL

  6. Venkat
    June 15, 2014

    Evidently, Had a chance to watch the Entire Epic(Ponniyin Selvan) as stage Drama in chennai. It was for 3.5hrs. It was a brilliant effort to bring the entire scenarios inside a Small stage which Mani R was trying to do, even Director Shankar was present for this show.

    If they could make it on a Stage, definitely Shankar or Mani would bring it to the Silver Screen.

    The beauty was the casting, Poonguzhali’s Character was done by a Kalari Master(Female), she was brilliant enough to bring the exact character as portrayed by Kalki. Aditya Karikalan was enacted by Pasupathy, etc.,

    The Below URL would give some pics about the stage play

    http://www.hindustantimes.com/lifestyle/art/ponniyin-selvan-a-few-glitches-but-spectacular-indeed/article1-1227574.aspx

  7. Gowtham
    July 8, 2015

    I cant accept that it will be impossible for mani sir. i think he could rethink about the cast. I hope these combinations will suit the best.
    Arya – Vandhiyathevan
    Ramcharan – Aditha Karikalan
    Vikram – Arulmozhivarman
    Jeeva – Kandhamaaran
    Anuska – Kundhavai
    Kajal – Nandhini (mandhagini as well)
    Nayanthara – Poongulali
    Udhayanithi – Chendhan amudhan
    Sarath kumar – Sundara cholan
    Hansika – Vaanathi
    Vinai – Parthibendran
    Atul Kulkarni – Ravidhasan
    Prakashraj – Periya Pazhuvettaraiyar

    • Deepak raj Sundar
      March 8, 2017

      i would like a small change in cast , anushka — kundavai and
      nayanthara — nandhini
      Naaser — periya pazhuvettaiyar (if nambiyar was there , no need to argue for that role at all)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Information

This entry was posted on June 20, 2011 by in Thoughts and tagged , , , , , .

Top Rated

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 29 other followers

Archives

Archives By Calendar

June 2011
M T W T F S S
« May   Aug »
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  
%d bloggers like this: