Ponniyin Selvan brings back the glory of a great Tamil era

The first of the mega series on the big screen today- September 30, 2022

Ponniyin Selvan I relives the greatest Tamil novel

Venkat Raman
Auckland, September 30, 2022

Ponniyin Selvan, one of the greatest novels of all time, which defied the efforts of many stalwarts including the late M G Ramachandran (MGR) to create it in film format, finally comes out of the floors on September 30, 2022.

Ponniyin Selvan, the Movie

Ponniyin Selvan: I has been directed by Mani Ratnam, who wrote the screen story with Elango Kumaravel and B Jeyamohan.

Mani Ratnam is the producer of the film with Subaskaran Allirajah under the Madras Talkies and Lyca Productions banner.

As the name indicates, it is the first of two cinematic parts that has an ensemble of stars- Vikram, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Jayam Ravi, Karthi, Trisha, Aishwarya Lekshmi, Sobhita Dhulipala, Prabhu, Sarath Kumar, Vikram Prabhu, Jayaram, Prakash Raj, Rahman and Ra Parthiban.

A R Rahman has composed the music while Ravi Varman is the cinematographer.

The film has been edited by A Sreekar Prasad and the sets have been designed by Thota Tharani.

The Challenges

The adaptation of the novel into a feature film was proposed by several filmmakers in Tamil cinema ever since the novel gained popularity but did not materialise mostly due to financial constraints. MGR attempted in the late 1950s and failed, Mani Ratnam did so in the mid-1990s and early-2010s but was not successful. Stating it as his ‘dream project,’ he revived his attempt in January 2019, with Lyca Productions coming on board with funds. After several changes in the cast and crew, the film began production in mid-December and was completed by September 2021, despite production being halted twice during the Covid -19 pandemic. The film was shot in various places across India and briefly in Thailand.

Vivid Memories

I vividly remember my mentor, the First (and the last) Governor-General of Independent India and recipient of the first Bharata Ratna Award Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari (Rajaji) saying in 1954 that ‘Ponniyin Selvan’ will make a spectacular film that will make even people like me watch.”

I also remember vividly the response of readers to the serial written by Kalki Krishnamurthy, one of the founders of Kalki (one of the finest Tamil weekly magazines published in Chennai). Thousands of people awaited the arrival of a new issue every Thursday, just to read the serial.

Ponniyin Selvan boasts of an ensemble of stars

The historic fiction, which appeared every week from October 29 1950 to May 16, 1954, was later published as a five-part book in 1955.

Each of the 2210 pages carried the creative genius of Kalki.

Ponniyin Selvan narrates the early days of Arulmozhi Varman who later became the great Chola Emperor Rajaraja Chola I (947-1014).

Kalki visited Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) three times to gather information for the serial.

The Greatest Novel

Ponniyin Selvan is widely considered by many to be the greatest novel ever written in Tamil literature. The craze for the series which was published weekly was such that it elevated the magazine circulation to reach a staggering figure of 71,366 copies – no mean achievement in a newly independent India.

Even today, the novel has a cult following and fan base among people of all generations. The book continues to be admired and garner critical acclaim for its tightly woven plot, vivid narration, the wit of the dialogue, and how the power struggle and intrigues of the Chola empire were depicted.

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