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Mani Ratnam’s spectacular adaptation of Ponniyin Selvan captures the intrigue and thrill of Kalki’s novels beautifully

Ponniyin Selvan: Part 1 Movie Summary: The Chola kingdom is threatened by both internal and external forces, and with Crown Prince Aaditha Karikalan, his younger brother Ponniyin Selvan, and the Emperor Sundara Cholar separated by situations, it falls to a messenger to ensure the kingdom’s security. Can he successfully complete his mission, especially with Karikalan’s former girlfriend Nandhini plotting to bring down the entire Chola Empire?

Ponniyin Selvan: Part 1 Movie review: Kalki’s Ponniyin Selvan is a sprawling epic that has proved difficult for many Tamil filmmakers to film, and Mani Ratnam finally brings the dream to life with this spectacular adaptation that captures the intrigue, thrill and page-turning quality of the books superbly. In this first of two parts, the director and his writers – Jeyamohan and Ilango Kumaravel – rise to the challenge.

The film gets off to a shaky start, with the director taking his time to build the plot. Crown Prince Aaditha Karikalan (Vikram) enlists his friend Vandhiyathevan (Karthi), his father and Emperor Sundara Cholar (Prakash Raj) and his sister, Princess Kunthavai (Trisha) to deliver a message about the threats facing the kingdom. The schemers include Periya Pazhuvettarayar (Sarath Kumar) and Chinna Pazhuvettarayar (Radhakrishnan Parthiban), the finance minister and commander of the empire, the numerous kings who have sworn allegiance to the emperor, the remaining forces of the defeated Pandya king, and most notably Nandhini ( Aishwarya). Rai Bachchan), Karikalan’s former lover and wife of Periya Pazhuvettarayar, who is determined to bring down the entire Chola Empire for reasons of her own.

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These parts, inevitably a little exposed given the nature of the plot, have quite jerky transitions when we are introduced to the numerous actors in the plot and the story between them. There are times when we feel like too many events are crammed into a short amount of time, which could make the plot difficult to follow for those who haven’t read the books. The quick character introductions also mean that we’re already moving on to the next character before we’ve fully grasped the motives of the one we’ve just been introduced to.

But then the movie starts to settle down, and when we reach the break point we find ourselves in this tale of palace intrigue. And as the action shifts to Sri Lanka, where Karikalan’s younger brother, Arunmozhi Varman (Jayam Ravi), the eponymous Ponniyin Selvan, tries to capture the country’s king, the pace picks up and the film races along with nail-biting sequences the bodyguards of the slain Pandya King – who land there to kill Arunmozhi – and the director takes the sequel to a high level.

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