With the release of Ponniyin Selvan II, all the pieces of Mani Ratnam’s magnum opus will come together, said acclaimed actor Vikram on Tuesday. The actor, who plays Aditha Karikalan in the pan-India film, said the team didn’t think the first part of the historical fiction drama, based on Kalki Krishnamurthy’s 1955 Tamil novel of the same name, will break “all records in south”. What they knew was that it would be received well as it was true to the Tamil culture.
“We are very confident (about part two). The (part one of the) film was loved in Tamil because it was very true to what was written all those years ago. And they loved that. So there was no misinterpretation. We didn’t change anything. The second part that we are doing now, there are certain endings that we are leaving open,” Vikram told reporters at a press conference in Delhi.
The two-part Ponniyin Selvan chronicles the story of the early days of Arulmozhivarman (Jayam Ravi), one of the most powerful kings in the south, who went on to become the great Chola emperor Rajaraja Chola I.
Ponniyin Selvan I: the highest-grossing Tamil film of 2022
Ponniyin Selvan I was praised for its aesthetic value and layered characters and was reported as the highest-grossing Tamil film of 2022. Vikram said the whole cast would be ready to reprise their roles if Ratnam ever makes a third part.
“If Mani sir asks us to come back for Ponniyin Selvan 3, we’ll all be there,” he added. The actor also spoke about why the movie perhaps did better in the south than in the Hindi-speaking belt. “Whenever we are releasing the film we never go with Will this work? You think it’s going to work, no matter how bad the film is from anybody’s point of view. The kind of response we got for part one, we weren’t surprised. We didn’t think that it would break all records in the south or Tamil Nadu, especially, but we knew it was going to do well… Second part is what everybody would want to see,” Vikram added.
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The actor was speaking at a press conference ahead of the film’s release on April 28. He was accompanied by co-stars Ravi, Karthi, Trisha Krishnan, Aishwarya Lekshmi and Sobhita Dhulipala. Karthi, who plays Vallavaraiyan Vandiyadevan in the film franchise, also elaborated on his recent comments during the film’s promotions where he said audiences in the north found Ponniyin Selvan I difficult to follow.
“It’s only from the feedback I received from my friends here. And then I had to explain the story to them and sent them the WhatsApp forwards of the simple gist of the story. It was just a paragraph and after that they were able to follow and it became easier,” said the actor.
PS 2 set to be bigger
The second part of Ponniyin Selvan offers a “recap” of the first installment to the viewers which will make it “easier to follow” the story, he added. “The faces are also familiar, so you don’t have to remember the names. You know who’s where and what they are doing. PS II is going to be much much easier to follow. PS I has done enough to set up PS 2 to go bigger,” Karthi said.
The confusion, Vikram said, was perhaps to do with names more than anything else. Even he had a tough time remembering the names of the characters during the dubbing process.
“Like I couldn’t get some of the names I was saying right. Dubbing used to be a torture for me. I couldn’t get the names, so I could imagine… they all sound alike… It must be like Chinese for you.
“Most of you are not familiar with us on the Hindi screen, but like I said, after watching the first part there shouldn’t be any confusion. There’ a recap and Amazon (Prime Video – where the first part is streaming) can always help you,” he added. Ravi said playing the title role was a “big responsibility”.
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“Down south, this is an epitome of a character. They look at him as God, the ruler of the rulers, that’s why Rajaraja means king of kings. Mani sir called me and said I don’t worry about other characters… what he meant was I can handle every other character, but (in) this you have to bring something. You go and live as Rajaraja Chola for six months,” he added.
After a lot of soul-searching, the actor said, he found there were some similarities between him and the real Ponniyin Selvan. “One day, I came and he asked,” Did you come up with something?” I said Sir, Ponniyin Selvan had a brother and a sister. I too have a brother and a sister. I don’t think in the thousand odd years the emotion of a brother to a sister has changed. Mothers’ love for a son never changed. Humanity has taken the core of emotions intact all through the years, so I just had to replicate them properly,” said Ravi.
While the men fight all the wars in the Ponniyin Selvan films, it is the women who run the show in the palace trying to keep the kingdom intact. Trisha said the second chapter of the franchise will see women rule in all their glory. “Part one was an introduction of every character. Part two is when the story actually begins. If you think the women were very powerful and empowered in part one, it will be a notch above in part two,” the actor, who plays Kundavai, said.
Championing female characters
Through Ponniyin Selvan, Sobhita said the team got an opportunity to champion female characters. The films mark her foray into Tamil cinema. “We had the chance to show the strength and grit of a woman under pressure with grace, which happens a lot in real life,” the actor, who plays Vaanathi, said.
During the promotions, the stars also talked about losing the verified blue ticks on Twitter. Ravi and Trisha changed their names to their characters Arunmozhi Varman and Kundavai on the microblogging site, following which they lost their verification mark.
“We were all supposed to change our names. Ravi and I, like over-enthusiastic people, did it first and lost the blue tick. We don’t know the reason behind it but the team is working on reviving it…
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“They are refusing to let us purchase it because we changed our names. We tried doing that as well this morning. It says suspicious activity because we changed our names,” Trisha said.
“Hum abhi humare character verification mein hain. Baad mein name verification pe aayenge. (We are working on our character verification, we will come to name verification later),” Ravi quipped.
Also starring Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Prakash Raj, and Jayaram, Ponniyin Selvan II will be released worldwide in Tamil, along with the dubbed versions in Hindi, Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam.
(With Agency inputs)