Ponniyin Selvan II (2023)

Directed By: Mani Ratnam

Screenplay By: Mani Ratnam; B. Jeyamohan; Elango Kumaravel

Cast: Vikram; Aishwarya Rai Bachchan; Jayam Ravi; Karthi; Trisha; Jayaram; Rahman; Vikram Prabhu; Prakash Raj; Aishwarya Lekshmi; R. Sarathkumar; Sobhita Dhulipala; Prabhu; R. Parthiban; Lal; Kishore; Babu Antony; Nasser

Language: Tamil                                                   

Genre: Historical; Drama; Action

Run Time: 2 hours 45 minutes

Ponniyin Selvan II begins with a quick recapitulation of the events of PS-1 and then delves right into the story.

Arulmozhi (Jayam Ravi) nearly drowns but is saved by a mysterious woman Mandakini, also known as Oomai Rani (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan). She is, surprisingly, the splitting image of Nandini Devi (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) – the woman at the centre of all the plots aimed at the Chola Kingdom.

All the Pandyan plots seem to be directed at eliminating the three ‘tigers’ – Aditha Karikalan (Vikram), Kundavai (Trisha) and Arulmozhi. We know why the Pandyans want them dead – to avenge Veera Pandiyan (Nasser) who was killed by Aditha Karikalan. But Nandini has many more reasons for wanting them destroyed and so we are given an insight into what occurred all those years ago between Aditha Karikalan and Nandini.

We also get to see what was hidden behind the witty repartee between Kundavai and Nandini. The insecurities, anger, fears and the resolve to eventually be able to take decisions beyond individual desire.

In fact, this placing of the greater good – the people, the kingdom, the King above individual desire is underscored many times. To contrast it, we are shown the poisons that seep into the soul when ego, ambition and hate blind us to truth, kindness or forgiveness. It depicts how revenge can turn anyone and everyone into a pawn for the final aim of victory. The film then delves into what makes one a truly great ruler and why rulers who are able to transcend the personal are seen as divine. Selflessness and an awareness of each individual’s worth, no matter how little, is deemed as greater than raw power.

Equally though, we are shown how far sacrifice can go, even if they are ultimately drastic decisions. It is presented as a duty that must be fulfilled for healing and growth to enter into the space. Choices made by individuals are shown to reveal the complexities of individual actions and how it can have a ripple effect leading to a hitherto unforeseen path in history.

If the first film set the stage and introduced the characters who make up the story and their various connections with each other, PS-2 gives us the emotional depth needed to form a relationship with the story and its people. PS-1 was an action-oriented film about the grandeur of the Cholas and their undefeated status. It had Vallavaraiyan Vanthaiyathevan (Karthi) as our guide into the story. Here, however, since we are already in the story, he is at the side-lines observing and assisting the central figures of the narrative.

The music and the score reflect this change in pace and tone. Much of PS-1’s music is rousing, energetic, war-like and playful. There is sensuality as well. In PS-2, we are surrounded by sombre tones, solemnity, sorrows, heartbreaks and the triumph of overcoming impossible odds with equanimity.

In keeping with the previous film, it pans out like a historical not a cult of personality. Thus, a more grounded narrative. The film packs a lot but for a film adaptation it is rather well done. It can be possibly be outdone only by a paced-out series.


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