Ponniyin Selvan I (2022)

Directed By: Mani Ratnam

Screenplay By: Mani Ratnam; Elango Kumaravel

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

Language: Tamil                                                   

Genre: Historical; Drama; Action

Run Time: 2 hours 47 minutes

Mani Ratnam’s Ponniyin Selvan I is an adaptation of Kalki’s eponymous epic historical fiction series. It looks at the rising power and expansion of the Chola Empire during the reign of Rajaraja I or Ponniyin Selvan. The film sets the stage for the conflicts and political machinations that would complicate the story going forward.

Battles are being won and kingdoms are being annexed but besides resentful enemies, there are disgruntled courtiers who want to replace the powers that be so as to have more control over the functioning of the empire. This political plotting is complicated by personal vendettas – Nandini (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), the Pazhuvoor queen wants to destroy the Chola Empire from within because of her ill-fated past with Aditha Karikalan (Vikram), the Chola crown prince.

Our introduction to the complex world of the time is through the charismatic presence of Vallavaraiyan Vanthaiyathevan (Karthi), a confidante and spy for Aditha who uncovers the courtiers’ plot and then gets further instructions that intertwine his narrative with that of the other players of the story.

The story traverses the length and breadth of the southern lands as well as Sri Lanka. Besides geographical diversity, there are race and ethnic concerns that add to the already murky undercurrents. However, on the surface, it is beautiful, witty like the charged exchange between Kundavai (Trisha), the Chola princess and Nandini. Nothing is openly revealed, but in this political chess game, the women seem to puppeteer a lot of the moves.

Kundavai, for instance, is the astute mind behind many of the ruling powers’ decisions as is Nandini in prodding her husband Periya Pazhuvettaraiyar (R. Sarathkumar), the treasurer, in the direction she wants him to take. Even the erstwhile Queen, Ponniyin Selvan’s betrothed, Samudra Kumari and Oomai Rani, expertly weave the plot.

Like a true historical, it doesn’t become a cult of personality but shows how many players have to come together, how the many different actions taken will finally lead to the events we read about in history books. History books can after all be bird’s eye in its viewpoint and depending on the teller, limited in its framework. While there are fictional elements to this film and novel saga, it does create an important balance in the lopsided historical retellings of our nation.

The music and the score are exhilarating in how it accompanies the storytelling.  Also, the gold figurines that were used to give the premise of the narrative were beautifully done.

–blank–

Apathy covers my heart
like a shell I can’t break
like a forcefield no superhero could have placed

Or maybe it is one,
One of those sad-sack types,
that has turned off ze empathy switch.

Feelings — like a sore in the mouth
that your tongue constantly irritates
-an etched reminder

Of mistakes, mischances, mis-words
played over and over again
Just like that accidental bite

At the sore spot
Drawing blood
And doing it again

But not accidentally anymore
Till that forcefield comes
And everything glazes over

Over
Over
Over

A writer #SherylPuthur

Soft sunlight

Sheets of paper

Warm coffee

And a smudgy pencil

– it makes my day.

 

I scribble I doodle

I fill the pages.

I sip the coffee

and bite into the chocolate

– the crushed cocoa melts.

 

I wonder I dream

I illustrate the scenes.

My characters move

they breathe, they feel

– I am their God, I hold their strings.

 

I’m not heartless

or withdrawn.

I’m involved, I feel

They feel what I feel

– A literary mirror to me.

 

I write I read

I cut I erase

I experience a world

far brighter than mine

– A portal to another life.

I used to think my soulmate would be someone #SherylPuthur

I used to think my soulmate would be someone

who doesn’t like chocolates.

But I have now realised, my soulmate

Will be the one who will eat the piece of chocolate

I mentally claimed

and then laugh uproariously at my expense.

And when I am close to tears, after having raged in impotent fury,

will comfort me with hugs and warm chocolate breath

Take Flight… #SherylPuthur

The morning rays are disturbing me, I cautiously open my eyes. The day is bright and beckoning and I feel a wave of optimism ruffle my feathers.

I step out of my nest and walk slowly towards the edge of the cliff. I look down and gulp. I can see the waves crash against the rocks with ferocity, and the sea mist rise. The smell is one I grew up with, I take reassurance in it but the waves scare me.

I’m just about to step back, when I hear a collective hiss. The message is clear- Take Flight.

I look around; there isn’t anybody. My family is faraway scouring the seas for food. I have ventured before but with one of them; never alone.

I’m in the grips of indecision and I hear the collective hiss again.

I realise now.

They are my alters. Fragmented and wanting. They want to be united in me- safe and sheltered.

But for that, I need to take flight. Alone.

I push one foot back; I hear an odd silence, like breath being held. I open my wings. I haven’t spread them in ages and the effort is painful, but I do it. I see the light of the sun gleam on my white speckled feathers, I flap it. I can feel the sea wind. I flap it more and the wind enters beneath my feet.

I can’t feel the ground anymore. I feel light and free.

There is this immense joy within me- the joys of a lot of souls.

I feel one with the universe…because…I have taken flight…

Destroying Memories… #SherylPuthur

She came rushing home from college in tears. She had been calm and collected all day but at the bus stop she had seen him, the bothersome part was, with another girl.

He had waved to her and she had weakly returned it and turned homewards. Her mind and heart was painfully clouded with thoughts and scenes playing over and over again. Bitter thoughts and scenes. Didn’t she matter to him? And why was he talking to that girl so intimately, laughing with her, giving her his attention-it’s not fair! These questions pounded her head so much that she had a headache coming, a splitting one.

Reason was there to a side trying to calm her, telling her not to read too much into it, for he was always friendly and charming to everyone. And flirting was something he loved to engage in, for it gave him some power, but that was that, tomorrow he might not glance in that girl’s direction (all part of his plan) and he might be hers again. But, she did not wish to listen to reason, for listening to it had not gotten her anywhere or rather him. She was still stuck where she was 3 years ago, standing away and gazing, occasionally coming close but not so close as to touch him where it mattered-his heart.

She entered her house and announced to whomever it concerned that she had a headache and did not wish to eat. Then she went to her room, banged the door shut and fell on the bed weeping. When she drained herself she realized she was hungry; but she couldn’t go downstairs looking like this! With her face all blotchy and red! No she had to have a bath, it would help her relax and unwind.

While at the bath she made a decision that she would destroy all tangible reminders of him, all memories of him. And she would get herself out of his spell. She would meet other guys and make an effort to know them and probably it would help her be at peace. With her mind made up she finished her bath, changed and rushed downstairs for lunch.

After her meal she returned to her room and shut herself, albeit quietly. She proceeded towards her black box-where she kept her treasures-birthday cards, chocolate wrappers, bus tickets of important occasions, posters of fests, and his reminders. She pulled them out one by one and kept them aside-an old pen; which she would give to the maid servant’s daughter, some old flame sheets, astrological connections, and the most embarrassing, a sheet with his name in blood. Now, it’s best not to get the wrong picture, she didn’t have any remote masochistic tendencies but had a friend who did and who wrote her boyfriend’s name in blood, very frequently. So one day, while playing a game of volleyball with him she hurt her leg and blood oozed out. She disregarded it then, but when she returned home and saw the blood still fresh she decided to write his name with it. Oh, how her cheeks flamed as she looked at it! She had never felt so stupid. She resolutely gathered all the sheets and went outside the house and set fire to it. As the papers burned she felt herself becoming steadily calmer and happier, like something heavy just lifted off her.

She felt so fresh! It would be a shame to sit at home when the weather was so beautiful. She decided to go for a walk. And with her mind made up she wore running shoes and set off for the nearest jungle trail. The breeze was singing in her ears, the trees were lazily swaying their branches, everything looked so calm, and it mirrored her mood. Just then, somebody’s hand touched her shoulder and she turned startled. It was him.

He cheerily said hi and began talking as though a conversation had been going on from some time. When she had gotten over the shock of seeing him after the day’s resolution she chatted with him as usual and it was by far the best day they had spent together. Later towards the end of the stroll he confessed that he had no intention of coming out for a walk but when he saw her breezily walk past his house he decided to join her.

When it was time for her to head home he said bye and shook hands and then stood talking to her for some time. There was nothing to read in his small talk except, that he never let go of her hand through the whole conversation.

It was night; she was in bed thinking about the day’s happenings. As she was falling asleep, she smiled to herself, as the memory of his face came to her.