As a huge fan of the books, I was anticipating that it would be made into a movie someday, right after I finished reading it in the early 1990s. Even back then Maniratnam was trying to do it with Kamal Hassan and Rajnikanth (what a treat that would have been). After that whenever the rumour resurfaced, I was always ready for the ensuing disappointment. In 2020, when I heard the news that Mani had started shooting it rekindled the fire only to be put off by Corona news few months later. But Mani was a patient sculptor I guess and he made possible his four decade old dream and we eventually got a release date of Sep 30, 2022. Imagine my horror when I realised it only after booking a trip on the same dates. So the day of the release waking up in Mumbai, I did what I had never ever done – search for audience response and with bated breath found that all was well with PS1. To be frank I would have been happy just if Mani had not managed to destroy it, so it was a huge relief to know that he had done it well.
I went to the theatres on Oct 3rd Morning after reaching Bangalore on 2nd night. The first thing that any fan of the books had to do is to forget the books and see it as Mani’s creation since though the screenplay is close to the original, the narrative is different and so are the characters. So, if you try to align it with the books it becomes a bit confusing. Fans like me who have read the books multiple times will find it difficult to see Vanathi dancing. Even Kundhavai is portrayed subtly differently (more assertive). Things have to change when adapting a big novel to movie like Kandhamaran is all but present for a few seconds, the dungeon path story is all modified and several other stuff simplified – more story time for Karikalan for example.
I was amazed by Mani’s use of natural lights as a source – he has done wonders in this movie (old timers might have had a glimpse of it in Thiruda Thiruda), credit goes to Ravi Varman and Thota Tharani as well. Songs were good and as expected merged with story telling. A.R Rehman has done a fabulous job with the BGM. Casting: Karthi was a natural fit for the role and so was Vikram. Trisha has done an amazing job as well but Aishwarya Rai is the one who steals the show. There are natural talent and then there are those who are willing to do the hard work and Aishwarya is of the 2nd type. She manages to bring out exactly the kind of smile which Nandini has to bring out – half flirtatious, half manipulative with a tiny bit of fake anger thrown in. The scenes between Aishwarya Rai and Karthi are my favourite even with their limited screen time. Aishwarya Lekshmi has also done a great job as Poonguzhali, making us believe in a strong woman who can wrestle against a rough sea. My biggest concern was Jeyam Ravi as Arunmozhi but he also turned out to be the biggest surprise in the movie – very good performance but Mani should be given credit as well. But the biggest credit in casting is the ability to think of Jayaram for Nambi. Jayaram and Karthi have managed to bring the same playfulness these characters had in the books.
Overall a brilliant adaptation – it was a difficult job but they managed to do it well – not hurting the old fanboys like me but also managing to give a movie that is entertaining to a wider audience. When I went to watch it a second time with my wife I saw a 70+ year grandpa trying to walk the steps to reach his seat in the theatre with breaks in between. There was another grandma next to my seat who would have jumped for joy and was enjoying the whole movie rocking in her seats. She only held back probably she came with her family members. Now, that is truly a movie magic moment for mani. Thanks Mr. Mani for not spoiling Ponniyin Selvan for us.