Mani Ratnam’s adaptation of Kalki’s Ponniyin Selvan is something you cannot stop praising. This film is the best example that showcases the filmmaker’s mastery of the art of storytelling. The two-part film adaptation of the historical epic is nothing but proof of Ratnam’s ability which makes them remain strongly in the film industry for over 40 years. In Ponniyin Selvan 2, Ratnam proves that historical films can be made without resorting to grandiose, exaggerated action sequences which in most of the cases happen commonly. Instead, he creates tension and drama through politics and interpersonal relationships that hold audiences sticked to their seats.
The film begins with the backstory of Aditha Karikalan and Nandini’s relationship as teenagers. The story continues where the first part left off and Vandhiyathevan (Karthi) comes to know that the prince state king is planning to bring down the Chola empire and Nandini (Aishwarya Rai) is the mastermind behind it. But the return of the presumed dead Arunmozhi Varman (Jayam Ravi) throws all plans to waste. Meanwhile, Aditha Karikalan (Vikram) prepares to face Nandini, who is at war with the Cholas.
Some might have been disappointed by the lack of grand action sequences in the first part of Ponniyin Selvan, comparing it to SS Rajamouli’s Baahubali series. But if you’re familiar with Ratnam’s style and enjoyed the first part, you’ll be blown away by how he uses drama and politics to build tension in the second part. The showdown between Aditya Karikalan and Nandini is a cinematic moment that is something to remember for a long time. The build-up and atmosphere setting leading up to the showdown is one of the best sequences in the film.
In the second part, all the characters get an upgrade. Arunmozhi Varman gets more screen time so Jayam Ravi can show his magic on screen. Karthi as Vandhiyathevan leaves the same impact as in the first part. However, it is Aishwarya Rai as Nandini and Vikram as Aditya Karikalan that truly shine in their respective roles. Aishwarya Rai’s return to Tamil cinema after years is an unbelievable success and she gives the best performance of her career. Her character’s impact is powerful and she brings a lot of life to the characters through her rage-filled eyes and long silences. The film’s exquisite visuals elevate it to a larger-than-life viewing experience. Seeing it in IMAX is even more impressive.