Director Mani Ratnam, also cowriting with B. Jeyamohan and Elango Kumaravel, creates a complex zodiac of the magnum opus that is Kalki Krishnamurthy’s dynasty-riven drama, where the cast of characters are laid out in a tree structure that unfolds via breathtakingly created action sequences and vistas of a land that’s both magical and simmering with the tectonic chess-sequences of politics and well, a game of thrones. Cinematographer Ravi Varman, production designer Thota Tharani, and composer A.R. Rahman add tonal mystique to the proceedings, while the ensemble cast—Vikram, Karthi, Jayam Ravi, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Trisha, Jayaram, Aishwarya Lekshmi, Sobhita Dhulipala, Prabhu, R. Sarathkumar, Vikram Prabhu, Prakash Raj, Rahman, R. Parthiban and Lal—interplay with the confounding script with panache and royal dignity.
Director Ratnam doesn’t attempt to dumb down the layered connections, which is just as well. Because when the knots unravel in the palace of your mind, it’s a satiating experience of sticking around for the magic. But amidst the universe of characters—which are still mappable after a certain point— Ponniyin Selvan (Son of Ponni) I’s enthralling because no amount of taxonomy can truly pin down the beguiling blocks of scheming facets that its women churn—the icy cold act from Rai Bachchan for Nandini and the constantly whirring calculating act by Trisha for her Kundavai—that propel their men down the path of devastating action. Man smarter, woman damned smarter. Part II, we wait without.
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Ponniyin Selvan Part One
Director Mani Ratnam Time 2h 47min
Writers Mani Ratnam, B. Jeyamohan, Elango Kumaravel
Stars Vikram, Karthi, Jayam Ravi, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Trisha, Jayaram, Aishwarya Lekshmi, Sobhita Dhulipala, Prabhu, R. Sarathkumar, Vikram Prabhu, Prakash Raj, Rahman, R. Parthiban, Lal
Genres Action, Adventure, Drama