Ponniyin Selvan II tells the tale of the conspiracy to assassinate the king of Chola dynasty and two princes on the same day to bring down the Chola dynasty. Actor Vikram who was last seen in the epic historical film Ponniyin Selvan I is back on screens with the second part of the franchise. Actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has depicted a pivotal part in the flick. Storyteller Mani Ratnam has directed the movie. Writers Elango Kumaravel and B Jeyamohan have helped with the screenplay. So, how has the epic historical fiction drama Ponniyin Selvan II come out? Is it solid enough to add another quill to the success hat of actor Vikram and replicate the success of the first installment? To know that let us get into the movie review.
The film opens to a flashback which recites the childhood of Aditha Karikalan (Vikram), and Nandini (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), where we witness them bound by profound love for each other with aspiring dreams to build a future together. Aditha Karikalan takes Nandini to his citadel to introduce her to his family. Unfortunately, their relationship does not induce a good reaction in empress Sembiyan Mahadevi (Jayachitra) and princess Kundavai (Trisha). They wait for the right moment to dissociate Nandini from Aditha Karikalan. Opportunity presents, when Aditha Karikalan is sent to lead the troops in war. Sembiyan Mahadevi and Kundavai orchestrate a ploy and banishes Nandini along with her family. Unaware of this event, Aditha Karikalan returns to the place with great fervor to meet Nandini only to be traumatized by the disappearance of her. He begins to look for her everywhere. In the meantime, an exiled Nandini has been accommodated by the Pandya king Veerapandiyan (Nasser).
Present day, the kingdom is shaken by the alleged death of Arulmozhi Varman (Jayam Ravi). To sort out the chaotic situation Parthibendran Pallavan (Vikram Prabhu) meets with Nandini, who citing the benefit of the realm, suggests he bring Aditha Karikalan to Kadambur. Meanwhile, a fatally injured Arulmozhi Varman is transported by Vallavaraiyan Vandiyadevan (Karthi) and Poonguzhali (Aishwarya Lekshmi). On the way they are advised to take him to a Buddhist monk for healing. But they are intruded upon by their enemies. Elsewhere, things escalate rapidly. Madhurantakan (Rahman) declares himself as king and builds alliances to consolidate his power. On the other hand, Nandini reminisces about her days of romance with Aditha Karikalan. Shortly after which she concocts a plan to assassinate him. What will happen to Arulmozhi Varman, will Nandini go through with her plan to assassinate Aditha Karikalan, or will he escape the hands of death and save his empire, is what makes the rest of the flick.
Ponniyin Selvan II does not start from the cliffhanger where it left us hung in the first installment. It starts with detailing its characters and the equation they share. It shows no haste to get to the cliffhanger. Once it is done setting up the stage it gradually begins to speed up drawing us in to the proceedings. Despite many potential characters, it is Aditha Karikalan and Nandini that hold our attention. In fact, the film feels a bit sluggish when the narration shifts away from them. Credit to creators for shaping a superb character arc for both the characters and brilliantly scripting their intricate relationship. For most parts it is this chemistry that keeps us invested in the drama.
Sadly, the second part could not deliver the feeling of contentment that its predecessor bestowed on us. Time constraint is one culpable element. While the other has to do with the magnitude of focus that has gone into making the film a visual feast. The contrived grandiose plays a spoil sport. It is fathomable that historical dramas based on the bloody wars waged for glory by emperors, prerequisite a certain scale of extravagance to achieve the royal milieu. But it becomes problematic when this aspect consumes substantial work of the film making process. Ponniyin Selvan II takes such an approach and is bogged down to a considerable degree because of it. If the makers had put in more time in treatment of the script giving us the politics and better POV of other characters in the plot, Ponniyin Selvan II could have given us the wholesome feeling of having experienced a cinematic marvel.
Actor Vikram who has demonstrated versatility throughout his career feasts upon a meaty role that has arrived to him at the right phase of his career. He has got under the skin of his character and infused life into it. His striking physic aids to fetch in the majestic and warrior shade of his part. Actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has lived up to the guile shade in her role, and elevates her part to a different level. Actor Jayam Ravi has equally put on a good show. He has done a commendable job. Actress Trisha does not have much bearing in the plot. Nonetheless, she demands her presence be felt. Actor Karthi has had great fun essaying his part. He has done complete justice to his part. Actor Vikram Prabhu is effective in what seems like an underwritten role. Actor Aishwarya Lekshmi serves the purpose for which he was brought on board. Actor Jayaram makes an impact even in a limited screen time. Actor R Sarath Kumar lives up to his part. Actress Sobhita Dhulipala is functional. Actor Prakash Raj is operational. Actor Prabhu is adequate. Actors Rahman, R Parthiban, Jayachitra, Ashwin Kakumanu, Lal, Kishore, Riyaz Khan, Babu Antony, Makarand Deshpande, Vinodhini Vaidyanathan, Nasser, Nizhalgal Ravi, Mohan Raman, and Balaji Sakthivel have all chipped in and have played their part well.
On the technical front, Oscar recipient A R Rahman’s songs are captivating. His music induces a sense of ancient music. Even his background score adds value to the film. Cinematographer Ravi Varman has mounted his camera in the best vantage positions possible. His visuals are colorful, and aid in setting the historic backdrop of the flick. Art director Ranjith Kumar deserves a mention for his superb artwork. Editor A Sreekar Prasad has put his clippers at the right spots to cut out the junk clips enhancing the work of his colleague.
On the whole, despite an ensemble cast, director Mani Ratnam’s Ponniyin Selvan II grappled to fly into the very hype zone that it engendered.