Siva Ananth, one of the producers of Mani Ratnam’s magnum opus “Ponniyin Selvan: 1,” is ecstatic about the film’s rich haul of nominations at the Asian Film Awards.
The film has received a total of six nominations, including for best picture. It is an adaptation of Kalki Krishnamurthy’s classic Tamil-language novel.
The story is set in 10th century India during a tumultuous time in the Chola empire, when the power struggle between different branches of the ruling family caused violent rifts between the potential successors to the reigning emperor and a civil war became imminent. All the political and military turmoil led to the Cholas becoming the most prosperous and powerful empire in the continent and one of the most successful and longest-reigning in history.
“Ponniyin Selvan” was serialized in the Kalki magazine between 1950 and 1954 and was published as five novels in 1955. Ratnam, alongside Elango Kumaravel and B. Jeyamohan, condensed it into a two-part film, the first part of which released in 2022.
“It’s such a big honor, honestly, because ‘Ponniyin Selvan’ is a story that that was written many decades ago, and it represents an era from 1000 years ago. It’s a fictitious but very entertaining representation of Tamil culture. And for that to get global recognition like this is probably the power of cinema. A good story is a good story, so we feel very good about it,” Ananth told Variety. “Technically, this film was a challenge for all the senior technicians, everyone had to work out of their skin. And everyone had to pull out their best cards to achieve this. And for them to get a recognition on a global stage, it can’t be better.”
The first part of the film was a massive success, grossing $61 million worldwide.
“The biggest surprise for us was [that] this film brought back to theaters people who hadn’t been to the cinema in decades. When people plan movies, they talk about the demographics they want to impress, and what their core audience would be. We didn’t do it, we made it for everyone. And the thing is, this has attracted a lot of middle-aged and senior citizens back to the cinemas, people who would typically be more comfortable watching something in their home, who had moved on to streaming platforms for their regular entertainment. They all came in scores. And they were sharing the happiness with everyone,” Ananth said.
“This comes from the fact that these are the people who had read the novel or whose parents had told them about the novels. And suddenly you find an opportunity to see it on the big screen. And all this helps with the positivity and overall enthusiasm from all the theatergoers. So it was good to be back on the big screen. And that snowballed into a greater success,” Ananth adds.
The second part of the film will be released April 28.
“If you’ve read the novel, you probably know where the story is going to go, but a majority of us wouldn’t have read it. So all the hooks that are put out in part one will have resolutions, and the story will peak. Just wait for more entertainment,” Ananth said.
One of India’s most celebrated filmmakers, whose works include “Nayakan,” “Bombay” and “Iruvar,” Ratnam read the novel when he was in high school and wanted to make it ever since. After the tremendous critical and commercial success of “Nayakan” (1987), when that film’s lead Kamal Haasan wanted to make another film with Ratnam, the filmmaker considered “Ponniyin Selvan,” but the stars did not align at that time.
Ratnam’s next film is with Haasan. Ananth says that it is too early to reveal the genre of the film.
“Ponniyin Selvan: 1” is produced by Ratnam’s Madras Talkies and Subaskaran’s Lyca Prods. (“2.0”). The film also has Asian Film Awards nominations for editor A. Sreekar Prasad, cinematographer Ravi Varman, composer A.R. Rahman, costume designer Eka Lakhani and production designer Thota Tharani.