Hopefully, Hindi and non-Tamil audiences that have been patronising gangster movies from the South will give this fabulous looking historical a chance, says Deepa Gahlot.
After Raavan, no Mani Ratnam film has made a splash outside the southern states.
But movie lovers have memories of some of his films (Nayakan, Dalapathi, Roja, Bombay, Dil Se, Yuva, Guru) that travelled into the Hindi belt (though not all succeeded), much before the grand productions from the South started giving Hindi cinema, or rather the smug Bollywood establishment, a scare.
His latest film, an impressively-mounted historical Ponniyin Selvan Part 1 -- abbreviated to PS-1 perhaps for the non-Tamil audiences -- is a Hindi-dubbed magnum opus about the Chola dynasty that we may have read about in history textbooks but not with enough depth.
For Tamilians, the story also has a past. Legendary novelist Kalki Krishnamurthy wrote the historical epic, and M G Ramachandran set out to make the film but ill-health stalled the project.
It would be an ambitious project for any film-maker to take up and Ratnam who had initiated (with Kamal Haasan) and shelved the film, now has the resources and star power to make the film because a historical like this is either made on a massive scale or not at all.
After period extravaganzas like Baahubali and RRR, the Tamil and Telugu industries have already proved that they have the vision and technical expertise to produce larger-than-life cinema.
Mani Ratnam has written the script with Elango Kumarvel and B Jayamohan, and gets together a top notch technical team -- Cinematographer Ravi Varman, Composer A R Rahman, Art Director Thotta Tharani and Editor A Sreekar Prasad -- to make this film. If the three-minute trailer is any indication, they have done their best.
The story is about power struggles during the Chola rule.
There are the inevitable battle scenes, shot splendidly, the magnificent palaces, exquisite costumes (by Eka Lakhani) and song sequences are all par for the course for big-budget historical.
The visuals look spectacular, and it is up to the stars to carry the burden of the film that has been dubbed into several languages and needs to dazzle audiences outside the southern states too, who may be unfamiliar with the intricacies of the plot.
The film had many cast and crew changes, and after a lot of production difficulties, has finally made it to the screen.
Vikram plays Aditya Karikalan, one of the sons of Chola ruler Sundara (Prakash Raj), the other being Arulmozhivarman, played by Jayam Ravi.
The first part of the story centres around Vallavaraiyan Vandiyadevam (played by Karthi), a warrior-messenger who plays a significant part in the palace intrigues.
The important female parts are played by Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as Nandini, a woman-scorned conspirator against the Cholas, and Trisha as Princess Kundavai Piratti, who wants peace in the region.
There is a huge cast of well-known actors, and obviously a lot of VFX inputs that no ambitious film can do without these days.
Judging by the promo, the look of the film is fabulous, but that could have been expected from Mani Ratnam.
Hopefully, Hindi and non-Tamil audiences that have been patronising gangster movies from the South will give a historical a chance.
They have seen enough Mughal and Rajput stories on screen and a fair amount of Raj-era tales.
If nothing else, they will learn something about the history of their country from the South that has largely been ignored by Bollywood cinema.