PETALING JAYA, Oct 3 — The hype train over Ponniyin Selvan: 1, one of this year’s hottest Tamil movies, seems to be gaining even more momentum.
Following its worldwide release last Friday, the film has grossed over 230 crore (RM130 milllion) worldwide and 100 crore on the domestic box office in India, Hindustan Times reported today.
Meanwhile, the film’s Malaysian distributor Lotus Five Star said the film recorded over 150,000 ticket presales ahead of its release.
A HISTORICAL MOMENT! 150K #PonniyinSelvan1 The Resurgence of the Cholan Era BEGINS A @LotusFivestarAV RELEASE! #PS1FromToday #CholasAreComing #ManiRatnam @arrahman @MadrasTalkies_ @LycaProductions @tipsofficial #JomPS1 #PS1SiapaLawanSiapaKawan pic.twitter.com/8q9zlAQqsW
— Lotus Five Star AV (@LotusFivestarAV) September 30, 2022
Directed by veteran South Asian filmmaker Mani Ratnam, Ponniyin Selvan: 1 is a period epic set amidst the Chola empire in India and an adaptation of a popular novel of the same name.
Aside from a star-studded cast including Aishwarya Rai Bachan, Vikram, Karthi, Jayam Ravi and Trisha, the film boasts award-winning composer AR Rahman at its helm.
Jayam Ravi (left) and Aishwarya Rai are part of the star-studded cast of the film, which is a political drama set in the Chola kingdom of the 10th century. — Screenshots via Twitter/ Madras Talkies
While originally shot in Tamil, the film has also been released in several other languages including Hindi and Telugu.
The anticipation for the film was readily apparent during its gala premiere last Friday night at TGV in Central i-City, Shah Alam.
Some 1,600 fans showed up to the event decked out in their best South Asian finery, from elaborately tied sarees to exquisitely embroidered kurtas, to embody the time period the film is set in.
Also present at the premiere were Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M Saravanan and Lotus Group chief executive officer Tan Sri Datuk R Doraisingam Pillai.
Namaskara Malaysia The Cholas roar loud and clear at our Royal Screening of #PonniyinSelvan: Part One yesterday! Amazing responses all around! #PonniyinSelvan1 is NOW SHOWING and make sure to experience it in #IMAX TODAY! Tamil - https://t.co/EHGeu9zqMc pic.twitter.com/s8kJAD3uTR
— TGV Cinemas | #TontondiTGV (@TGVCinemas) October 1, 2022
“We were so excited to watch this film because of Aishwarya Rai,” said Chamkaur Singh, who came to the premiere with his family.
“My granddaughter who couldn’t be with us kept calling us to ask if Aishwarya would be attending the film premiere,” added the manager of music school SGGS Gurmat Sangeet Academy.
Others were drawn in by their love of the original novel and its place within contemporary Tamil literature.
“I love the novel because it’s so beautifully written, and for how it portrays our culture’s historical roots,” said teacher Chandrakala Muniandy.
(From right) Chamkaur, his wife and their son couldn't wait to watch the Hindi-dubbed version of 'Ponniyin Selvan: 1' at the premiere last Friday. — Picture by Anne Grace Savitha
“I’m hoping the film will encourage more of my students to read up on Tamil history. Even those of us here may find it relevant, as the Chola empire once stretched to Malaysia.”
Written by author and freedom fighter Kalki Krishnamurthy in the 1950s, Ponniyin Selvan is a sprawling 2,200-page historical fiction based on real figures from the Tamil Chola dynasty.
At the peak of its power, the Chola empire extended to South-east Asia including modern day Myanmar, Indonesia and Malaysia.
The film, as with Kalki’s novel, is set in the 10th century and is a story of power struggles at the court of ailing King Sundara Chola (Prakash Raj).
While Sundara’s eldest son, Aditya Karikalan (Vikram) is the main contender for the throne, there is a mutiny plot brewing within the kingdom.
Those vying for power include the royal treasurer Periya Pazhuvettariyar (Sarath Kumar) and his wife Nandhini (Aiswarya Rai), who appears to have machinations of her own.
Added into the mix are Sundara’s other children, princess Kundavai (Trisha) and prince Arulmozhi (Jayam Ravi), as well as external forces seeking the downfall of the kingdom.
The main character weaving all these storylines together is Aditya’s friend Vandhiyathevan (Karthi), who acts as a stand-in for the audience in his role as a messenger.
Audiences unfamiliar with the novel or Chola history may be overwhelmed at first, as the film squeezes in three books worth of story and characterisation in just under three hours.
Mani Ratnam’s adaptation is a visual spectacle, with sweepingly grand landscape shots as well as lavish wardrobe and set pieces.
However, those expecting a bombastic action film along the lines of S S Rajamouli’s Baahubali and RRR may be disappointed — there are no tiger-punching scenes in this slow-burn political drama.
While there are plenty of action sequences, including the film’s climatic cliffhanger featuring a battle at sea, the real tension in the film lies in exploring human desires of love, power and revenge.
The second installment of Ponniyin Selvan is expected to hit theatres in 2023.